Saturday, September 24, 2011

Freedom in Keeping Commandments

As a youth and throughout high school I enjoyed playing soccer. Like any other kid who comes across a soccer ball, my natural inclination was just to kick it...and not think about form or aim or distance or direction or anything like that. I just wanted to kick the ball!

I started to develop a bad habit us soccer players call "toe-poking". Instead of kicking with the inside of my foot as I should have done, I consistently lobbed the ball with the tip of my foot. 

Thankfully my coaches taught me how important it is to properly kick the soccer ball. They encouraged me to practice kicking the right way. At first I didn't want to do that. I could kick the ball much farther with the tip of my foot than with the inside of my foot. I was even pretty good at aiming. And besides, what did those coaches know anyway? It's not like they were the ones on the field playing!

Fortunately I had the sense to listen. I learned, over time, that I could kick much farther and much more precisely with the inside of my foot. I developed greater control over the soccer ball. I began to enjoy soccer much more than I had because there were so many new things I could do once I learned to kick the ball the right way.

Sometimes we seem to approach obedience to God's commandments this same way. We desire to do things our way, not His. We think we're pretty good at doing what we do. We fail to consider or willfully ignore that He knows what is best for us.

If we humble ourselves, we learn that we can do so much more when we do things His way. We develop greater ability to serve. We find greater confidence in ourselves and develop greater love for others. And just as I began to enjoy soccer much more once I learned to kick properly, we all enjoy life much more once we learn to keep God's commandments. Our freedom is expanded, not restricted.

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon said it this way—
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Mosiah 2:41)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quenching Thirsty Souls

I remember my mom listening to this song when I was a young child. The lyrics have always stuck with me:

Friends I could count on
I could count on one hand
with a leftover finger or two.

I took them for granted,
let them all slip away;
Now where they are I wish I knew.

They roll by just like water,
and I guess we never learn.
We go through life parched and empty
standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst.

I didn't understand the message then, but I understand it now. Often we become so absorbed in the unimportant details of life that we forget about what really matters. We concern ourselves with things when we ought to be concerned about people. We spend time worrying about things we cannot control instead of working on the things we can. We focus on the mundane, routine aspects of life instead of noticing what is beautiful and meaningful around us.

"Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst."
 Indeed, we go through life parched and empty, standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst.

We should spend more time doing things that matter. We should spend more time loving and serving others.

Most importantly, we should drink deeply from the spiritual, life-giving water the Savior offers each of us—
Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14)
This precious water which restores our souls is accessed through sincere prayer, daily study of the scriptures, attendance at church meetings, and observance of God's commandments.

When we put the Lord first, we will discover we've been standing knee-deep in His mercy all along. But unlike the character in the depressing song above, we won't be dying of thirst.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Healing Power of Repentance

The weather this past week in Tennessee has been wonderful! It's hard to believe that 10 days ago it was 105 degrees with 90 percent humidity. Now I'm enjoying 70 to 80-degree weather with substantially lower humidity.

Sin, like humidity, makes us feel bogged down and discouraged
As I've reflected on how much I'm enjoying this mild weather, I've gained a deeper understanding of how uncomfortable heat and humidity can be. I feel like a weight has, quite literally, been lifted from my shoulders.

In this sense, the oppressive Tennesean humidity is comparable to sin. When we sin, we feel bogged down, discouraged, heavy-hearted, depressed. Initially, we may not even know why we feel this way. By carefully analyzing our lives, however, we will discover that negative feelings are often the result of sin. One cannot do wrong and feel right. Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught, "Wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10).

We can overcome the undesirable consequences of sin through sincere repentance. Just as changing weather patterns lifted the invisible burden of humidity from my tired shoulders, sincere repentance lifts the often unseen but onerous effects of sin from our weary souls. Repentance requires recognition of wrongdoing, feelings of sorrow, confession, restitution and forsaking of sins. (Learn more about this topic by reading two earlier blog posts, Godly Sorrow and The Joy of Repentance).

When we sincerely repent, we can feel God's love for us. He loves us in spite of our sins, but we alienate ourselves from His love when we sin. Joy and peace are promised to those who repent of their sins. A repentant Alma described his feelings this way—
And oh, what joy and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
Yea, I say unto you...that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:20-21)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Scripture Saturday — 2 Nephi 31:10

"And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?" (2 Nephi 31:10)

"Follow thou me..."
As long as there have been men on Earth, Jesus Christ has ever extended a merciful hand and the gentle command, "Come, follow me." He loves each of us so much that He suffered all of our sins, pains and afflictions (see Alma 7:11-12, Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19).

But love does not supersede law. Obedience to God's commandments is essential for salvation. Through Christ's mercy, we can repent and be forgiven of our sins. We can be saved from our sins, but not in our sins.

Christ's admonition to follow Him is so important because He is the only way by which we can obtain everlasting happiness and eternal life (see Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

Following the Savior brings joy in this life, too. Life is not (nor was it meant to be) easy. We all face challenges. But when we choose to follow the Savior, we are blessed with peace and understanding.

How can we follow the Savior?

Friday, September 2, 2011

16 Ways to Build Faith

Faith is a principle of action. When we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will do everything we can to serve Him. Sometimes we desire to demonstrate our faith but just don't know where to start. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Pray each morning and night
  2. Study the scriptures for 15 minutes every day
  3. Keep a journal. Read it when you're feeling discouraged
  4. Fast for two meals on the first Sunday of each month
  5. Read the words of living prophets and apostles at
  6. Post an inspirational thought on Facebook
  7. Invite a friend to church
  8. Learn more about Jesus Christ's restored church by visiting
  9. Help someone in need
  10. Keep the commandments
  11. Bear your testimony
  12. Develop a Christlike attribute
  13. Attend the temple often. If you don't have a temple recommend, tour the grounds
  14. Visit a lonely neighbor
  15. Look for opportunities to serve
  16. Attend church meetings every week. As you partake of the sacrament, focus on your commitment to repent and serve the Lord