Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Listen Closely

Today at district meeting, the weekly meeting where missionaries in an area get together to discuss missionary work and help uplift one another, district leader Elder Williams set up a rather instructive object lesson. He selected Elder Ravia to be the main participant and directed him to exit the room for a brief moment. He placed a post-it note with a picture of a "golden investigator" that he had previously drawn underneath the trashbin and instructed all in the room, me being the exception, to shout at Elder Ravia and misguide him as to the golden investigator's whereabouts. I, acting as the Spirit, was told to be a soft voice that constantly guided him to the treasure. When Elder Ravia commenced, he was beat upon by a tumult of noise. Elders Harper, Christensen, Williams, Weiland, Reed, Thueson, and Russell all shouted false information while I did my best to talk with "a bstill voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper." Elder Ravia eventually listened to the right voice and found his prize. When evaluating, Elder Ravia said that he heard the "still, small voice" but was distracted from listening to it by the many other voices in the room. So it is with the Spirit in our lives. In 2 Nephi 32:5, a perfect recipe for success and happiness is laid forth as we learn that the Spirit will show unto us all things what we should do. All we need to do to receive the blessings of the Lord is to shut out all the exterior, degrading voices and  then listen closely. The Spirit's voice will lead us to all truth.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

For those that know not the mannerisms and quirks of the Manciati Clan, I wish to relate a particular past time my family has enjoyed since childhood—that is, watching Disney movies. One notable film that has been viewed as much as any other in my home and perhaps quoted more times than any other film is Alice in Wonderland. The story digresses from the book by Lewis Carroll but it takes on a bestowal of Disney ingenuity and entertainment. To most people Alice in Wonderland is not at the top of their list, but for the Italian-Ecuadorian Manciati’s living in Los Angeles, it can be said that the film is an integrated piece of our way of being and even our sense of humor. Curioser and curiouser, isn't it? Recently, the prophet Thomas S. Monson, who is also the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, alluded to the story of Alice in one of his discourses:

"When faced with significant choices, how do we decide? Do we succumb to the promise of momentary pleasure? To our urges and passions? To the pressure of our peers? Let us not find ourselves as indecisive as is Alice... You will remember that she comes to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. She is confronted by the Cheshire cat, of whom Alice asks, “Which path shall I follow?” The cat answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.” Unlike Alice, we all know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for by choosing our path, we choose our destination.  Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed—the courage to say no, the courage to say yes. Decisions do determine destiny." http://new.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/the-three-rs-of-choice?lang=eng

What is the purpose of our lives? What road are we taking? Do we know our destiny? Are we just merely “going with the flow” and promenading purpose-less around Circle Street? Are we pacified and content with sitting on a bench enjoying the view? Perhaps we are stalled and have lulled away into subconciousness on an air mattress inside a pitched tent on the wayside. Perhaps we block the road for loved ones or strangers that earnestly seek to press forward? I think that sometimes it is necessary to pause on our journey to see where we are going, what road we are taking, and what we are becoming. If we have strayed from the path, there are always switchbacks that will get us back on course—the length of time to do so varying on how far we have strayed. There are many paths to take but we must most importantly remember that there is one that will lead us back to our Father.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

May we be like Alice and find the way home to our Father while overcoming the march hares, mad hatters, enraged queens, tweedle-dee's, and tweedle-dum's that may want to deter us from the straight and narrow way.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Revelation

It has been revealed to me by a certain Elder that there is a new version of Lds.org!

Here it is: new.lds.org

Check it out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Armed With Righteousness

 "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory" (1 Nephi 14:14).

As I was reading my scriptures a few nights ago, I stumbled onto this scripture--a stumble that made me pause to regain my footing. Having heard many times that we must put on the "whole armour of God" so as to be protected from the attacks of the adversary, this scripture offered a refreshing, new perspective. Righteousness is our protection and preparation for the war that is life. Arming ourselves with righteousness affords us safety as we make our way through enemy-infested woods, such as inappropriate situations or sites on the internet, or as we meander through potentially dangerous mountain roads, such as peer pressure in High School. The story of Moroni's army illustrates the importance of being prepared spiritually when battle is upon us.

"[Moroni] had aprepared his people with bbreastplates and with arm-shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing— Now the army of Zerahemnah was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their aswords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their bstones and their slings; and they were cnaked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; yea, all were naked, save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites; But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields—therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites.

"And it came to pass that the Lamanites, when they saw the Nephites coming upon them in their rear, turned them about and began to contend with the army of Lehi. And the work of death commenced on both sides, but it was more dreadful on the part of the Lamanites, for their anakedness was exposed to the heavy blows of the Nephites with their swords and their cimeters, which brought death almost at every stroke. While on the other hand, there was now and then a man fell among the Nephites, by their swords and the loss of blood, they being shielded from the more vital parts of the body, or the more vital parts of the body being shielded from the strokes of the Lamanites, by their abreastplates, and their armshields, and their head-plates; and thus the Nephites did carry on the work of death among the Lamanites." (Alma 43:19-21, 36-38)
I have come to realize in my life that just as a Lamanite without a shield is vulnerable to heavy onslaught, our lives and souls can take a brutal beating when exposed to sinful devices. We must constantly put up our defense especially when the enemy of all righteousness is one that never ceases to plan our demise. We can trust in God that if we are armed with righteousness, though we may still have minor casualties like the Nephites, we will overcome the opposing army of temptations and trials. I know that as we sharpen our swords and enhance our armor by keeping the commandments, we will have the "power of God in great glory" to press forward and progress towards our desired destination. Failure to do so will make us vulnerable to the consequences of sin.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Miracle!

A rather exciting thing happened yesterday, but that you might more fully appreciate this blessed occurence let me first provide a little background. We have an investigator, Abel, who, as investigators sometimes do, had recently ceased to progress in his learning of the gospel. There has been minimal communication between us over the past month and contact has slowly diminished to zero. We were about ready to drop him off our records this week when lo and behold there came a most-unexpected miracle! We arrived early to our weekly English class to feast upon a chicken that was so graciously provided by a member in Petaluma. To our surprise, Abel had just pulled into the church parking lot and was about to leave when he saw us. He had decided to come give English class a shot because of a boredom that had overcome him and he arrived an hour early because of a time misunderstanding. We consequently met with him and invited him to dinner where we shared a pleasant time together before our language lesson. Had not a very particular series of events taken place, Abel may have been lost forever!

"Miracles" are real and they take place according to our faith. "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men? (Moroni 7:27). I know that miracles have not ceased. Miracles of varying proportions take place every day of our lives and if we take a step back, we can see God's influence in our lives. I am grateful that another opportunity was gifted us to teach Abel by our loving Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Walk Among Giants

Welcome to Muir Woods.

I stand all amazed.

There is beauty all around the redwood forest.
This is the view looking up from Earth.


This is called a redwood burl. What are burls?
An impressive experience occured yesterday--one that I will treasure for the rest of my life. We decided sporadically to go see the Muir Woods redwoods. Have you all seen Jurassic Park? Do you remember the look of wonder and shock on Doctor Grant's face when he gazes upon a Brontosaurus for the first time? Do you remember the orchestra of music commencing its award-winning ensemble in dramatic fashion? That is how we felt as our eyes met the Lord's largest floral creations. "Impressive" is inadequate. "Sublime" touches the surface as to the beauty and wonder of those majestic redwoods. On our drive home, normal trees appeared as little bushes to our glance, and the buildings as fallen logs.

Hiking through this national park, the "heartbeat of the Earth" spoke to my spirit and I felt happiness. It was clear to me that this Earth in all its wonder is part of God's eternal plan for his children. Have you ever wondered if there is a Creator? Have you ever wondered why we are here?  I testify that there is a plan--a plan of redemption, a plan of happiness. Learn more about this plan on the church's website: http://mormon.org/plan-of-happiness/

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wickedness Never Was Happiness

The adventure that is life often leads us to reflect on our past--be it with remorse, joy, regret, longing,or everything in between. As I travailed through another week of missionary life, my mind was inexplicably caught up in certain corridors of my mind where the lights have been off for quite some time. As I walked these vast hallways, turning the switches on and off as I walked through, and as I began to "feel" those environments again, I recalled a simple yet profound conclusion stated in Alma 41:10 "Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness."

Why is wickedness never happiness? The very next verse gives an equally correct declaration and a response: "And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness." God, as he did with the apostate Nephites towards the sad end of their existence, will not always "suffer [us] to take happiness in sin" (Mormon 2:13). Elder Eccles, an assistant to the president in the California Santa Rosa Mission, wrote this week's mission letter. In it he recalled a recent experience where he and his companion joked around about their way of being in high school. In the process of conversing, they both came to a quick realization that they did not ever want to be those people again. I share in their seeming disgust of our past-selves and at the same time am grateful that I have learned this important lesson in my life. Wickedness never was happiness. Happiness has come into my life as a direct result of repentance and keeping the Lord's commandments, whatever the effort, price, or self-control required. "Consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness" (Mosiah 2:41). A popular youth speaker, John Bytheway once said "There are two kinds of pain in life: the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces, while regret weighs tons." I know these things are true from personal experience and I know that as we strive to change our lives to be more aligned with God's commandments, he will bless us and we will feel joy. Jesus Christ invites all men to come unto him with full purpose of heart and to be healed by his atonement and his love. May we choose to do so is my prayer.

Here is a talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson that will shed perhaps more light on the above subject.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Always Grateful, Never Satisfied

Yesterday, the California Santa Rosa Mission was privileged by the visitation of Elder Christoffel Golden, Jr of the Seventy and his wife Diane. It was a beautiful conference in which we heard from and were instructed by these two and by our beloved President and Sister Bunker. There were also speeches given by the senior zone leaders pertaining to the "state" of their zone and various testimonies. The Spirit was poured out in great abundance as we discussed a wide-range of topics and fielded questions from the missionaries. Present at this conference were the Ukiah, Eureka (who travelled nearly four hours to attend), San Rafael, and Santa Rosa zones, comprising almost fifty percent of the mission. Overall, it was a fantastic learning experience for all within the Yulupa Chapel walls in Santa Rosa.

The most impressionable item discussed was the role of Jesus Christ in the plan of happiness and in the atonement. We read Alma 7:11-13 along with various other scriptures, and Elder Golden expounded on the fact that Jesus "knew all men," meaning that he literall knew the conditions of our personal lives. It is for this reason that in the scripture recently cited, we read first that Christ went "forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people." It was after knowing our situation perfectly, after feeling the state of our whole existence, and after taking upon him "our infirmities, that his bowels were filled with mercy towards us. He could then willingly and perfectly take upon himself the weighty price of our sins. As we were taught by a special witness of Jesus Christ, I felt as Brigham Young who said "the Holy Ghost proceeding from the individual illuminated my understanding, and a light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of that man was true."

Someone very special to me recently suggested that I explain why I chose as the title of this blog "Always Grateful, Never Satisfied." The reason is simply that learning is eternal and true gratitude is a catalyst. As we work at our goals and seek diligently to improve our state while in this life, our natures will be changed. Our gratitude will then propel us and allow our nature to be changed furthermore. We cannot be satisfied with our lives and think "all is well in Zion" to the point that we cease to progress. We are then in danger of losing the light that we have already received. "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath" (Matthew 25:29).

I will close this post with one more scripture to satisfy your scripture pangs: "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."

May we be always grateful, never satisfied.