Wednesday, February 29, 2012

11 - People

I was taught from a young age to love people, especially those less fortunate than myself. In my younger years I remember my mother taking my siblings and I to a local nursing home several times a month to visit patients who were in need of a friend. I loved and looked forward to those visits.

In high school I worked as a writer and editor at a countywide newspaper, the Sanpete Messenger. My favorite assignment was interviewing war veterans and other elderly people in my community who lived fascinating lives and had wonderful stories to tell. I learned much by sharing in their wisdom, and I'll carry those lessons with me forevermore.

Now, as a missionary, I work every day with people. I love teaching and sharing the gospel with everyone I meet. I love making new friends. I love knowing that everybody I meet is a child of God with the potential to return to live with Him someday. That motivates me to share with them what I know to be true.

Here are some profiles of people I've never met. Just by watching these videos I feel a desire to learn more about them. We're all much more connected with each other in this circle of life than we're prone to think we are, for we are all brothers and sisters—sons and daughters of a living God who loves us all equally and perfectly.

You Matter to Him, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear, Elder L. Tom Perry
The Essence of Discipleship, Silvia H. Allred

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

10 - Scripture

I can't adequately express how thankful I am for the word of God. His promises and love as recorded by prophets in the Bible, Book of Mormon and other books fill me with hope and strength. When I feel discouraged or depressed, a careful study of the scriptures quickly renews my soul and refreshes my perspective.

The most powerful answers I've received to prayer have been through the scriptures. On several occasions throughout life I remember feeling terribly and utterly alone. During these times I remember feeling like there was  no one I could talk to, but I knew—at least intellectually—that my Father in Heaven would listen.

As I've studied the scriptures, I've been lead to verses which strengthen my faith and help me feel the love of my Savior; verses like these—
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)
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8)
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)
I'm so grateful for a Father in Heaven who hears and answers my prayers. I know He will hear and answer your prayers, too, and as with my experience, your answers may come through the scriptures.

The Power of Scripture, Elder Richard G. Scott
Fat-Free Feasting, Bonnie D. Parkin
The Blessing of Scripture, Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Sunday, February 26, 2012

9 - Temples

On Friday I was privileged to attend the Nashville Tennessee Temple for the third time during my mission. I love going to the temple. There is a special spirit inside the temple that is available nowhere else on Earth.

Why is the temple so peaceful? Because it is literally the House of the Lord. It is in the temple that we catch glimpses of eternity and learn our place in God's merciful and awe-inspiring plan.

I don't understand everything about the temple and it will probably take quite a bit of time before I do. But I do know that I feel closer to the Savior in the temple. One of the great blessings of the temple is that we must be worthy to enter inside. Preparing to attend the temple helps us live chaste, clean, meaningful lives.

If you have a temple recommend, do you attend regularly? If you don't have a temple recommend, what are you willing to sacrifice to get one? Remember the counsel of President Thomas S. Monson—
No sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive [the blessings of the temple].
Blessings of the Temple, Elder Robert D. Hales
The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World, President Thomas S. Monson

Friday, February 24, 2012

8 - Sleep

As a child I used any method I could think of to try to skip nap time. I use the word "try" because I was usually unsuccessful.

As a teenager I often thrived on late nights and little sleep. I was always working on some project and thought life would be much better if we humans didn't require sleep and could keep going, going, going...much like the Engergizer Bunny.

Now that I'm becoming an adult, I wish I could rewind the years and catch up on all the sleep I could have had. Only now do I realize how precious sleep is and how hard it is to come by.

My appreciation for sleep has been especially strong of late because I've been sick with the flu. I've looked forward, more than ever, to the eight hours of sleep we get each night as missionaries.

God's plan for us is perfect. There are no flaws. In my teenage ambition I didn't understand how valuable nightly periods of rest and renewal are for my body and soul, but God did. He designed it this way for a reason.

I'm grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows our needs and our desires. I'm grateful that His plan is flawless and that we can return to live with Him someday.

Now the Day Is Over, Hymns #159
Good, Better, Best, Elder Dallin H. Oaks
The Need for Balance in Our Lives, President James E. Faust

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

7 - Change

Those who know me well will be surprised to hear me expressing gratitude for a crazy thing like change. Before my mission I did not like change. In fact, I hated it. I hated change so much that I tried to make my life post-high school just as it was during high school. I suppose that's a natural enough reaction for somebody raised in a small town.

Nothing could have prepared me for the many changes I've experienced as a missionary. My faith has grown exponentially. My greatest pains and sorrows, but also my greatest joys and comforts have come as I've walked the winding roads in Fairview, Murfreesboro and Franklin. My devotion to Jesus Christ has become fixed, and nothing except my own bad decisions could stop me from serving Him. I've even gone through a major physical change; I've lost 30 pounds!

I would like to think that these changes have molded me a little more into the man God wants me to become. I would like to think that He is pleased with me—and you—for the many positive and often painful changes we choose to make.

Now, instead of dreading change, I welcome it. Whenever I'm going through a difficult time or become keenly aware that my size 34 slacks no longer fit my size 29 waist, I stop to remind myself how much more I enjoy my life because of change. Like the ocean tides barreling down on the beach, change has renewed and refreshed my soul.

Get On with Our Lives, Elder Steven E. Snow
Progress through Change, Elder Marvin J. Ashton
The Power to Change, President James E. Faust

Sunday, February 19, 2012

6 - Testimony

Pure testimony breaks down barriers nothing else can. I've seen it happen over and over again throughout my mission. People may question intellectually what you teach, but it's difficult to refute sincere, humble, pure testimony.

One of the many reasons I look forward to church each Sunday is for the opportunity to hear pure testimony from fellow Christians. My faith in Jesus Christ is strengthened when I listen to others describe their faith in Him. My love for the Savior and for my fellow men increases as I feel the Spirit which always accompanies sincere testimony.

Here are some thoughts—some pure pieces of testimony—I heard at church today:
  • Prayer is your personal key to heaven. The lock is on your side of the veil
  • The windows of heaven cannot be opened to you if your heart is not filled with the love of Christ
  • Great men are not always wise. Spiritually you may know not, and know not that you know not
A Living Testimony, President Henry B. Eyring
The Power of a Personal Testimony, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Pure Testimony, Elder M. Russell Ballard

Friday, February 17, 2012

5 - Growth

Serving a mission is the most physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting thing I've ever done. The rigorous nature of the work naturally leads to occasional bouts of discouragement and self-doubt when I question my ability to serve the Lord and my worth as one of God's children. It's during these times that I have to remind myself how much I've grown, for growth is almost imperceptible as it is happening.

Last night was one of those nights. I've found that simple things like prayer, scripture study, meditation and hot chocolate are very effective at warding off feelings of discouragement. One of the most powerful tools in my arsenal of happiness and fulfillment is music. Since the range of music I'm allowed to listen to as a missionary is quite limited (no Karen Carpenter or even Frederic Chopin), I indulged last night in a beautiful arrangement of Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This pastoral hymn centers on the Shepherd's love for lost sheep. I felt very lost last night. This powerful hymn reminded me that I matter to the Savior and that He loves me with a perfect love. It also reminded me that He has this same love for each of God's children, and that the best way I can feel His love in my life is by losing myself in the service for others.

I'm grateful for these periods of personal growth. I've had many of them over the course of my mission and life. I'm sure you have as well. I'm grateful that the Lord is willing to rescue us from our situations of sorrow and despair. He will never leave us comfortless.

You Matter to Him, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Finding Joy in Life, Elder Richard G. Scott 
"As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten", Elder D. Todd Christofferson 
The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing, Elder Richard G. Scott

Thursday, February 16, 2012

4 - Snow

A few nights ago I encountered my first snowstorm in Franklin, Tennessee—well, if you could call it a snowstorm. It was hardly even a flurry and it lasted for only a few minutes. But seeing and trying to catch the fluffy flakes on my tongue reminded of the beautiful and often powerful snowstorms we experience in my hometown of Manti, Utah.

I always associate snow with purity. In earlier years I enjoyed waking up to a fresh foot or two of snow. I marveled at the beauty of billions upon billions of snowflakes clustered carefully together, unadulterated for a time by footprints or twigs and protected from the harsh rays of the sun by clouds hanging gently overhead. I often thought then and reflect now on this scripture in Isaiah
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
It is wonderful to know that all of our sins and mistakes and errors can be blotted out through the divine gift of repentance. What a priceless gift!

Doctrine and Covenants 58:42-43
The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness, President Boyd K. Packer
The Divine Gift of Repentance, Elder D. Todd Christofferson 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

3 - Simple Things

Greatness is made of small and simple things. Lives are made worthwhile and exciting when we find joy in the small and simple things we must do each day. People become great when they choose to see themselves and others around them as amazing. Greatness doesn't happen to us; it is a choice we must make every day.

When we focus on the small and simple things we can do instead of the grandiose and glorious things we want to do, we will discover that these small and simple things have added up to something great. A focus on the small and simple things enriches our lives and the lives of others.

The prophet Alma taught
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

Marissa in Utah wrote, "I often think of myself as small and simple. This scripture reminds me that even though I may not be the most knowledgeable in the gospel, through my simple testimony I have the ability to bring others to the knowledge of the truth."

Carol, also in Utah, wrote, "It means by a small gesture, such as a smile, or assistance to someone, that things will grow in a beautiful way, hearts softened."

And Audrey in Tennessee commented, "It's the little things that can mean sooo much!"

I love all these thoughts because they are true. They acknowledge that it is in our daily acts of kindness and obedience that we achieve greatness. 

What small and simple things are you most grateful for?

Alma 26:11-37
Of Things That Matter Most, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Small and Simple Things, Elder M. Russell Ballard

Friday, February 10, 2012

2 - Journaling

I have a confession to make.

I'm behind in writing in my journal. Like really, really far behind. I don't know quite how it happened, but I need to catch up. My desire to get up-to-date was spurred in part by an e-mail from my mother admonishing me to keep a journal. She told me I won't ever want to forget the memories I make on my mission, and I believe her.

One of the things I love about writing in a journal is the perspective it gives me. When I'm having a bad day, I can refer to my journal and discover that I've made it through similar bad times before. When I need some personal inspiration, my greatest sources of support are prayer, scriptures and my journal. Here are some lessons I've learned through writing in my journal—

  • It's good to be able to give two years to the Lord since He's given everything to me. (March 2, 2011)
  • The way of missionary work (and life, really) is being put in situations before you're ready and then becoming qualified through hard work and the Lord's grace. (March 22, 2011)
  • Separation intensifies love. You never really realize until you are away from someone how much that person means to you. It's so easy to take others for granted, especially those we are closest to...Now that I'm away from friends and family, I realize just how much they mean to me. Never again will I take them for granted. Never again will I become so absorbed in myself that I forget to look for the good in others. (June 6, 2011)
  • It is wonderful to know that the Spirit was working through me in such a remarkable way. I'm grateful our Father in Heaven knows me and my situation. He placed me where I needed to be this evening, and by listening to the promptings of the spirit, we were able to bless this man. (September 29, 2011)
  • My service in Murfreesboro has forever changed my life. This is where I became a missionary. This is where I discovered myself. This is where I learned how to receive answers to my prayers. This is where I devoted myself to God forever. I've never regretted that decision since, and I don't expect I ever will. (November 28, 2011)
  • This was one of those lessons I will never forget. I will remember every detail. I will remember the spirit working through me as I asked inspired questions. I will remember saying things that were not from me but from God. I will remember the overpowering Spirit that seemed to fill my chest and the entire room. I will remember this man taking a leap of faith by committing to pray for the first time in his life. You simply cannot put a price on experiences like this. They forever change you. (January 10, 2012)

2 Nephi 4:15-16
Let Us Move Forward and Upward, President Spencer W. Kimball

Thursday, February 9, 2012

1 - Cookies

The only thing better than eating a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie is giving away a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie. Cookies have the mystical quality of softening hearts, so I take them almost everywhere I go. It's always a treat to see the look of gratitude in people's eyes when I give them a simple plate of what are often overcooked, crusty cookies (I still haven't mastered the technique, but I'm getting there).

When given away with love, a cookie really is more than just a cookie; it's a way of saying, "I care." Though the sacrifice of baking cookies is small and simple, the reward for both the giver and the recipient is great. Many a lifelong friendship began with a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

Have I Done Any Good?, Hymns no. 223
Finding Joy through Loving Service, Elder M. Russell Ballard

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Have you ever wished for your problems to be taken from you? Have you ever hoped for a lighter load to carry? Have you ever wondered why life can be so challenging and so complicated?

One of the reasons problems and challenges can be so frustrating is because we have little control over them. There really is very little we can completely control. When we focus on things we cannot control, we become miserable, discouraged, and perhaps even angry. Quite literally, our lives spin out of control because we are incapable of affecting the things we are trying to control!

It is much more helpful to focus on what we can control: our attitudes and our actions. That's pretty simple, right? When I focus on the ten million things I have no control over (think politics, unfair refereeing in the basketball game, gas prices, unemployment, my order being incorrect at Wendy's, the list goes on...) I become exhausted and overwhelmed. But when I focus on two fundamental things I have absolute control over (again, attitudes and actions), I not only endure life; I enjoy it. Beyond simply surviving I am then capable of thriving.

All truly great people have mastered this pattern of thinking. I'm still trying to internalize it. I learn much from the words of Elder Neil L. Andersen:
How do we find our way through the many things that matter? We simplify and purify our perspective. Some things are evil and must be avoided; some things are nice; some things are important; and some things are absolutely essential. The Savior said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Here are some other great references on simplifying our lives and focusing on what matters most:

Elder L. Tom Perry, Let Him Do It with Simplicity
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Good, Better, Best