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

Saturday, March 5, 2011

As Simple as That

For this week's post, I quote Joseph Fielding Smith in an address entitled "The Plan of Salvation" given in November 1971. It is many times difficult to explain our faith to others because there is so much we want to tell them and because our message has become so familiar to us that we speak as in tongues, utilizing jargon that is very much "Mormon." In this address, President Smith states clearly and plainly our beliefs relative to the Bible and to the origin of our church. Perhaps this will aid in condensing the message of the restoration to a more conversational explanation:

"Let us make this very plain. We do not look back to the Bible alone for our knowledge of the Lord and his laws. We do not claim priesthood or power or authority from heaven because these were possessed by the ancient saints. Our roots are not buried in the rubble of past ages.

It is true that we believe the Bible, more literally and fully and completely, I am sure, than others do. We accept it as the word of God, and strive to live in harmony with its teachings. We have all the knowledge that the world has about the dealings of the Lord with people in former times.

But the gospel which we have received has come to us by revelation, by the opening of the heavens, by the ministering of angels, in modern times. This dispensation began in the spring of 1820 with the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith, my great-uncle, the prophet chosen and prepared by the Lord to usher in his great latter-day work."

Thereafter Moroni came and delivered the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated “by the gift and power of God.” It is a new witness for Christ, and an additional proof of the Bible. Then various angels came down from the courts of glory and conferred again upon mortal men the same priesthood, the same powers, the same keys possessed by those of old.

In due course the Prophet received—line upon line and precept upon precept—those revelations which set forth what men must believe and do to gain salvation. Then, pursuant to divine command and following a long night of darkness and universal apostasy, the true Church of Jesus Christ was organized again on earth on the sixth day of April 1830.

This church administers the gospel and makes salvation available to all who will believe and obey those eternal laws which Deity has ordained to prepare men for life in his presence.

May I restate for the Saints and announce for the benefit of all what is involved in gaining salvation. Our third Article of Faith states: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel...

Now I thank the Lord for his goodness and mercy and grace in revealing anew to us in this day the terms and conditions upon which salvation may be won. I thank him for the restoration of the priesthood and power which enable us to perform the ordinances of salvation so they will be binding on earth and sealed everlastingly in the heavens."

What more can I say? I testify that these things are true. Not only do they make sense to my logical mind but more importantly, the Holy Ghost has borne witness of its truth and has left an eternal mark on my soul--a mark that cannot be denied nor deconstructed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Fight Against Sin

In the world today there are temptations that attack, evil influences that distract, and spiritual plagues that grind away at our souls. They come from every angle and attempt to constantly scourge us. They appear in magazines, television soap operas, computer screens and other media, and even in those that we deem worthy to be called our friends. Who is the director of all this evil? The response is as clear as it is obvious: Satan. In his fight against his brothers he does all within his power to make us miserable like unto himself--utilizing a litany of methods that include pornography, jealousy, and pride. Reflecting on the vast and destructive effort undertaken by the adversary, I ask myself: How can we protect ourselves and remain clean in the eyes of the Lord?

Perhaps Paul's counsel shows us the way:

Put on the whole aarmour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil... Stand therefore, having your loins agirt about with btruth, and having on the cbreastplate of drighteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of apeace; Above all, taking the shield of afaith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery bdarts of the wicked. And take the helmet of asalvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11-18).

Nephi's vision of the Church of Christ in the latter days also teaches us something of great importance:

"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 aarmed with brighteousness and with the cpower of God in great glory" (1 Nefi 14:14).

My beloved brothers and sisters, the only way to protect ourselves against the great wickedness that surrounds us is to put on the armour of our God. The whole armour. If we excuse ourselves on the smallest of points, we will be discovered and attacked. Even in a perverse world as ours we have, as Nephi saw, the power of the Lord in great glory. If we make the effort to keep the commandments of God and seek to develop virtue, we will have peace and protection. Which part of your armour is the weakest right now? I invite you to make plans to strengthen it so that you can withstand the onslaught. Remember that the result of the war against evil is already determined. Jesus Christ and his followers will conquer. I pray that we will be suited sufficiently to stand at the last day and avoid the possibility of becoming a "Christian casualty."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

For Joy Thereof

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto atreasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Matthew 13:44).

Recently a dear friend and fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the city of Santa Rosa sent me a message of considerable length via facebook. Therein she shared with great enthusiasm a powerful missionary experience she had had with one of her friends while reading the Book of Mormon. It was inspiring to read how much her friend related to the experience of Nephi, one of the principal writers, and how the Spirit had worked with him to leave an impression of truth on his soul. There was also found within her tale a sobering message. In her own words she states "[When] I gave him the Book of Mormon he held it close to his chest like it was the most precious thing anyone had ever given him and thanked me many times for it. I know it is a great gift, but I've always had one, to see his reaction to getting it really made me grateful for how I was raised." Later on she writes, "I totally understand Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 so much better now. How exciting it must be to be a missionary and have this kind of experience on a regular basis. I feel like my heart could just leap out of my chest and dance around."

The thought quickly came to my mind, "Do I have this experience daily? Perhaps weekly? At least monthly?" Too much time had elapsed that I had not considered the shear magnanimity of the experience it is to listen to someone's concerns and then to reach out lovingly by sharing one's testimony of the gospel. Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 teaches us that " if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one asoul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" Indeed the gospel is joy. I know it is through personal experience. It is a treasure and we can be the treasure maps that will lead souls to uncover an unexpected but much-welcomed abundance of blessings. Thank you sister, whose identity I will protect, for reminding us of the eternal implications of missionary work and of the great joy that we should feel as we serve. We must never take for granted any of the beautiful gifts that we have recieved nor any of the beautiful people we serve. This is my prayer for all of us tonight.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Life and My Joy

A few days ago we missionaries had an opportunous visitation from Elder Patrick Kearon of the first quorum of the Seventy. It was a splendid event in which there was felt a generous outpouring of the Spirit, to the degree of touching and edifying all that were present. One of the central themes of the conference was initialized by the question of one sister missionary who said that it was easy for her to preach and then watch the marvelous effects of the atonement of Christ operate in the lives of others but it was exceedingly difficult for herself to accept forgiveness of her own sins and mistakes. This is a doubt that I too have experienced in my life; how could the Lord forgive and change a being as impure as I? Elder Kearon taught that many times we do not understand the atonement of Christ. It is an infinite act full of grace and radiating with mercy. Sincere repentance is like placing our sins and afflictions in a hole we've dug, covering it, and forgetting about it. The earth, or the atonement, receives these things and swallows them in their entirety.

"O the awisdom of God, his bmercy and cgrace! For behold, if the dflesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who efell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the fdevil, to rise no more.

O how great the agoodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our bescape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, cdeath and dhell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit." (2 Nephi 9:8, 10)

How great is the love of God that he would prepare a means whereby our garments may be made white. We should not feel as though the atonement of Christ applies to everyone except ourselves. He suffered for every man and woman and that includes you. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that he has all power given him in Earth and Heaven to change us and heal us continually. I am grateful for the merciful atonement and know that we can put our whole trust in it because Christ completed it for each of us. In him is my life and my joy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Because He First Loved Us

We alove him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)


Why do we love Jesus Christ? At first glance, this question may seem like a no-brainer but upon further consideration one may unlatch an internal treasure chest full of love and respect for Him. As humans we are innately filled with weaknesses, which many times cause us to commit mistakes accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame. We then seek solutions that will liberate us from our crushing burdens but it is nigh impossible to delete an action that has already taken place. Those feelings can be aliviated only through the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the act in which he walked in our shoes and drank the dregs of our bitter cups--the price of our sins and afflictions, even the most costly among them. The scriptures teach that charity is the "pure love of Christ" and that it "endureth forever." It is the greatest of all virtues and we are counseled that if we are not in possession of it then "[we] [are] nothing." In what action is found greater charity than in the eternal and infinite atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ? I know that my Savior lives and that through him I have found forgiveness and comfort that the world in all its pleasures cannot give. I thank him. I worship him. And I love him--because he first loved me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Welcome to Life

There are no events; only processes, and faster processes.  Things take time.  Like learning Spanish, for instance.  Or English, for that matter.  Like so, but more importantly, are things of the Gospel; they are learned, and applied, progressively, rather than instantaneously.

One of the most splendid blessings we have as children of God is to become like Him.  And even though at times we may think it would be nice to just be awarded improvement, it is something only achievable, and only worth receiving, by earning it through experience.  And though it is daunting at times to consider all the things we must experience, and effort we must demonstrate, before progressing even a little bit, it is also comforting to consider that we will never have to face the prospect of being eternally bored, or not having anything to do, in this life or the next.  There is always something more to do, to learn, to improve about ourselves, or someone else to help.  And it seems like whenever I come to this realization, there is always someone right next to me to say "welcome to life."

And indeed, that is what this life is all about; becoming like God, through experiences and learning we can only attain outside of His divine presence (Doctrine and Covenants 67:12).  As we press forward in the process of life, through this medium we know as time, the Lord will bless us equal to our challenges and efforts.  May we keep our process of becoming celestial beings moving forward, day by day, at an ever-increasing rate, until we are one day admitted into His presence.

(Submitted by Elder Rollins of San Rafael)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Lord's Hands

"Dan Jones, a Welsh convert, joined the Prophet in the Carthage Jail. On 26 June 1844, the last night of his life, Joseph heard a gun fire, left the bed, and lay on the floor near Jones. The Prophet whispered, “Are you afraid to die?” “Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors,” Jones replied. “You will yet see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die,” Joseph prophesied. Thousands of faithful Latterday Saints enjoy the blessings of the Church today because Dan Jones later served an honorable and successful mission to Wales." (Our Heritage p.63).

It is fascinating to think of the great missionaries of the past: Ammon (Alma 18), Aaron (Alma 22), and Dan Jones among many others. What bravery they possessed in placing their personal lives, their people, and every comfortable thing in their lives on the altar so that they may preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Reflecting on my mission up to this point, it is easy to compare myself with these legendary missionaries and feel that my efforts and results are but a miniscule fraction of their marvelous accomplishments. Nevertheless, having helped only a few people has brought me an immense, eternal joy because I have been the instrument in the Lord's hands to touch the heart of someone. That is the source of my strength for pressing forward and the source of my love for others and my mission. I give thanks to all of you who have given me encouragement and strength to carry on even through days and weeks of great trial. It is a great privilege to work in the vineyard of the Lord and to be His hands, which are extended in a loving invitation towards everyone. I apologize if there are any that have been offended by my hand. I want you to know that I love each of you and that my desire is to change and become more Christ-like. It is Him that showed the perfect love when he placed himself in our shoes in Gethsemane and on the cross. Whether by his voice, or by the voice of missionaries like Dan Jones, his gospel will grow to cover the entire face of the earth. How blessed we are to be a small part of that great work!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's Williams Again!

Hello again everyone!  Elder Manciati has once more kindly allowed me to share his blog-space for a day.  I hope you all won’t mind.
  Way back in the day, I considered myself something of a “hippie”.  I come from a family of intellectuals and teachers, and my own personality and interests sometimes felt several decades out of date.  I used to long for a time where free love was the war cry and music was undergoing a revolution, becoming something wild and fierce and new.  How unfair, I would think, that a soul as old as mine should be forced to live in such a conforming world, where the individual was suppressed under the weight of society; where greed and corruption rule rather than peace and love. I considered myself among the “dreamers” in John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  I wasn’t sure how such a world could be, but for a time, I was quite sure Mr. Lennon was correct in his opinion that possessions, politics, and piety were the source of mankind’s trials. For those who are not quite as familiar with the music of your parent’s generation, let me share with you the lyrics of Lennon’s “Imagine”:

 Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.
 No hell below us, above us, only sky.
Imagine there’s no country; it isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can;
no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Perhaps someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.

 I’ve learned a lot since those days.  I’ve grown and matured, I’ve seen more of the world and I’ve learned much more of the gospel.  I can still understand the underlying hope in those lyrics; it’s a message of peace and unity.
 But what I didn’t understand, and neither did Mr. Lennon, is that we aren’t capable of such a utopian society.  Man will always fall short of perfection alone, which is what such a dream would require.  It necessitates a world of selfless, hopeful, virtuous, kind, charitable people.
  A world our Savior died to create.
 Nobody is perfect, and unless I’m much mistaken, nobody will be, either. We seem, as a species, incapable of going any amount of time without strife or contention. Christ knew that, and He provides the answer. He left us a handbook for world peace; we don’t have to dream of it! If there is anyone who was, or is, an advocate for world peace, it is Jesus Christ.
 So let us continue to respect the great men of the past, like Ghandi, who sought that we “be the change we want to see in the world.” Let us not lose hope of the dream that “the world can live as one.” And my prayer is that we will all remember the very Prince of Peace, who is the only way such a dream can be achieved.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Family

I have often times shared the The Family: A Proclamation to the World with those investigating the church and with less-active members. As the words of this landmark document have circumnavigated my cerebrum on several occasions, the power of those words have anchored and sunk deep into my thoughts. The reason for the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the family. Central to the very purpose of our existence and to God's plan is the family. It is all about the family. "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." All of the aforementioned elements of a happy family have been underlying beams in our family structure during most of my short life. Though they were not always present and though seemingly unsurmountable crises would emerge occasionally, somehow we overcame. I am so very grateful for my parents and sisters, who have all been pillars of strength in my life; each in their own special way.

Given the gravely important and influential role that families play in our development, there is great reason to believe that the family is central also to the plan of the evil one--not to build it up but to tear it down. The work of this evil being has also been present in my family's life but because of the strength of our foundation, which is Christ, his efforts have been downsized from tremendous earthquake to tiny tremor.  I invite you all to reflect on your personal relationship with each of your family members and to work on those principles of a happy family that are missing. I know that if in our families we have faith in Christ, pray, repent, seek and provide forgiveness, respect and love others, give compassionate service, work hard, and have fun together, the mercy of God will have power to transform our individual lives and his "countenance [will] smile upon us."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let Us Look to God, Not Worshipping our Own Image

I would like to share some inspiring thoughts given by a member of the Church Sunday during the Priesthood hour. The class was based on "Pride and the Priesthood"--a landmark discourse given in General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in October of 2010 by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf. The following are segments of this monumental talk that touched me personally during the lesson:

"When our hearts are filled with pride, we commit a grave sin, for we violate the two great commandments. 7 Instead of worshipping God and loving our neighbor, we reveal the real object of our worship and love—the image we see in the mirror...

This sin has many faces. It leads some to revel in their own perceived self-worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth, or position. They count these blessings as evidence of being “chosen,” “superior,” or “more righteous” than others. This is the sin of “Thank God I am more special than you.” At its core is the desire to be admired or envied. It is the sin of self-glorification."

The teacher who prepared the class had also made several excellent points speaking on a similar subject weeks earlier. He conveyed that when we truly have charity and we have personally felt the pure love of Christ in our lives, there is no reason that we should be participants of jealousy or pride. Why should we mock our fellow man if we are all beggars of the same almighty being? Why should we glorify ourselves or think us more special than our neighbor when we are children of the same king? Why should we seek to place ourselves above others and obtain glory to our name when there is only one name under heaven whereby man may be saved, which name is the name of Christ who has conquered all, even the world?

"Some suppose that humility is about beating ourselves up. Humility does not mean convincing ourselves that we are worthless, meaningless, or of little value. Nor does it mean denying or withholding the talents God has given us. We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves. It comes as we go about our work with an attitude of serving God and our fellowman."

I know through personal experience that if we want to feel pure joy in our lives, we must be humble. Humility comes through recognizing our weaknesses and placing our faith in Jesus Christ so that we can, through Him, overcome them. We have no innate power to change the natural man unless we are "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]" and unless we "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit" (Mosiah 3:19) . Let us look to God and not be in bondage to a worship of the image we see in the mirror.