Saturday, April 30, 2011

'Fit to Print'

I worked at a newspaper (the Sanpete Messenger) before coming out to Tennessee. My experiences there helped prepare me for my mission.

Good newspapers adopt the mantra "All the news that's fit to print." This means we don't print material that is inaccurate, uninteresting, or not newsworthy.

But some of our small-town competitors and associates were notorious for adopting a very different slogan: "All the news that fits, we print!" One newspaper even published that slogan on its front page! Newspapers like this are little more than community gossip columns; a potpourri of reader submissions with very little news coverage and an absence of responsible reporting.

If the Book of Mormon were a newspaper, its slogan would surely be a modification of the former; perhaps, "All the doctrine that's fit to print."

The book's primary editor, Mormon, reminds us in several places that the Book of Mormon is an inspired abridgment containing a fulness of the gospel. It is not a tedious, all-inclusive history, and it does not contain uninspired scripture (as does, for example, the Song of Solomon in the Bible). The Lord selected what would and would not be included in the Book of Mormon. Some prophets were commanded to record certain things. Others were forbidden to record certain things.

Mormon, ancient American prophet and editor of the Book of Mormon
The end result is a book which does not include a "hundredth part" of the dealings of the Nephite, Lamanite and Jaredite people in Central and South America. That's a lot of editing! Why did Mormon leave so much of his people's history out? Refer to Words of Mormon 1:7

And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.

Because Mormon was righteous, he was entitled to the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. And because he listened to the Spirit, he was able to determine what the Lord wanted him to include in and exclude from the Book of Mormon.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently published the 150 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon. People throughout the world are blessed by reading this wonderful book. It is clear, concise and complete. It is the greatest tool in our conversion.

Because of a courageous man who listened to the Lord, the Book of Mormon contains only and exactly what is "fit to print." I challenge you to read this inspired text and watch it bless your lives.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

Regardless of where we live, we should all be on the Lord's path. It's not always an easy road to traverse, but the journey is rewarding and the destination eternally wonderful. In Matthew 7: 14, the Lord warned that many wouldn't follow Him—

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

The Lord's path has taken me to Fairview, Tennessee
Each day, we must choose if we will take the pathway of the Lord or the parkway of popular culture. The former route is narrow and rarely traveled, but it leads to eternal life and provides joy to those who follow it. The latter route is wide, attractive and busy, but its travelers wander without purpose until they reluctantly arrive at a place of misery and regret.

The Lord's path has taken me to Fairview, Tennessee, where I serve as a full-time missionary. That same path might take you to one of millions of places around the world, but the destination is the same. The goals, the doctrines, the principles are all the same. And though our joys and sorrows may be unique, we know that Jesus Christ has experienced everything we have experienced through the Atonement. He understands everything you are going through.

If we will commit each day to take the Lord's path, narrow and difficult though it may be, we will be blessed with happiness and peace. Consider the closing stanza of Robert Frost's famous poem The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Indeed, in my life, that has made all the difference.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't Forget Alaska and Hawaii

Have you ever noticed that songs learned at a young age seem to stick in your memory?

When I was a child, I was obsessed with learning about states and capitals in the Untied States. My mom gave me some tapes with different songs that helped me memorize the information. One of the songs went like this:

Don't forget Alaska and Hawaii;
they are also states.
But they're sorta in the wrong region
because they're so, so far away.

Why do I remember that? I don't know. Sometimes I wish I could forget the song, especially on a day like yesterday when it was stuck in my head.

They say you can relate anything to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This might be a stretch, but I thought I'd share with you what I've learned as I've thought about this song:

1) You are more likely to remember what you learn at a young age. It's easier to learn and retain information when you're young. That's why I wish I would have learned Spanish in high school. That's why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints places noted emphasis on families and programs which help children and youth learn gospel principles. Habits, good or bad, learned at a young age are more likely to stick with you throughout your life. It is important to teach children honesty, gratitude, patience, virtue and hard work so they'll continue to develop those attributes when they're older.

2) Don't forget about the outliers. Just as it's easy to forget about Alaska and Hawaii because they're "so, so far away", it's easy to forget about friends and family who are distant to us geographically, spiritually or emotionally. Don't forget about them. Strive to develop good relationships with those you care about or ought to care about before it's too late. There is no time like the present, and there is no promise of time in the future. Write a letter, say "hello", make a phone call, give a gift—and do it today.

3) Music has a powerful influence on our minds. I struggle to remember many of my childhood experiences, but I can almost always remember experiences associated with music. Music—again, good or bad—stays with us. We are blessed when we listen to good music. The Lord makes this promise in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12—

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.

An old saying goes, "Show me a man's friends, and I will show you the man." I propose: "Show me a man's music, and I will show you the man." What we listen to has a profound influence on our character. Let me leave you with one of my favorite songs—

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Must We Suffer?

Here are a few scenarios you're all familiar with:
  • You're accused of something you haven't done
  • You're persecuted because you've chosen right
  • You're ridiculed for standing up for your beliefs
  • You suffer in spite of your efforts to take away others' suffering
  • You endure pain beyond what you think you can handle
Why must we go through trials? Why should good people suffer?

I think suffering helps us recognize what is good in life. It helps us savor precious moments with friends and family. It helps us appreciate simple joys, like the smell of rain or fresh-baked cookies; the sight of spring flowers; the sound of a songbird; the taste of fresh water on a hot day; the touch of the wind against our faces. Suffering helps us grow. It gives us a greater capacity to love and be loved.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, "Righteous sorrow and suffering carve cavities in the soul that will become later reservoirs of joy."

Popular country music singer Dolly Parton explained this concept another way. "The way I see it," she said, "if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain." 

"If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
Middle Tennessee has been getting pounded with rain. I woke up to a fantastic display of thunder and lightning around four this morning. It's supposed to rain throughout the day. 

I like rainstorms because they aren't all that common in Utah, where I'm from. But storms hinder our missionary efforts and get our scriptures wet (on weeks when we don't have a car to drive).

In that sense, storms can be frustrating. Too often, I fail to see the rainbows because I'm too busy worrying about the rain. Too often, I fail to endure suffering with a positive attitude because I forget to focus on the blessings that will come because of that suffering.


But Elder Maxwell's promise is sure. Cavities carved by suffering do indeed fill with joy, just as this normally dry pond near our home has filled with rain:
"Righteous sorrow and suffering carve cavities in the soul that will become later reservoirs of joy."
If you're going through hard times—and we all do at one point or another—remember difficult days will bless you later in life. If you'll allow it, suffering can bless you even now—with patience, and charity; hope, and understanding.

And always remember you are never alone. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: "[N]ot only has the Savior suffered, in His case entirely innocently, but so have most of the prophets and other great men and women recorded in the scriptures...If you are having a bad day, you've got a lot of company—very, very good company. The best company that has ever lived."

Be patient. Have faith. As soon as this storm is over, you'll be blessed with a beautiful rainbow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


During my time in Fairview, Elder Dallof and I have come across two people, in particular, I felt the Lord prepared for us. Several things made me come to that conclusion: 1) We prayed to find these people; 2) We found them in unusual circumstances; 3) They were interested in and receptive to our message; 4) We set return appointments with both of them.

Unfortunately, both of those appointments fell through, and we haven't seen either of them again.

Satan sends obstacles, large and small, our way to deter us from making correct choices

As missionaries, we joke that the most effective way to teach the gospel and prepare people for baptism would be to take away their agency to choose. Of course, that is not the Lord's way, and neither is it ours. But it's interesting to think about—especially in times of disappointment and discouragement.

It's hard to see initially receptive people resist truth for any reason. We pray for, prepare for and worry about these people. We yearn for what is best for them. We love them. We're offering them the greatest blessing in the world, and they either don't know why they need it or aren't willing to receive it.

I suppose that's how our Father in Heaven feels about us when we make bad choices. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He yearns for what is best for us. He offers us everything He has, and too often we are unwilling to receive those blessings.

He loves us so much that He will not take away our agency, our right and privelege to choose. He's given us commandments: eternal laws which, when obeyed, bring peace and happiness. He's given us everything we need to return to live with Him. All we need to do is follow Him.

I'm hopeful that we will be able to reach these people in a coming day. I'm hopeful they will accept our wonderful message. When we choose what is right, we choose happiness; when we choose what is wrong, we choose misery.

Learn more about the divine principle of agency from an apostle of the Lord, Elder Robert D. Hales.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

He Is Risen!

As sure as I know Christ died for me, I know He lives again. He is the way of truth and happiness. He is our best friend and advocate before God.

It is comforting to know that He lives, and that because of His sacrifice resurrection is offered to each of us as a free gift. If we are faithful in keeping the commandments and if we repent of our sins and endure to the end, we are also promised eternal life.

I love my Savior. I am grateful He loved me enough to die for me. I can hardly express my gratitude.

One of the reasons music has been such an important part of my life is because it expresses emotions simple language cannot. I'm going to share with you some wonderful Easter hymns. I hope you'll enjoy them, and I hope we'll all treasure up in our minds Christ's atoning sacrifice; not just now, but throughout our lives. Let us each make an effort to follow Him more faithfully, to love Him more completely, to serve Him more earnestly.


(Vitae Lux means "Light of Life" in English. While performed here by the wonderful Sissel with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at a Christmas concert, it is not strictly a Christmas song.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

None Were with Him

Like most of you, my testimony of the restored gospel has come bit by bit, piece by piece over the years. I can count but few instances in my life where I've felt the spirit so strongly that I could remember these experiences vividly years later.

Listening to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speak about the atonement in General Conference two years ago was one of those times. I can still remember the way I felt then. I cannot describe in words those emotions, but I feel them even as I type this post.

Some of my favorite lines:

"For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone."

"[O]ne of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so."

"This Easter week and always, may we stand by Jesus Christ 'at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death,' for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone."

I'm not sure I'll ever understand how Jesus Christ was able to suffer for my sins, and for yours; for our trials, our weaknesses, our hungers, our disappointments, our discouragements, our fears, our handicaps, and our faults. But I know that He did suffer, and that because of His selfless suffering, we can repent and be forgiven of our sins. Regardless of our situation in life, He knows exactly what we're going through. He will strengthen and sustain us, if we will let Him.

As we approach Easter Sunday, I'm profoundly grateful for my Savior. What have you done today to exercise faith in Jesus Christ?

Thursday, April 21, 2011


In March, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published its 150 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon. That's fantastic news. The Book of Mormon was written for our day. Ancient American prophets were guided by God to record experiences and insights that bless our lives and give us direction in a world that, in many ways, hasn't changed all that much from the days when the Book of Mormon was written.

In the Book of Ether, for example (and also in the Books of Helaman and 3 Nephi), we learn about secret combinations—wicked men who conspire to steal, commit violence and overthrow governments. Sound familiar? Now consider the prophet Moroni's solemn warning in Ether 8:22

And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

The Book of Mormon is full of powerful, beautiful scripture which serves to warn, guide, enrich and protect us. Like the Bible, it is the word of God and a testament of Jesus Christ.

As we approach Easter Sunday with renewed commitment to build faith in Jesus Christ, I can think of few better ways to accomplish this goal than to read the Book of Mormon. Each time I read the Book of Mormon, I learn something new about my Savior. I gain a greater testimony of His love for me.

The Book of Mormon will bless you, too. Won't you give it a shot?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Optimism in Adversity

It's been an up-and-down kind of week, with maybe a few more 'downs' than 'ups'. Today I lost my missionary planner in Dickson (we travel there once a week for district meeting). This follows tearing a pair of slacks on my bike chain, misplacing my watch, breaking the buckle on my backpack, and damaging two pairs of shoes in the rain.

These may seem like small trials—and they really are—but taken in succession over the past few days they've contributed to a high level of frustration. I almost wake up in the morning wondering what I'm going to lose or break over the course of the day.

Trials help us grow
In what must have been an answer to prayer, I came across the following story in an old copy of the Ensign, a magazine published by the church. President Thomas S. Monson relates:
In about March 1946, less than a year after the end of the war, Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, accompanied by Frederick W. Babbel, was assigned a special postwar tour of Europe for the express purpose of meeting with the Saints, assessing their needs, and providing assistance to them. Elder Benson and Brother Babbel later recounted, from a testimony they heard, the experience of a Church member who found herself in an area no longer controlled by the government under which she had resided.

She and her husband had lived an idyllic life in East Prussia. Then had come the second great world war within their lifetimes. Her beloved young husband was killed during the final days of the frightful battles in their homeland, leaving her alone to care for their four children.

The occupying forces determined that the Germans in East Prussia must go to Western Germany to seek a new home. The woman was German, and so it was necessary for her to go. The journey was over a thousand miles (1,600 km), and she had no way to accomplish it but on foot. She was allowed to take only such bare necessities as she could load into her small wooden-wheeled wagon. Besides her children and these meager possessions, she took with her a strong faith in God and in the gospel as revealed to the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith.

She and the children began the journey in late summer. Having neither food nor money among her few possessions, she was forced to gather a daily subsistence from the fields and forests along the way. She was constantly faced with dangers from panic-stricken refugees and plundering troops.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months, the temperatures dropped below freezing. Each day, she stumbled over the frozen ground, her smallest child—a baby—in her arms. Her three other children struggled along behind her, with the oldest—seven years old—pulling the tiny wooden wagon containing their belongings. Ragged and torn burlap was wrapped around their feet, providing the only protection for them, since their shoes had long since disintegrated. Their thin, tattered jackets covered their thin, tattered clothing, providing their only protection against the cold.

Soon the snows came, and the days and nights became a nightmare. In the evenings she and the children would try to find some kind of shelter—a barn or a shed—and would huddle together for warmth, with a few thin blankets from the wagon on top of them.

She constantly struggled to force from her mind overwhelming fears that they would perish before reaching their destination.

And then one morning the unthinkable happened. As she awakened, she felt a chill in her heart. The tiny form of her three-year-old daughter was cold and still, and she realized that death had claimed the child. Though overwhelmed with grief, she knew that she must take the other children and travel on. First, however, she used the only implement she had—a tablespoon—to dig a grave in the frozen ground for her tiny, precious child.

Death, however, was to be her companion again and again on the journey. Her seven-year-old son died, either from starvation or from freezing or both. Again her only shovel was the tablespoon, and again she dug hour after hour to lay his mortal remains gently into the earth. Next, her five-year-old son died, and again she used her tablespoon as a shovel.

Her despair was all consuming. She had only her tiny baby daughter left, and the poor thing was failing. Finally, as she was reaching the end of her journey, the baby died in her arms. The spoon was gone now, so hour after hour she dug a grave in the frozen earth with her bare fingers. Her grief became unbearable. How could she possibly be kneeling in the snow at the graveside of her last child? She had lost her husband and all her children. She had given up her earthly goods, her home, and even her homeland.

In this moment of overwhelming sorrow and complete bewilderment, she felt her heart would literally break. In despair she contemplated how she might end her own life, as so many of her fellow countrymen were doing. How easy it would be to jump off a nearby bridge, she thought, or to throw herself in front of an oncoming train.

And then, as these thoughts assailed her, something within her said, “Get down on your knees and pray.” She ignored the prompting until she could resist it no longer. She knelt and prayed more fervently than she had in her entire life:

“Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left—except my faith in Thee. I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them. Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return—together—to Thee.”

When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated. Brother Babbel said that her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation. In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again. She testified that she knew if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God. 

My frustration all but vaporized as I read this heart-wrenching story. My trials are comparatively small. My faith, unfortunately, is comparatively weak. I can't imagine the internal and external pain this woman went through. But she maintained an inspiring sense of optimism in spite of her adversity. She didn't just endure; she excelled, and because of her example, thousands—perhaps millions—of lives have been blessed.

We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but our circumstances need not dictate our happiness. When we find faith in Jesus Christ, we will be happy regardless of our position or profession. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi testified "[M]en are that they might have joy."

We find joy through service to our Savior and to those around us.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Month

Today marks for me one month of missionary service in Tennessee. I've learned a few things in that time:
  • In the South, shopping carts are called 'buggys'
  • 'Y'all' really is a word, and it's actually pretty fun to use
  • Elder Dallof makes the best brownies in the world
  • You haven't seen a rainstorm until you've lived in Tennessee
  • You also haven't seen bugs until you've lived in Tennessee. Every night in our humble little home, we find spiders, centipedes, mosquitoes, flies and even bees on occasion. I have yet to get my first tick, and I'll be just fine if that never happens
One of many wonderful creatures in Tennessee
On a more serious note, I've come to know more fully that my Savior lives and that He loves me and you. I've learned that sacrifice brings blessings and that faith dispels fear. I've learned that we can choose to be humble or God will compel us to be humble. I've learned that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way of happiness. There is no other way by which we can find joy or be saved.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Are You Plugged In?

Living and serving in Fairview, Tennessee has its benefits, but our washing machine is not one of them:

Our washing machine, created 1300 B.C.
The thing sounds like it's going to explode every time we use it. One of these days, it probably will.

But that's beside the point.

The other morning I was doing laundry when a powerful storm knocked the power out. My clothes were left, soapy and soggy, in the ancient washing machine on an unfinished cycle. Fortunately, the power came back on moments later, and the cycle restarted itself.

I pondered how our lives are much like a washing machine (aged and about to die or new and efficient, as the case may be). When connected to power, the washing machine is effective at performing its job. Without power, however, it is useless.

When we live the gospel, we are effective at doing what God has called us to Earth to do. We are 'plugged in' to God's power—the blessings that come from righteous living.

Conversely, when we aren't living the gospel, we voluntarily cut ourselves off from the power and blessings which God stands ready to give us. We are no longer effective at doing what we were called to Earth to do, and we and those around us suffer. Our lives—much like my clothes inside the powered-down washing machine—become a jumbled mess.

Washing machines are different in size and style, but all are essentially the same in purpose and function. Washing machines are made to wash clothes, and they're mighty effective at doing that...when coupled with electricity.

We, too, are different from one another in perhaps innumerable ways. But we're all made in God's image and we all have the same purpose: to love and serve others in this life, and to return to live with our Father in Heaven. We can accomplish those goals only if we are plugged in to the power of the gospel.

One of my companion's favorite scriptures—and I'd have to say it's becoming one of my favorites—is 1 Nephi 7:12 in the Book of Mormon:

Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.

Let us have faith in the Lord. Let us plug in to the blessings of the gospel.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our Savior's Love

My message today is simple and almost inexpressible. Put simply, I love my Savior; and I am so grateful He loves me enough that He suffered for my sins. He loves each of us. He can strengthen us in our trials. He is there for us when nobody else will be. To paraphrase the words of the Book of Mormon prophet Helaman, He is the rock upon which we can—and must—build our foundation.

Following are words from one of my favorite hymns, which is also the title of this post:

Our Savior's love
Shines like the sun with perfect light;
As from above
It breaks through clouds of strife.
Lighting our way,
It leads us back into His sight
Where we may stay
To share eternal life.

Enjoy this beautiful arrangement from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gospel Gears

I made the mistake of shipping a single-speed bicycle to Tennessee for use over the course of my mission. Y'all here in Fairview have probably had some good laughs as you've passed me on the side of the road, struggling to make it up these gigantic hills. My companion, Elder Dallof, had to get used to waiting at various peaks and valleys along Fairview Blvd. for me to catch up.

Those days are over. Allow me to introduce my new bike!

My new bike, the Trek 4300, and also my lifesaver

This is Trek 4300, my best friend at the moment and a new arrival as of yesterday. I haven't even had time to name it. But I've been indescribably grateful for everything about this bike—from its 24 gears and cushioned seat to the shock absorbers and even the kickstand. Compared to the old single speed, this is sheer perfection.

There's an important lesson to be learned here. Let us compare a generic bicycle to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We all find ourselves in the different peaks and valleys of life. The bicycle—or the gospel—helps us move through life with ease. But there is a big difference between a generic, single-speed bicycle and a 24-gear bicycle.

A single-speed bike is comparable to a casual attitude toward the gospel. We have the truth, and that comforts us in times of sorrow and strengthens us in times of tribulation, but because we haven't taken time to develop Christlike attributes, it takes more energy and more time to make it over life's hills. We often do not enjoy the ride (especially when it's hot and humid outside and you're going on mile 23!).

A 24-gear bicycle is comparable to strict devotion to and love for the gospel. Because we trust in the Savior, we take time to develop patience, charity, honesty, gratitude, discipline, humility, etc. Each of these Christlike attributes—these "gospel gears"—help us make it over imposing hills and through lengthy valleys. Different gears are used in different situations, but all work together to make the bike—and our experience, or ride, through life—wonderful.

A single-speed bike is good, but in Tennessee it is just not good enough. And in our world, a casual attitude toward the gospel may be better than nothing at all, but it is not enough to get us through life and to our destination—eternal life. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught this principle well:

As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

The best and perhaps most difficult choice we will make in this life is to follow Jesus Christ. We have to make that choice every day, even multiple times within a day. But if we'll continue to follow Him in all situations, we'll find that, over time, our single-speed bicycle has been transformed into a 24-gear masterpiece. It is then that we find joy in the journey; it is then that our ride through life becomes truly wonderful. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Labor of Love

We hear it all the time..."Why do you give up two years of your life to serve a mission?"

I usually reply with something like this:

"Because I know the gospel is true. It's brought me a lot of joy, and I want to share that joy with you."

Missionary work isn't easy, but it is so worthwhile. There is no work more rewarding. The Lord promised great blessings to those who serve as missionaries in Doctrine and Covenants 18: 15-16—

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! 

That promise is what gets me through on difficult days. It's what keeps me going when I've biked 23 miles in humid, 92-degree weather (that was Saturday!). It's what lifts me up when I'm discouraged because people don't respond to our message the way we'd like them to.

I'm reminded of another scripture—this one in the Bible—which testifies of the importance of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
(Proverbs 3: 5-6)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Choosing Charity

The more I learn about the gospel, the more I realize we aren't blessed with Christlike attributes if we aren't willing to work to get them. Every virtue—be it patience, humility or gratitude—comes over time as we seek to develop spiritual gifts with help from the Savior.

Charity is no different. Charity is a choice. Like all other principles of the gospel, we have to work to develop charity, and we have to work to keep it alive. President Thomas S. Monson illustrates the importance of charity with this humorous story:

Thomas S. Monson
A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.

“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”

John looked on but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.

A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John—she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”

John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”

We find joy in this life by serving and finding good in others. Choose to be charitable. It will change your life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Tennessee Delicacy

I've been serving in Tennessee for nearly three weeks now, and I'll never forget one of my first experiences in the mission field: eating fried frog legs.

Tastes like chicken!

I've eaten some pretty interesting food over the years, but this tops it all. I think my companion described it best: it tastes like a cross between chicken and fish. No amount of batter or ketchup could cover up the taste of the lake water from whence this little froggie came.

I started thinking about a story somebody once told me. If you stick a frog in a pot of boiling water, he will jump out of there just as fast as his little legs will let him. But if you stick a frog in a pot of room-temperature water and slowly warm the water until it reaches a boil, you will have successfully heated the frog to death.

In that sense, we're all a little bit like frogs in this crazy world. Satan doesn't stick us in a pot of boiling water. He's smarter than that, and we're smarter than that. As humans, we're pretty good at getting ourselves out of uncomfortable situations.

Instead, Satan slowly heats the water until it reaches a rolling boil. Gradually, little by little, our senses are dulled by the initially pleasant heat until we've reached a point of emergency, trauma and tragedy. Thus, using our own desires for peace, comfort and pleasure, Satan slowly boils us alive.

We're remarkably good at recognizing what we might call 'big sins'. We're less adept at recognizing and avoiding 'little sins' like pride, gossip and dishonesty. But if we linger in those sins long enough, we'll find that our ability to distinguish between good and bad has been altered—perhaps permanently. If we let Satan continue to heat the water on us, we'll find ourselves at his feast—as dinner.

The solution? Get out of the pot of water and repent! Christ is ever extending His arm of mercy, always inviting us to partake of the marvelous gift of the atonement. His promise is recorded beautifully in the Book of Mormon:

"[W]ill ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me" (3 Nephi 9: 13-14).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Caution Signs

Some of the street signs we see in Tennessee make me laugh. Case in point: this "Caution: Horses" sign we noticed on Fairview Blvd. the other day. 

Gotta watch out for those horses!
After my initial reaction of amusement, I thought about the parallels caution signs have in our lives, however humorous they may be. I think God provides us with noticeable, well-lit and very descriptive 'caution signs'. Caution signs may come in the form of advice from a trusted family member or friend. They may come in the form of scripture or words from religious leaders.

Most often, I think, caution signs are displayed through our thoughts and feelings—internal warnings, if you will, rather than external advice. God's caution signs warn us of danger ahead. If we heed their warnings, we can avoid negative consequences.

Think about 'caution signs' in your life. How often do you follow them? How do you feel when you do? How do you feel when you don't?

I feel peace and comfort when I follow God's commandments and heed His 'caution signs'. Sometimes that means taking a different route than I had planned, and ofttimes it may be a different route than I'd like to take. But God sees the big picture while I see only a caution sign or two, and so I trust His direction.