Saturday, June 18, 2011

"The Color of Butterfly Wings"

Stop to consider the vast expanse of life on our beautiful planet Earth. There are creepy, crawling things everywhere! Within our own backyard, we can find a plethora of insects including worms, beetles, spiders, and ants. There are also numerous domestic pets within the walls of our homes that include dogs, cats, fish, and reptiles, each unique and different. Consider now the wildlife that surrounds our cities and towns. Deer, foxes, coyotes, bears, horses, and cows are but to name a few umbrella animals in the abundant Animal Kingdom. Look at the beautiful ocean with its fishes, whales, sponges and other sea life. Look at the trees, shrubbery, colorful flowers, and fresh grass. Our minuscule human mind cannot wrap itself around the fantastic breadth of life this planet has to offer. We can, however, admire its sheer brilliance. The children's song "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" says best what I feel when I contemplate the beauty of this planet:  

"Whenever I hear the song of a bird or look at the blue, blue sky, Whenever I feel the rain on my face or the wind as it rushes by. Whenever I touch a velvet rose or walk by our lilac tree… I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world Heavenly Father created for me. He gave me my eyes that I might see the color of butterfly wings. He gave me my ears that I might hear the magical sound of things. He gave me my life my mind my heart; I thank him reverently, for all his creations, of which I’m a part. Yes I know Heavenly Father loves me" (Source)

"Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart...And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used..." (Doctrine and Covenants 59:18,20)

It is comforting also to know that we are one of his many creations and that we are unique in that we are patterned after Him, after His likeness and image. He has given us this world for our joy. I know that Heavenly Father knows each of us, his creations. He invites us all to come unto him and find everlasting joy. To each he gives the invitation to ask and call, with the promise that the door will be answered and we shall receive. I love my Heavenly Father and am grateful for this beautiful world. I testify that we can come to know him intimately if we but open our hearts to his love.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Warm Hearts and Friendly Hands

For this post, I take an edited excerpt from a recent letter written to family:

"It was a great and welcomed opportunity to chat with you all yesterday. It is pleasing to know that the Manciati garden of life continues to blossom and give fruit. I am grateful for your diligence in the matters of life, temporal and spiritual, and for the intimate support that can be felt between all of us. I look forward to the day where we shall personally greet again and find comfort in one another's presence. I am reminded of a story President Bunker shared several months ago about a soldier that was severely wounded and lay dying on the battlefield. His dear friend, fearing that he would be unable to escape in his disabled state and therefore be captured by the enemy, picked him up at the risk of his own life. He carried him on his back amidst the battle chaos and carried him to safety. The soldier, though safe from greater harm, eventually died from his deep wounds. His friend's effort and sacrifice, however, did not go unseen or unappreciated. Because his friend had put his own life in peril, that soldier did not have to endure the stark shock and dreadful loneliness of dying in the arms of his enemies, for he died in the loving arms of his friends. May we carry on in the great cause of which we are part; that is, in carrying ourselves and our brothers and sisters to safety. May we do it each in the way that God expects of each of us.

Our own sacrifices and efforts will reap everlasting happiness if we are invested and endure our trials well. This was the Lord's promise to Joseph Smith: "And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands." It is interesting to note that our "friends" do stand by us and that we have hailed and shall hail each other again--premortal, mortal, or antemortal existence. I love you all dearly and thank you kindly for your kindness. I know that as we continue to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and endure to the end, the Lord's promises shall all be fulfilled. Remember that if we have not charity, we are nothing. I pray you will all have a blessed week and that you take care of one another.

With all the energy and love of soul,
Elder Manciati"

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cutting Down a Wicked Tree

A well-prepared and inspiring Zone Conference took place yesterday morning and afternoon in beautiful Santa Rosa. The zones in attendance included those of Eureka, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, and the new Lake County zone. It was indeed time well cherished by all in the midst of fellow missionaries and members of the Bunker family. The program was filled with messages that motivated and encouraged. As usual, President Bunker shared and demonstrated an important principle of the gospel--that is, that "[true] doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior," and that the "study of the doctrines of the Gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." These statements by President Boyd K. Packer ring true and as we analyze our own experiences, we come to a greater realization of their truthfulness. Is it not true that as we study the plan of salvation, we gain a greater focus on what is most important in life and on those things that really matter? As we study the atonement, do we not receive a greater desire to be humble and repent of our sins? With the recently-digested message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, investigators feel the need to be baptized by one holding the priesthood authority of God.

Likewise, all the problems of life can be resolved through truly understanding the beautifully simple yet powerful doctrines of the restored gospel. These problems include those that stem from jealousy, pride, lust, impatience, grudges, hate, and drudgery among an infinite list of other culprit firestarters. The gospel is like an ax that cuts a wicked tree at the base while worldly solutions often times cut a small branch at a time--which branch will eventually regenerate. I know that if we teach our children true doctrine in a manner best suited for their understanding, they will be more likely to grow up in righteousness and avoid many of the heartaches of life. In the same manner, if we ourselves study the doctrines of the gospel, we will know how to act and what to do to please our Heavenly Father. By doing so, we will be beaming examples to those around us and they will want to "[know more about Jesus Christ, because they will know us]."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rest Unto Your Souls

"Take my ayoke upon you, and blearn of me; for I am cmeek and dlowly in eheart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."

Consider these words spoken by Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible--words that invite us to come unto him and find true peace of mind. His merciful invitation invites us to learn of him and follow His perfect example with the promise that we shall have repose. In an unforeseen lesson this evening, we visited a family recently ripped apart financially and spiritually by the claws of injustice. Their once comfortable life is now filled with unsurety, their bleak future slighted by the greediness of others. Yes, their situation is personal, and thus avoiding details I simply say that a sense of desperation has visibly enveloped them. Can we not all relate to their situation? Have we not all felt cheated, cast away, or forgotten at some point in our lives? Have we not all felt that initial rage or discomfort within us when the cruel hand of unfairness grasps us? Do we not at times feel extreme loneliness or abandonment? I have and do from time to time. Consider the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith at Liberty Jail when under similar circumstances:

"O God, awhere art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy bhiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? Yea, O Lord, ahow long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful boppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with ccompassion toward them? O Lord God aAlmighty, maker of bheaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy cpavilion be taken up; let thy dhiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine eheart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us. Let thine aanger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy bsword cavenge us of our wrongs. Remember thy asuffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever."

I could not relate to that family's ordeal but I could relate to the sense of hopelessness that my own personal trials and tribulations have brought me. The only thing my missionary companion and I could testify of was the Savior's gracious plea to come unto him and find rest, which I know to be true. I pray that we might give our whole souls as an offering to the God of Israel. Let us accept his help. If the Lord is with us, who against us? I know of myself the merciful power of His great atonement. It has brought me rest when my soul had none. It has quenched my hunger and my thirst. Of this I testify as one called to represent Him.

I end this blog with the Lord's response to Joseph Smith: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine badversity and thine afflictions shall be but a csmall moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy bfoes. Thy afriends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy afriends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job. And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall amelt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun; ...How long can rolling waters remain impure? What apower shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Have Sinned Against Heaven

"And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more aworthy to be called thy bson."

I desire to share my testimony of the healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ's atonement. It is not a gift uniquely available to me but to every living soul under the Sun, moon, and stars. The Bible tells us of the well-known tale of the "Prodigal Son." In a brief recap of the story, we learn of a man whose son withdrew his inheritance money and left his father's home--surely with big dreams and a sense of excitement. Unfortunately, as the scriptures say, he "took his journey into a far country, and there awasted his bsubstance with criotous living. "His money and his friends disappeared sooner than he thought possible—they always do—and a day of terrible reckoning came thereafter—it always does" (Jeffrey R. Holland). The story continues and tells of his poor and desperate state--how "he awould fain have filled his belly with the bhusks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him." It is here that I wish to pause, but not linger too long. I pause at a moment that I dare say we have all encountered at one point or another in our lives. It is the moment where we realize that "wickedness never was happiness." A moment when we are engulfed head-deep by sin, dishonesty, and pride. There is a sudden emptiness, a lack of direction, and a rediscovered conscious filled with shameful remorse. Such an experience made the future prophet Alma cry out "Oh, thought I, that I acould be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my bdeeds. And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the apains of a bdamned soul."

In this terrible ordeal, we may wonder where relief will come from. Alma, continuing, gives us the all-important answer: "And it came to pass that as I was thus aracked with torment, while I was bharrowed up by the cmemory of my many sins, behold, I dremembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world." The answer is the atonement of Jesus Christ. We have all felt some version of these pains and I do testify that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can find true and lasting relief. Our minds need not be harrowed up by our memories. The Lord invited us to come and be pure through him when he said, "Come now, and let us areason together, saith the Lord: though your bsins be as scarlet, they shall be as cwhite as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). Repentance and baptism by water and by fire are the means through which we can be cleansed, if we have faith in Christ.

We must have the courage to get up and realize that we are "better than our circumstances," just as the prodigal son "arose, and came to his father." A most heart-warming and inspiring scene then ensues and with that I close this blog post: "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had acompassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more aworthy to be called thy bson. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Choose to be a Hero

Occasionally I ponder about what I will say in my homecoming address. When the time comes there will be two years worth of experiences, trials, triumphs, and people to reflect upon. How can one cram and synthesize so much into a ten to fifteen minute report? Despite the vast array of possibilities and ideas, my mind seems to always point towards a particular message and audience while reflecting on the matter. The audience being young men and the message being that a full-time mission will be the best experience of their life.

How can that be? How can following a rigorous schedule every day, being rejected by thousands of strangers, and putting on hold the passions and goals of life for two long years amount to any sense of achievement or grandeur? Can it be that constantly studying the scriptures, praying, and being involved with the Lord's work actually makes one happy? Let me explain. I will tell you what my mission has taught me. It has taught me that we must always be positive, that setting worthy goals and striving to achieve them brings a sense of fulfillment, and that giving is better than receiving. I have learned that goals without a vision is drudgery and that a vision without a goal is a fantasy. I have learned how to compromise in times of disagreement, how to overcome times of deep physical and emotional trial, how to work and serve in a loving manner. I have learned the joys of seeking the welfare of others, and bringing them unto their maker. I know now that to choose Christ is to choose to change. I have also learned that my loyalties should not be narrow but that I should behold everyone equally as brothers and sisters. I have learned for myself that "wickedness never was happiness" and that true happiness comes from prolonged righteousness. The Lord's promise that if you will lose yourself for his sake, you will find yourself is true. I know it and cannot deny it. If there is a young man out there that is reading this blog, I testify to you that your mission will change your life. It will be the best, hardest thing you will ever do but it will save you. I know because it has saved me and has opened my spiritual eyes to see things as they really are. I am not perfect yet but I have a vision of my life now and a deep gratitude for the Lord. I beg you to choose to be a hero and reach out to save those that will accept your help.


Friday, March 18, 2011

I Love To See The Temple

I love to see the temple.
I’m going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit,
To listen and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God,
A place of love and beauty.
I’ll prepare myself while I am young;
This is my sacred duty.

 I love to see the temple. It is representative of all that is good and pure in this world. Within its walls, worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive important ordinances and perform service on behalf of others. It is a place of refuge, a sacred lodging for those seeking peace, and a house where the voice of God can be heard and understood. As missionaries in the Santa Rosa Mission, we have the opportunity of visiting the lovely Oakland temple, situated on a mountainside overlooking the city and the City (meaning San Francisco for those unfamiliar with bay area lingo). The building stands brilliantly, beckoning the attention of all within sight. Its glow at night has even been rumored to guide ships lost in the heavy fog common to the bay and to aid aircrafts in positioning themselves so as to land safely. What great symbolism we find in these temples "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Are we worthy temples unto all who are around us? Do we invite all and give peace and refuge? Are we good and pure? Do we shed forth our light to guide those lost sailors who would otherwise carry on in blind despair and hopelessness? My invitation to all is to meditate on the kind of temple you are and how you can improve. I know that as we do so the Spirit of the Lord will more abundantly dwell within us and propel us to greater happiness and peace--feelings inherently present in the temples of the Lord.

Us at the Christus of the Oakland Temple