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.