Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer." -- President J. Reuben Clark Jr.

Okay.... first off... I would say I'm the last person on the planet who would be qualified to talk about music or music analogies. My knowledge and talent in that area is very limited.  However, I absolutely love the idea of being an "instrument in the Lord's hands."

Think of a piano for a moment, not just any piano. We're talking a perfectly tuned, beautiful, grand piano.  It probably costs more than a car. (okay I don't know that, but you get the picture.)  In the hands of a skilled pianist, the piano becomes more than something pretty to look at, as music begins to fill the room.

Now putting this into a gospel context, how do we become an instrument in the Lord's hands?  I think the biggest thing is to submit our will to Heavenly Father's will. This takes faith, courage and humility one our part. Often times, it also requires great sacrafice. When we have let go of what we want, that is when the Lord steps in and says, "Here is what I want for you, this is what I want you to do. Do these things and be ready for all the blessings I have in store for you."  

"I want to impress upon your hearts...that you can make no sacrifice but what sooner or later the reward will come to you, either in time or in eternity, and almost without exception when we make any sacrifices in the line of duty in performing those things that are pleasing in the sight of God, we get our reward during our lives." Heber J. Grant

We read in Heleman 3:35   "Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."

Once we have submitted our will to the Lord's and prepared ourselves spiritually, we are ready to be instruments in His hands.  "And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer." Mosiah 27:36   This doesn't have to apply to just the full-time missionaries. This can apply to EVERY member of the church.  We ALL can be instruments in the Lord's hands to bring about much good.  How great is that?!  The Lord has so many blessings in store for each of us individually.  

As we bring people to a knowlege of their Redeemer, let us remember Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!"  Let us all live our lives so it is "A Prelude to the festivals of Eternity"  by being instruments in God's hand to bring souls unto Christ.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Faith Experiment

As I pondered about the topic I was preparing, I remembered something I heard back in November at a Time Out For Women conference. The very last speaker of the whole conference spoke about faith and described to us how during the year 2011 she had set out on what she called her “Optimist Experiment” or her faith experiment.

As I started thinking about her faith experiment, I thought about how I wanted to develop more faith, I guess you could call it my new year's resolution. I decided to set out on my own faith experiment for the year 2012. Later I realized how much this will help me as a missionary and how being a missionary will help me with my faith experiment.
Alma said that “If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:11) Also, the apostle Paul taught that, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Elder Richard G Scott said, “When faith is properly understood and used, it has dramatically far-reaching effects. Such faith can transform an individual’s life from maudlin, common everyday activities to a symphony of joy and happiness. The exercise of faith is vital to Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness. But true faith, faith unto salvation, is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in His doctrines and teachings, faith in the prophetic guidance of the Lord’s anointed, faith in the capacity to discover hidden characteristics and traits that can transform life. Truly, faith in the Savior is a principle of action and power.”

True To The Faith says, “ Whenever you work toward a worthy goal, you exercise faith. You show your hope for something that you cannot yet see.” I challenge all of you to think of worthy goals you can work on that will bring you closer to Christ this year.

There are three parts to the faith experiment. The first is to think with faith. Our thoughts lead us to action. Worthy thoughts lead to worthy action which both lead to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I have such a testimony of this.
President Uchtdorf said, "Our motives and thoughts ultimately influence our actions. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the power of good thoughts and proper motives: 'Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not' (D&C 6:36).” (end quote)

This scripture is what I want to focus on for a few minutes. Let me repeat, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” I have lived with this earthly body for nearly 22 years and I have come to realize that there are times where this is a really hard one for me. I am sure a lot of you feel the same way at times.
If we go back to verses 33-34 it reads, “Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward. Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.” What a promise! The Lord promises us that if we do good and we are built upon his gospel we CANNOT FAIL.
As we think with faith, it is important to remember that it is important to keep an eternal perspective. When the trial of our faith comes it is vital to remember what Moroni tells us. “dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Likewise, the apostle Paul said, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

When our faith is being tried and we need to really think with faith, this can be the time when it is hardest to do so. As we remember that the trial of our faith will be for our good in the eternal scheme of things, it will be easier to “Look unto the Lord; doubt not, fear not.”

Jeffrey R Holland said, “Don't you quit, keep walking, you keep trying, there is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come til Heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”

President Uchtdorf said, “please understand that what you see and experience now is not what forever will be. You will no fee l loneliness, sorrow, pain, or discouragement forever. We have the faithful promise of God that He will neither forget nor forsake those who incline their hearts to Him. Have hope and faith that promise.”
I really like the words to the last verse of the Hymn Be Still My Soul.
“Be still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.”

Once again, as we remember this promise from apostles of the Lord, it will be easier to “Look unto the Lord; doubt not, fear not.” and in turn think with faith. I know the Lord is always there for us when the hard times come. I have felt Him carry me through times of testing. (story of when he has carried me through?) So, as the first part of my goal for this coming year, I want to work on thinking with more faith by having an eternal perspective of this earth life and trusting more in my Heavenly Father.
I want to share with you the poem Footprints.
One night I had a dream--
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
"I don't understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
"When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you."

The second point is to pray with faith. This could also be said to have meaningful prayer. Alma 37:36-37 says, “Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”

Think for a moment of the story of Joseph Smith. Joseph says in his own words, “While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.” The events that follow are nothing short of incredible. Joseph went into the woods to pray to his Heavenly Father. Young Joseph entered the woods with the intention to act on the answer he received from God. I thought of my own prayers and how often I forget to pray without the real intent to act on answers I receive.
David A Bednar said, -“If you and I would truly pray and ask in faith, as did Joseph Smith—if we would pray with the EXPECTATION to act and not just to express—then the work of proclaiming the gospel would move forward in a remarkable way. Such a prayer of faith might include some of the following elements:
    1.Thanking Heavenly Father for the doctrines and ordinances of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which bring hope and happiness into our lives.
    2.Asking for courage and boldness to open our mouths and share the gospel with our family and friends.
    3.Entreating Heavenly Father to help us identify individuals and families who will be receptive to our invitation to be taught by the missionaries in our homes.
    4.Pledging to do our part this day and this week and petitioning for help to overcome anxiety, fear, and hesitation.
    5.Seeking for the gift of discernment— for eyes to see and ears to hear missionary opportunities as they occur.
There are times that we pray with faith, and the Lord's answers are not what we expected or even necessarily want to hear. Part of praying with faith is to accept the Lord's will. Not only to accept His will, but also to accept His timing. Remember, God's delays are NOT God's denials.

The Bible Dictionary says, “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” I have had very personal experiences with prayer and I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our humble prayers. His hand is always lovingly outstretched towards us. All we need to do is come to Him in prayer and he will guide and direct us. I also know he is there to comfort us in our times of need.

The last part of my personal faith experiment is to live with faith. To introduce living with faith, I want to read all the verses to the hymn, “Come Follow Me.”
"Come, follow me," the Savior said.
Then let us in this footsteps tread,
For thus alone can we be one
With God's own loved, begotten Son.

"Come, follow me," a simple phrase,
Yet truth's sublime, efullgent rays
Are in these simple words combined
To urge, inspire the human mind.

Is it enough alone to know
That we must follow him below,
While trav'ling thru this vale of tears?
No, this extends to holier spheres.

Not only shall we emulate
His course while in this earthly state,
But when we're freed from present cares,
If with our Lord we would be heirs.

We must the onward path pursue
As wider fields expand to view,
And follow him unceasingly,
Whate'er our lot or sphere may be.

For thrones, dominions, kingdoms, pow'rs,
And glory great and bliss are ours,
If we, throughout eternity,
Obey his words, "Come, follow me."

Matthew 4 says, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”

I love the last verse that says they immediately left their ship and followed Christ. To better live with faith we must all be willing to follow Christ.

In a talk by Joseph B Worthlin he said, “Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to have lived in the days of the Savior? If you had been there, would you have heeded His call “Follow me”Perhaps a more realistic question might be, “If the Savior were to call you today, would you be just as willing to leave your nets and follow Him?” I am confident that many would. But for some, it may not be such an easy decision. Some have discovered that nets, by their very nature, are sometimes not so easy to leave. Nets come in many sizes and shapes. The nets that Peter, Andrew, James, and John left were tangible objects—tools that helped them earn a living......Nets are generally defined as devices for capturing something. In a more narrow but more important sense, we might define a net as anything that entices or prevents us from following the call of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Nets in this context can be our work, our hobbies, our pleasures, and, above all else, our temptations and sins. In short, a net can be anything that pulls us away from our relationship with our Heavenly Father or from His restored Church.

So how do we follow the savior? We exercise faith. We believe Him and believe in our Heavenly Father. We obey His commandments. We live with faith. I have already talked about praying with faith and thinking with faith. I see living with faith as building upon the foundation of praying with faith and thinking with faith. When we are praying with faith and thinking with faith, the Lord will enable us to better follow the Savior's command to “Come follow Me.”

1st Nephi 3:7 says, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

President Gordon B Hinckley shared a great story of a young women from Sao Paulo Brazil who listened to the call to “Come follow me.”
“The university in which I studied had a regulation that prohibited the students that were in debt from taking tests. For this reason, when I received my salary I would first separate the money for tithing and offerings, and the remainder was allotted for the payment of the school and other expenses.
“I remember a time when I … faced serious financial difficulties. It was a Thursday when I received my salary. When I figured the monthly budget, I noticed that there wouldn’t be enough to pay [both] my tithing and my university. I would have to choose between them. The bimonthly tests would start the following week, and if I didn’t take them I could lose the school year. I felt great agony. … My heart ached. I had a painful decision before me, and I didn’t know what to decide. I pondered between the two choices: to pay tithing or to risk the possibility of not obtaining the necessary credits to be approved in school.
“This feeling consumed my soul and remained with me up to Saturday. It was then that I remembered that when I was baptized I had agreed to live the law of tithing. I had taken upon myself an obligation, not with the missionaries, but with my Heavenly Father. At that moment, the anguish started to disappear, giving place to a pleasant sensation of tranquility and determination. …
“That night when I prayed, I asked the Lord to forgive me for my indecision. On Sunday, before the beginning of sacrament meeting, I contacted the bishop, and with great pleasure I paid my tithing and offerings. That was a special day. I felt happy and peaceful within myself and with Heavenly Father.
“The next day I was in my office; I tried to find a way to be able to take the tests that would begin on Wednesday. The more I thought, the further I felt from a solution. At that time I worked in an attorney’s office, and my employer was the most strict and austere person I had ever met.
“The working period was ending when my employer approached and gave the last orders of the day. When he had done so, with his briefcase in his hand he bid farewell. … Suddenly, he halted, and looking at me he asked, ‘How is your college?’ I was surprised, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The only thing I could answer with a trembling voice was, ‘Everything is all right!’ He looked thoughtfully at me and bid farewell again. …
“Suddenly the secretary entered the room, saying that I was a very fortunate person! When I asked her why, she simply answered: ‘The employer has just said that from today on the company is going to pay fully for your college and your books. Before you leave, stop at my desk and inform me of the costs so that tomorrow I can give you the check.’
“After she left, crying and feeling very humble, I knelt exactly where I was and thanked the Lord for His generosity. I … said to Heavenly Father that He didn’t have to bless me so much. I only needed the cost of one month’s installment, and the tithing I had paid on Sunday was very small compared to the amount I was receiving! During that prayer the words recorded in Malachi came to my mind: ‘Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it’ (Mal. 3:10). Up to that moment I had never felt the magnitude of the promise contained in that scripture and that this commandment was truly a witness of the love that God, our Heavenly Father, gives to His children here on earth.”

It takes faith to follow the Savior. We can't always see how following Him will bless us. Sometimes we are asked to do things that we just don't know if we can do it. The Lord may ask us to do some really hard things. The Lord asks us to keep His commandments. The Lord asks all worthy young men to serve a mission. All these, and more, require us to exercise our faith in the Lord. To live our lives with faith.

I feel that the scripture D&C 123:17 describes how I want to live with faith. “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”

I have found tremendous comfort as I read and study the scriptures, as I exercise faith. The Lord will not leave us comfortless. The Lord promises us over and over again that if we will endure to the end and have faith in Him, we will have eternal life.

I just want to say that I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve a mission. I have seen the Lord's hand in my life as I've prepared to enter the mission field. I have grown so much in the last four months and I'm excited to see the miracles the Lord performs in the next 18 months.

I love this gospel! It has been the biggest blessing in my life. I know that this church is true, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I know that he restored God's church back to the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have read it and I have asked for myself if it was true. I know that the power of the atonement is real. I have felt its healing power in my own life. I know without a doubt that Jesus is the Christ, that he loves each and everyone of us unconditionally.  I am so thankful for all my wonderful friends and family who love and support me and have been such great examples to me. 
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I can't believe I leave three weeks from today!! Its completely crazy!!! Over the last couple days I have been thinking about how the Lord can change the intents of our hearts.  I cannot count the times the Lord has changed my heart.

I love the scripture Mosiah 5:2  "And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty achange in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do bevil, but to do good continually."

It hit me when I read this that this is another way to know the church is true and that we have a Heavenly Father who loves and cares for each of us.  Everytime we listen to the words of Christ, whether it's from the scriptures, through prayer or listening to the prophets, and we have a desire to change that is the Spirit.

I have had this happen to me numerous times. Because of the tender mercies of the Lord he has blessed me many times to have a "mighty change" in my heart that I have "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."  I find it absolutely amazing! I am so thankful to have a Heavenly Father who loves me so much and thinks I am worth the time and trouble to correct and guide.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One more month!

I finally found out what time I enter the MTC! 1:10pm baby! Less than a month away! :D