Why I Should Pay Tithing?

Wow. I have been slacking off BIG TIME on keeping up with my blog. I apologize to those of you who have looked for a new post every week and been disappointed. The last few months have been pretty crazy with school, work and getting enough me-time. I will definitely be trying to do better over the summer, and hopefully will succeed! 🙂

Today, I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting on the blessings of paying an honest tithe. I’m pretty certain my first response to that topic when it was assigned was an inward groan. I don’t mind speaking, but tithing? Really? How do you give a 15 minute talk about something that takes like 2 minutes to explain and testify about?

That was my reaction because I’ve never had a huge revealing experience about how amazing paying your tithing is. I’ve always paid it whenever I get a paycheck, but there’s never been a question in my mind whether or not to do it because of how poor I am. I always hear stories of people who were living day to day, paycheck to paycheck, and who struggled to pay their tithing because that money could be used elsewhere. They decide to pay their tithing and miraculously have money to pay for everything, or somehow the Lord provides because they paid their tithing.

Yeah. I’ve never had that kind of amazing experience. And I didn’t want to just get up there and share Malachi 3:10 which says: “The Lord will open…the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Like I said, it would take about two minutes to share it and bare a quick testimony when I was assigned to speak for 15 minutes.

So one night, while I thought about what I could speak on, I suddenly received some inspiration – I needed to speak about what paying our tithing teaches us. Here’s what I came up with.

First of all, why do I pay my tithing? Well, my first thought: Because it’s a commandment. I don’t often question commandments. It’s fairly easy for me to trust them and just do them in faith, most of the time. They make sense and I see no reason, really, not to do it if God asked me to, so I just do it. However, partly because it was assigned to me and partly because I want a stronger testimony of it, I decided that, while my reason for paying tithing is good, I really needed to think a little harder about it and try to understand it beyond the simple “I’m just obedient and act in faith” explanation.

So, what does paying an honest tithe teach me?

Faith & Hope: Alma 32:21 teaches that “faith is not a perfect knowledge of things, wherefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen which are true.” Ether 12:4 states: “Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” In other words, hope isn’t just wishing for something to happen, but rather looking forward to the future and trusting in the promises God makes. This hope is then followed by living in such a way (faithfully) that we might receive these blessings that have been promised by our loving Father in Heaven. Paying tithing teaches us to have faith and hope, to trust in God and His promised blessings of joy and eternal life. These promised blessings often are manifested in ways that allow people to have the money needed to care for and nurture their families, which in turn allows everyone to have a chance at gaining eternal life.

Charity/Love: Charity is usually defined as the pure love of Christ. This means that we unconditionally and selflessly love others. We do everything we can to bring them lasting peace and happiness. Tithing and other offerings go to various places to help the poor and needy, to help build temples and meeting houses, and towards education (institute, BYU, etc). Giving a tenth of our increase teaches us to put others needs (clothing, food, opportunities for worship) before our own.

Virtue: Virtue isn’t just about keeping ourselves physically and mentally clean. It also means being morally strong and upholding your standards amid the terrors and whirlwinds of the world which strive to take down your protection from the Lord. By paying our tithing, we can uphold our virtue because it is a way to outwardly express gratitude for everything the Lord has given you. Much of the world looks down on being religious or paying churches. Paying an honest tithe is a way to stand for truth and righteousness and uphold your virtue. It is a way to profess to the world that God DOES matter. It helps others do so as well when they enter the temple and attend church in buildings which have been paid for by our tithing and offerings.

Knowledge: Paying tithing gives us more opportunities to expand our knowledge of God and better learn how to become like Him. Our entire purpose on this Earth is to overcome challenges brought on by the natural man and become as our Father in Heaven is – perfect and full of love and charity. We can’t do that without learning more about Him, without knowing what we’re suppose to do, or without coming to understand our covenants. If tithing isn’t being paid, there are less materials (books, manuals, etc) and places for us to learn these things.

Patience: Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious. In other words, it is the ability to face adversity calmly and hopefully. Often times, we may feel the need to keep that 10% of hard-earned money because we can’t afford not to – because we need that money now. It takes patience with the Lord and His timing to pay tithing anyway and trust that the blessings will come. There may be some days, months or even years when you’re living by the thinnest thread of money, but paying your tithing anyway and trusting that the blessings will come eventually help you become less and less impatient and more and more trusting.

Humility: Having humility means you are willing to submit to the will of the Lord and give Him the honor for what is accomplished. It’s easy to think that you know what’s best for your family and that you need that extra 10% more than the Lord does, but as you remember that the Lord has a plan and He does know it better than you, you learn to let go of what’s “yours” and give it to the Lord for His purposes. You learn to acknowledge that it was never yours in the first place, simply a loan given to you by God Himself.

Diligence: This means putting steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort into doing the Lord’s work. How many of you get really excited the day you get your paycheck and enthusiastically exclaim “YES! I get to pay $X for tithing this month!”? I’m guessing most, if not all of you don’t normally have that reaction. While I’m not upset about it, I’m not necessarily energetic about paying my tithing, either. As we pay our tithing, though, we are often reminded to give of ourselves in order to accomplish the Lord’s plan of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. He can’t do it without us. He expects us to offer ourselves up in a steady, consistent, earnest and energetic way because that is really the only way His children can return Home again. Steadily, consistently, earnestly and energetically pay tithing as you remember that it is the Lord’s work you are doing by giving 10% of your increase.

Obedience: Have you ever heard the saying “I’m not obedient because I’m blind, I’m obedient because I can see”? Sometimes walking by faith and being obedient often means we’re blind, but not in the eternal sense. If we act by faith and are obedient even when we don’t understand something, it generally (at least for me) is because I understand in the eternal sense that it fits perfectly into the Lord’s plan. Jesus Christ Himself taught: “If ye love me keep my commandments” (John 15:14). As you learn to obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Paying tithing isn’t always something I understand, especially since I’m a poor college student who definitely could use a few extra bucks every time they come in. But what I DO understand is the law of obedience and the fact that it will shape me into a better person if I act in faith and trust that the Lord’s commandments have been given for a reason.

Gratitude: Having gratitude means having an uplifting, exalting attitude. It means recognizing what you have been given and being happy about it, no matter how small. For me, paying tithing provides more perspective on the many blessings I’ve been given. It reminds me that money really isn’t everything – it can’t buy happiness. Even if I was the poorest person on Earth, I have no doubt that I would be able to find true joy in every single day of my life. As I remember to be grateful when I pay my tithing, it becomes easy to give that 10% and makes me want to give more!

My favorite scripture story about tithing is found in Mark 12:41-44. It’s the story of the widow’s mite:

“And Jesus sate over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”

May we follow this widow’s example: Though those two mites weren’t much and probably didn’t make a huge difference as far as paying for things for the church goes, they most likely could have bought one more meal for the widow. But because of her faith in God, her charity towards others and her immense desire to show the Lord her love through obedience, she gave it up and by so doing gained a closer relationship with Him and came a few steps closer to becoming as He is.

So…Why SHOULD we pay tithing? Because it teaches us to become like Christ. The attributes I’ve listed are all attributes of Jesus Christ. They are characteristics that He emanated perfectly. If we are to become like Him, that means we need to learn to emanate these things as well.

Who knew that was what tithing could really do?

 

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Why should I bother with the Book of Mormon?

I have a goal this week to spend more time actually studying my scriptures instead of reading a verse here and there and claiming I don’t have time to do much more. Because that’s definitely a lie. Especially now that it’s summer and I only have one class plus piano lessons. Elder Richard G. Scott (one of my favorite apostles) in his October 2014 General Conference talk titled Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority said:

“Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!”

So my goal this week is to do that – make the spiritual things my first priority, even if it means missing an hour of practice or sleep or whatever. So far, so good! And today, I wanted to share a thought I had while I was studying in 2 Nephi 31 (Book of Mormon).

I have many family members and friends who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (AKA Mormon). It is not my goal to push them to believe the same as I believe, nor is it my desire to make them annoyed with every spiritual post I have. However, whenever I do share my testimony and spiritual experiences of what I’ve come to know as truth, I do it out of love and out of a desire to help them come closer to Jesus Christ. Elder David A. Bednar actually addressed this very topic in October 2014 when he spoke in General Conference (Come and See) and said:

“‘Why are Latter-day Saints so eager to tell me about what they believe and to invite me to learn about their church?’… Devoted disciples of Jesus Christ always have been and always will be valiant missionaries… The Church of Jesus Christ always has been and always will be a missionary church.

“‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).’

“Our desire to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with you is a reflection of how important these truths are to us.”

I’m willing to listen to what their beliefs are and consider seriously ways that I can integrate their thoughts and experiences into mine – I truly believe that there is truth everywhere, not just in the LDS Church. So to my family and friends who are not Mormon, will you listen to what I believe and seriously consider that it is truth? Will you seriously consider integrating it into YOUR life?

Now that I’ve introduced WHY I’m writing today, let me tell you WHAT I’m writing about (though it’s rather obvious from the title): Why should I bother with the Book of Mormon?

First let me ask a few other questions: Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that He is the Savior of the world and that He suffered for all mankind so that we may all have a chance to be forgiven of all our sins and saved by His grace? Do you believe that Heavenly Father (God) knows and loves you? Do you believe that you can change and become like Christ as you strive to follow His example as He commanded and live as He did?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I can tell you this: You will LOVE the Book of Mormon.

You’re not convinced yet? Alright, here’s another question or two: Do you believe the Bible to be the word of God? Do you believe that it teaches truths and brings you closer to Jesus Christ? Has the Bible helped you become more like your Savior?

If you answered yes to any of THOSE questions, then I’ll tell you this: You will LOVE the Book of Mormon.

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Now I should probably tell you a little bit about the Book of Mormon. First off, it is a record of the people in the Americas, though it begins in Jerusalem in about 600 BC during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar with a prophet named Lehi. Lehi is eventually commanded to leave Jerusalem with his family in order to avoid destruction. Lehi’s family journeys through the wilderness and eventually crosses “many waters” to the promised land, which we now know are the Americas. This record follows the descendants of Lehi and keeps a spiritual knowledge of what they were taught concerning God, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel. At one point (in the book of 3 Nephi), Jesus Christ visits the Americas after His resurrection and teaches the same things he taught in Jerusalem (John 10:16 “other sheep”).

I also want to say this: The Book of Mormon does NOT replace the Bible. Not in any way shape or form. It does not add to it or take away from it. It actually is a COMPANION. Think of this: When you’re single, you’re you. You are whole, complete and wonderful. You were definitely created by God, and therefore are unique and full of good. What about when you get married? Does your spouse change the fact that you’re you? Do they change that you were created by God, are unique or good? Do they take away from you or add to you? Does your spouse replace you? NO! Not at all. Your spouse is you COMPANION.

Keep this definition in mind: Companion – one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other.

Did you know that the title of the Book of Mormon is actually this? The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Here’s what the title page says about this wonderful book’s purpose: “…Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever – and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations…”

Mmmm… I love reading that. It gives me chills almost every time. But you can see that this precious book is all about testifying of Jesus Christ and bringing any who read and study it closer to Him. Would you agree that the Bible has that same purpose? In other words, would you agree that based on this information, the Book of Mormon actually complements and matches the Bible? Would you say they are companions? I would.

Now, I could probably go on and on and on for days about this one topic. The Book of Mormon is so precious to me. I KNOW that it is true. I know that it teaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the most important book I’ve ever read because it supports the Bible and adds a second witness of Jesus Christ (it follows the law of witnesses; see also Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; Ezekiel 37:15:20; 2 Corinthians 13:1). The Book of Mormon also testifies to me that God is no respecter of persons (see Acts 10:34) and therefore teaches his Gospel to ALL nations (see Daniel 2:35; Isaiah 52:10; Psalms 22:27; Matthew 24:14). Luke 24:47 actually says: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (emphasis added), which implies that Jerusalem is where it started, but not where it ended. So where else has His Gospel been preached? Would you say it’s probable that wherever else it’s been preached, those people ALSO kept records? I highly doubt the Jews (the Bible) are the only ones who kept a record of things that are so important and sacred. I also doubt the Book of Mormon is the only other record out there.

I hope that you can see, by these few points I’ve made, just how remarkable this book really is. If I haven’t convinced you of just how good this book is, then stop reading what I have to say and read the book yourself. I’m just human, so instead of me, I plead with you to let the Lord and His Spirit convince you. Read a little of it every day, compare it to what truths you know about Jesus Christ and His Gospel and then pray to know if what you’ve read is true. Let the Spirit be your guide. I promise you that if you truly are seeking for truth with an honest and sincere heart, the answer WILL come.

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Remember that I share these things with you not because I want to prove that I’m right and you’re wrong. Not even close. Instead, I want to prove to you that we’re both right in searching for truth and that we both have so much more to learn. I share these things because I love you and because I want us both to find our place in the kingdom of God and I truly believe that the Book of Mormon is one way that can help us both to do so.

3 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)

You Are Loved

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I’ve changed since I was in high school, since I was in my first couple years of college, even since last year. Honestly, I have to say that the biggest difference is that I’m more confident in myself. Now, people who know me might be surprised and think I’ve always been confident. While that may be true on the outside, I’ve always been pretty insecure about how others think of me and whether or not there were very many people who enjoyed being around me. My mind has always gone into overdrive when analyzing people’s reactions to what I say or do and, unfortunately, it has most often come in negative ways. I generally have felt as though my personality isn’t funny enough, good enough, smart enough or that is too spiritual, too weird, too different or too annoying. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never struggled to know that God loves me or that my parents were proud of what I’d accomplished. I had a few close friends I’ve always been comfortable around and have rarely felt judged by them. I have never hated myself or anything like that. I’ve just always worried that I would never have as good of a time going to parties or church functions or whatever else I might want to do simply because I almost always ended up sitting by myself on the sidelines watching everyone else have fun. If I was even invited to those kinds of things in the first place. Again, don’t worry – it only bothered me occasionally, and I understand that often friends come when YOU reach out rather than wait for them to come to you. I just struggle to be social and enjoy it. I just wanted to feel accepted by the people around me – at school, at church, wherever I was. But at the same time, I refused to change who I was just to be accepted. So it usually ended up that I had the perspective not many people cared for who I was/am.

That being said, I honestly don’t care what people think of me. Like I said, I didn’t change who I was just to be accepted. But it hurt to know that there were (and are) people who weren’t very fond of me. Everyone wants everyone else to like and accept them (it’s a simple fact – nobody likes to be hated). And that made it difficult to allow my entire personality to be out in the open all the time. It was uncomfortable, discouraging and awkward for me as I grew up trying to figure out my testimony, who I was supposed to be, what my life was supposed to be about and where I was going to go with my goals, hopes and dreams… all while feeling as though I didn’t always belong in very many places.

So why am I telling you all of this? Not for pity or for praise. Not for anyone to feel sorry for me. Not for people to tell me that I am cared for and valued. None of that. No. I’m saying these things because I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. I’m actually probably part of the majority of humankind. And my message for those who are feeling like I’m describing them is this: You are loved. YOU. ARE. LOVED.

I currently live in a singles ward at BYU-Provo and it is the first ward I have ever felt comfortable in. But guess how long it was before I stopped really thinking that other people didn’t care for me because I’m not the prettiest or because I’m not the smartest, the most talented or because I share my testimony too often or am constantly talking about the Gospel. Guess how long it was before I stopped thinking about those things and started to realize how much these people aren’t even thinking anything like that but instead are recognizing how talented I am, how strong my testimony is, how much I have influenced their lives. Go on. Guess.

Before I tell you, let me say this: I’m really not trying to get on my high horse and tell you how great I am. Because I’m not that great (*disclaimer: don’t confuse worth with greatness)… I’m just a normal girl like anyone else who simply knows who God is and who I am. So I’ll tell you. It took me until the last week or two to realize how much I am loved and cherished by the people who know me. It’s easier to see that with those who have known me longer. But for the people in my current ward, especially those I haven’t talked to very much, it took me about 9 months to see that they’re not judging me. They’re not calling me crazy or weird or strange or whatever. Well, maybe they are. But not in a degrading and negative way. They aren’t thinking about how awkward I am or how much I am different from them. Not even close. They simply are taking me as I am and loving me despite my flaws and weaknesses. They look at me the same way I know my Savior would if I could see Him – with love and acceptance and kindness.

How do I know this? Well first of all, because I’ve stopped assuming everyone is judging me. But also because I can feel it and I can see it in their eyes. I firmly believe that the eyes are truly the windows to the soul. People can see the truth when you look eye to eye with them. And there was one particular instance where I was changed and overwhelmed by the love and appreciation the people around me have for me. It was two weeks ago in Relief Society. It was the last Sunday of the semester and the last Sunday our ward would be together before it got disintegrated and everyone put into a new ward for the summer. I had been asked to conduct the music and as I stood in front of those sweet sisters and looked around the room at each of them, I saw how many of them were smiling up at me. I looked a few of them in the eye, and though I quickly looked away, I felt their love and Heavenly Father’s love for me. And I knew that I had made some sort of difference in at least a few of those girls’ lives simply by being me.

So if you didn’t get the message earlier: YOU. ARE. LOVED. I promise you with all the fiber of my being that there are people around you who appreciate you, love you and want you to be a part of their lives. Maybe there really are some people who judge you based on looks or based on what you do that annoys them. But I can tell you right now that there aren’t very many of those people and I can also tell you that they’re wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. You may not be perfect – we’re all human. We all make mistakes and do or say things that we probably shouldn’t. We might dress in ways that others think is socially unacceptable or open our mouths a few times to many in others’ opinions. But I can’t tell you enough that it doesn’t matter because you have at least three people who care about you and love you enough that they want you to stick around and those people are Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and me.

You ask how I could care for and love someone I probably don’t even know a single thing about? Because I DO know your worth. I know the way Heavenly Father feels about me and about each of His Children, no matter what they do or say. I know that you are worth EVERYTHING to Him. I know that you are important in completing His plan. And I know that YOU. ARE. LOVED. If I, a stranger to you, know this then I plead with you to come to know it for yourself. Because it’s truth and it isn’t changing. Ever.

Reflections on the Atonement

About three weeks ago, in preparation for General Conference, I started some self-reflection and evaluations about how I’m doing with my faith and spirituality. I’ve recently felt so spiritually exhausted and drained and it was actually rather difficult to admit to myself that I might actually be struggling to remember what I’ve always felt and believed. I don’t mean to say that I was doubting my testimony, though I did wonder if that was what was happening. As I thought about how I was feeling, I sometimes felt like running away and just going off to do my own thing rather than what was expected of me. I felt the burden of always being righteous in world that is so painfully moving – sprinting – in the opposite direction.  Yes, I used the word burden. I’ve finally figured out why people might use that word to describe what it’s like to live the Gospel. In my opinion, the Gospel can be a burden, but only if we’re more worried about what the world thinks of us than what God thinks of us. In the words of Elder Lynn G. Robbins: Which Way Do You Face?

It’s easy for us to sometimes turn away from God when we get too many things on our plate that we stress over – school, homework, work, finances, what to make for dinner, and even extracurricular activities and trying to make sure you don’t feel too overwhelmed by all the things you’re REQUIRED to do in the world. Once we’ve got enough of that, we often find ourselves neglecting the truly important things like scripture study and sincere daily prayers. Not necessarily on purpose, but when we do that in the attempt to not feel too overwhelmed by the required items on our list of things to do, ironically enough, we end up feeling more overwhelmed than ever. Not only that, but we also feel farther away from God than ever. At least, that’s how I was feeling.

I received some pretty great insights and revelation while watching General Conference last weekend, but today was also a day for gaining some rather significant insights. The biggest one I’ve been reminded of is that, in my opinion, one of the most important words in the scriptures is REMEMBER. Often the reason we get more caught up in the opinions of others rather than the opinion of God is because 1: We forget who we are and what we’re capable of and 2: We forget who God is and what He is capable of. As we forget those things, we more and more forget why He asks us to do certain things, what covenants we’ve made and why and other extremely important things pertaining to who we are here on Earth and who we are and can be in the eternities. Forgetting is what makes life so difficult.

Today as I sat in sacrament meeting, we were singing hymn 169 “As Now We Take the Sacrament” and I was focused on trying to really internalize the meaning of the sacrament and why it’s so important for us to take that bit of bread and water each week. I watched the Priesthood holders break the bread while we sang and I was struck by these words in the third verse: “Silently we pray for courage to accept Thy will, to listen and obey…” I proceeded to look up the relative scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants and one of them said ” Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” I tried to fully take in the meaning of these things, what it really means to accept the Lord’s will and offer Him everything I have in order to accomplish it. I also tried to look in towards myself and asked if I was really doing that. Do I really have a desire to change and accept the Lord’s will? My first reaction is no. Not really. There are often times in my week where I don’t want to do something – I would rather binge watch movies and TV shows all day or spend hours and hours reading a book instead of doing homework, reading scriptures or whatever else I have to do. And I don’t really want to give up those things. But the more I thought on it and related it to taking the sacrament I realized something: When I take the sacrament each week, that’s what I’m telling the Lord I’m willing to do – I’m promising Him that I will do my best to be better than I was the previous week. So then, have I honestly, truthfully and worthily been taking the sacrament?

As these thoughts came, I was reminded again of my goals and hopes and dreams in life. I have so much I want to accomplish but what is the purpose behind any of them? For me personally, all I really want to do is strengthen others and help them find the same peace and joy that I have in my own life, even with all the ups and downs that happen. So what I’m really trying to find in myself is whether or not my heart is pure and good and honest. When I looked at everything that way, I found that my answer to the question “Do I really have the desire to change and accept the Lord’s will?” change from a reluctant no to a resound and triumphant YES! Yes I do want to change. Yes I do want to follow Jesus Christ. Yes I want to be good and clean and pure. YES YES YES!

My friends, THIS is what the sacrament (and therefore, the Atonement) is for. It’s for us to be able to recognize the need for change and to find a way to accept it as well as do it. It’s for allowing us the chance to admit our weaknesses and get through them. The sacrament is for us to remember the Savior and the path He has made for us to become like Him and our Father in Heaven. The Atonement has changed my life and allowed me to be who I am today. It has allowed me to be strengthened in each trial and struggle. It has helped me to become a better person every day.

I want to share one more thing that has really helped me REMEMBER more often this precious gift. Almost every day, I usually will post on Facebook how I saw the hand of the Lord in my life that day. It’s something we did every night on my mission to start our nightly planning session and it’s something I started up again about a year after returning home because one of the elders from my mission had started doing it on his Facebook page. It started out as really just being those things that made me happy throughout the day like there was a beautiful sunrise or it snowed or I got to see a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time or even something funny that happened that day. Now, none of those things are bad at all and definitely can be considered a tender mercy of the Lord. However, I eventually started paying more attention to what I was writing rather than trying to just think of things that would make other people laugh (which is what I found myself doing a lot). I tried to make it more meaningful in my own life and then post the things that impacted me the most. So now, I still share those fun things and the small and simple things but I also will generally include a lesson I learned from the Spirit. The more I’ve done this, the more I feel myself drawing closer to my Savior and feeling more of His love and mercy every day. The more I can see how things throughout the day impact me spiritually, the stronger my testimony grows. It reminds me of what’s really important and what really will change my life and help me be a better person than I was the day before.

This was what I shared on April 15 and I share it now because it shares my testimony of looking every day for the Hand of the Lord:

“One of my friends shared this Mormon Message Shower of Heavenly Blessings and it reminded me of conversations I’ve had with my mom in recent years. First of all, just a few days ago, I told her I love to share each day what the Lord blessed me with because no matter how much I might want to complain about roommates or schoolwork or finances or whatever else is bothering me, doing this every day reminds me that I really have no reason NOT to be happy. Heavenly Father has always blessed me with things I need or want or even just things He knows will make me happy or make my day just little brighter. My mom told me plenty of times on my mission that she felt like blessings were just pouring down on our family and she had no intention of putting up an umbrella (now you see why this video reminded me of that). Guys… My family had every reason to be sad and grieving while I was on my mission because my brother had passed away and we found out just hours after I had entered the MTC on June 5, 2013. Our world had turned completely upside-down and we were learning how to adjust and turn it over again. We could have cried every day and allowed ourselves to wallow in grief and pain. We could have become angry whenever someone mentioned Tyler’s name or hiking or anything related to him. We could have turned our backs on God and blamed Him for what had happened. But instead, we were able to be strong and find JOY, even after something totally unexpected, unimaginable and seemingly tragic because we recognized the small and simple things, the little miracles, the tiny blessings, the tender mercies that our Father in Heaven had chosen to give us among the hurt we were experiencing. And as my mom said, the were just POURING out of heaven. Heavenly Father reminded us that everything would be okay whenever the sun set on the mountains. He reminded us how much he loves us every time our friends gave us a hug or found a way to serve us. He reminded us that He knows and understands our pain whenever clouds came and rain fell from the sky. There are so many more than that but my point is this: Heavenly Father is in every single second of every single day. It doesn’t matter how difficult life is or what kind of trials you’re facing – He is always there, watching and waiting for us to see the little messages of love and peace and comfort that He sends especially for each of His individual children. So what kind of blessings have you received today? What kinds of miracles did you experience? How did you see the hand of the Lord in your life today? And did you take the time to enjoy it and thank the Lord for it?”

So my challenge to you this week is to recognize those tender mercies, those spiritual lessons. I challenge you to let the Lord be in the details of your life and write them down every day so you don’t forget. Ponder these things and think of ways you can apply what you learn. I promise it will strengthen your relationship and testimony of Jesus Christ. I promise that as you recognize the hand of the Lord in your daily life, you will be able to accomplish your goals and hopes and dreams. quote-uchtdorf-1180910-gallery

 

#BecauseofHim

“I took a day to search for God, and found Him not, but as I trod by rocky ledge, through woods untamed, just where one scarlet lily flamed, I saw His footprint in the sod. Then suddenly, all unaware, far off in the deep shadows, where a solitary hermit thrush sang through the holy twilight hush, I heard his voice upon the air. And even as I marveled how God gives us heaven here and now, in a stir of wind that hardly shook the poplar leaves beside the brook His hand was light upon my brow. At last with evening, as I turned Homeward and thought what I had learned and all that there was still to probe, I caught the glory of His robe where the last fires of sunset burned. Back to the world with a quickening start I looked and longed for any part in making, saving beauty be. And from that kindling ecstasy, I knew God dwelt within my heart.”

These are the lyrics to a song called “Vestigia” which was performed by the BYU Women’s Chorus on Friday night. The theme for that concert was titled “God gives us heaven here and now”. As I sang on Friday with that theme in mind, I was almost overwhelmed by the truth of that statement. I thought of the times I’ve been pretty low and down in the depths of despair. I thought of the times where I felt alone and miserable and like all I wanted to do is run away and stop having to think about what’s right or wrong anymore. But then I listened to the words and to the music itself and was reminded quite vividly that I am not alone, nor are any of us. Angels surround us daily, the Spirit speaks to us constantly and the Lord is always there to take our hands. All we have to do is recognize that and accept it.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine the darkest time in your life. How did you feel? Afraid? Confused? Alone? What were you afraid of during that time? What were you desperate for? Relief? Comfort? Peace? Love? Now imagine this: What was the Savior’s darkest time of His life? What was it like for Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as He took on the pain of the world? How did it feel for Him when one of His disciples betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver? How did it feel for Him as He carried His own cross to Golgotha, then had the nails driven through his hands, wrists and feet and was lifted up to die? Was He afraid? Did He feel alone? What was He desperate for? Probably the same things as you.

Except for one thing.

jesus-agony-in-the-garden-960127-galleryAt your darkest time, you most likely wanted relief from your troubles, comfort to know you weren’t alone, peace to know everything would be okay and love to know that you mattered. At Christ’s darkest time, He wanted you to be relieved from your troubles. He wanted you to find comfort and know you’re not alone. He was desperate for you to find peace and realize everything would be okay. And He was and is desperate for you to feel love so that you can see how much you matter to Him and to your Father in Heaven.

As Jesus Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Golgotha, His only thoughts were of you and of me and of every single one of us. He wanted nothing more than to be able to take your pain away or at least to know how to comfort you whenever the pain of life becomes too much for you to bear. easter-pictures-jesus-cross-1127727-gallery

One of my favorite hymns is “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” because of the journey it takes you through, and because it clearly speaks of the Savior. As you read, I want you to focus on times when either you’ve been helped or you have helped someone else in need and perhaps how you would have acted differently had you known those people who needed your help were really the Savior.

Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief:
1. A poor, wayfaring Man of grief hath often crossed me on my way, who sued so humbly for relief that I could never answer nay. I had not power to ask his name, whereto he went or whence he came; yet there was something in his eye that won my love; I knew not why.
2. Once, when my scanty meal was spread, he entered; not a word he spake, just perishing for want of bread, I gave him all; he blessed it, brake, and ate, but gave me part again. Mine was an angel’s portion then, for while I fed with eager haste, the crust was manna to my taste.
3. I spied him where a fountain burst clear from the rock; his strength was gone. The heedless water mocked his thirst; He heard it, saw it hurrying on. I ran and raised the sufferer up; Thrice from the stream he drained my cup, dipped and returned it running o’er; I drank and never thirsted more.
4. ‘Twas night; the floods were out; it blew a winter hurricane aloof. I heard his voice abroad and flew to bid him welcome to my roof. I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest and laid him on my couch to rest, then made the earth my bed and seemed in Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
5. Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death, I found him by the highway side. I roused his pulse, brought back his breath, revived his spirit, and supplied wine, oil, refreshment – he was healed. I had myself a wound concealed, but from that hour forgot the smart, and peace bound up my broken heart.
6. In pris’n I saw him next, condemned to meet a traitor’s doom at morn. The tide of lying tongues I stemmed, and honored him ‘mid shame and scorn. My friendship’s utmost zeal to try, He asked if I for him would die. The flesh was weak; my blood ran chilled, but my free spirit cried, “I will!”
7. Then in a moment to my view the stranger started from disguise. The tokens in his hands I knew; the Savior stood before mine eyes. He spake, and my poor name he named, “of me thou hast not been ashamed. These deeds shall thy memorial be; Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”

Has there ever been a time in your life where someone served you and you knew without a doubt that they were heaven sent during your time of need? Have you ever had a time in your life where YOU have been the one heaven sent to someone else in their time of need? The more that we serve others and allow them to serve us, the closer we come to our Savior. And as we come closer to Jesus Christ, it becomes easier and easier to recognize Him in every day and in every person we meet, including ourselves. Jesus Christ is the center of the Gospel and because of His Atonement that we celebrate today, we can become like Him! We can live again as He does. He will lift us in our trials and He will claim us as His.

12814361_10154126124467450_3490545521046091304_nNow I want you to imagine one more thing: After witnessing a rather horrifying death of your dearest friend, mentor and brother, you go to visit his grave and realize he isn’t there. You sit there, torn by grief and not knowing what to do or how to overcome this. You’re confused and afraid and you’ve never felt so alone. You don’t know how you can possibly move on without him. You’re desperate for relief from this nightmare, desperate for comfort, for peace, for love. As you sit wondering what to do, how to handle your grief, you hear footsteps softly coming up behind you and a voice asking if you’re okay. Without turning, you simply express your greatest desire: That you want your loved one back. And then you hear it. A single word, spoken with such love and compassion that there is no mistaking who it is as He speaks your name. easter-pictures-resurrection-mary-magdalene-1242543-gallery

If there is one message I want you to get from what I’ve shared today it’s this: That He LIVES! And that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the one who can bring us the relief, comfort, peace and love that we are so desperate for in our darkest times of life. I wait anxiously and a little impatiently for that day when I can see Him again and hear Him say my name. I know He lives and I know that because He lives, I can live again too. I say these things in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.

When I gave this talk today, I also performed the piano solo version of this piece by Jon Schmidt as a follow-up and additional testimony that I know my Savior lives: Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief by Jon Schmidt

Testimony of the Restoration

So today I decided to do something different. Instead of writing, I made a video. It’s about 12 minutes long, but it’s my testimony of the Restoration of the Church and Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not perfect with my words and there are probably a few things I should have said, but it’s my humble witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet and restore Christ’s church again on the Earth so that we can have a way to know how to return to be with Him again someday. Please listen carefully, not necessarily to what I have to say, but to what the Spirit is telling you as I speak. I invite you also to write down what you feel and any thoughts that come to mind as you listen so that you can know what the Lord would have you do about what you’re hearing. I hope that you can feel the Spirit as you listen and that you can come to know what I know, because I know it’s blessed my life immensely to have this knowledge. Please leave any questions or comments about this what I’ve shared or about what you want me to share in the future in the comment section or message me so that I can do my best to answer those questions. Thank you and Happy Sabbath! 🙂

 

Strengthen Yourself First

On the mission, we would often teach people an analogy that goes something like this: On an airplane, you’re taught that in an emergency, you have to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others with their masks. Why is that? Because without oxygen, you’re not going to be much good to anyone else anyway. They can wait a few more seconds for you to take care of yourself so that you’ll actually be prepared and strong enough to help them. The same goes with life, especially spiritually.

All I’ve ever wanted to do is help to strengthen other people’s faith and testimonies and most of the time, it’s fairly easy because I’ve never had to struggle much with my own. However, in the past month or so, life has gotten a little overwhelming, frustrating at times, stressful and almost painful at certain points. Don’t get me wrong – I love my life and I have nothing to complain about. So what’s wrong with me? Something VERY important to my spiritual, physical and mental health. I’ve neglected my personal relationship with God in my personal scripture study, my personal prayers, my thoughts and my church attendance. I’ve been so focused on getting enough sleep, succeeding in school, and trying to have a smidgen of a social life that my scripture study has only happened because of assignments in my Doctrine & Covenants class, my prayers have become impersonal and rehearsed, and my attendance at church has happened only because I know I need to go. Yes, I’m still doing all of the important things, but I’m not doing them with a broken heart, contrite spirit and with real intent. That means I don’t get much out of any of them and it’s leaving me struggling to keep my head above water.

Mosiah 4:26-27 says:

“And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”

Here, we are taught that we need to repent daily and to serve others both spiritually and temporally. These verses suggest two things to me. First, we can only do as much as we have strength for or we won’t succeed in our endeavors. Second, repentance and service are things that will give us the strength we need to endure and be successful in all that is asked of us.

So what does it mean to repent and serve and why does it give us such strength? Repentance simply means to change our habits in such a way that they will bring us closer to God and Jesus Christ instead of farther away from them. Service is often the best way for that change to happen permanently. As we do both of these things together, they transform us into more Christ-like people and allow us to overcome any challenges that come because we are less wrapped up in ourselves and more interested in what Heavenly Father would rather have us being doing to help all of His children return Home (the ultimate goal – Moses 1:39).

Lately I’ve been trying to do way too many things and it has caused me to neglect the most important things, which in turn, causes me to be unable to strengthen and uplift others in the way I so badly want to do. I’m weaker than I have been because of how I’ve allowed myself to forget about putting on my own oxygen mask first. I haven’t felt like much help to anyone, including myself, these past few weeks and I want to change that, to go back to how I was before – joyful every day, enthusiastic about every aspect of my life, and so filled with the Spirit that I had no doubt about what I was supposed to be doing and the perseverance and diligence to do those things.

So today, I’m holding myself accountable to anyone who reads this (feel free to follow up with me). My goals this week are to strengthen myself by 1) reading my scriptures and pondering them on a daily basis, 2) having sincere prayers every day and asking Heavenly Father one specific question about what He needs me to do that day and 3) preparing myself so that I can worthily and happily take the sacrament next Sunday. I know that if I do these things, I’ll be able to have the Lord’s Spirit with me more strongly and I’ll be more successful in my goals and dreams of succeeding in school and helping the people around me to come unto Christ.