Elder M. Russell Ballard recently gave a talk about the evidence of God’s hand in the events that led up to the Restoration of the church. It helps to take a step back and look at the different things that happened in order for the final result to happen. We see this all the time as missionaries. We talk to people who are ready to learn about the gospel who met with missionaries 30 years ago but weren’t ready then. God prepares peoples hearts just like he prepared the world for the Restoration. Elder Ballard shows how God spent hundreds of years “preparing the soil” so that he could restore his church in its fulness.
I was thinking about how God has prepared things in my life and I thought of my Dad and how he came to learn about the church. I will paraphrase it a bit but he had spent years looking at different churches. His religious background was pretty diverse and he looked into just about everything. My Dad sent me his conversion story and this part of it really stood out to me.
“…I feel I have a seed in my heart, and it knows the truth, and it knew what I was looking for, adn after awhile I just gave up and concluded that if there was a ‘true’ church, then I could not find it. So a few years later, I came in contact with a man through a tax planning organization. He was from california and had flown in especially becasue of a lot of local interest in our small Iowa town for what his company offered. I liked this fellow’s manner and appearance and after the meeting asked him if he belonged to a church. I sensed there was more to him than met the eye and I was curious as to what it might be He answered that he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints, which I found meant ‘Mormon’. That was intersting, and as was my acquired habit, I inquired about his beliefs and his tory. I was not prepared for what followed…”
If my Dad hadn’t spent so long looking at different religions then he wouldn’t have been ready to ask someone at a tax planning seminar about his religion… We could debate all day about whyGod does things certain ways but if we really look at our lives we can see God’s hand in where we are, and where we are going. Most of the time we don’t know why but sometimes God moves us to where we need to be. Like this guy…
Isn’t this a great video? The things it teaches are amazing. As a missionary I’ve discovered that just building friendships with people who you already connect with is a bad way to live. God has put us on Earth to learn. What I learned from watching this is that it is when we put our effort and energy into a relationship that we are the happiest. I remember times when I would notice that my Dad was starting to ask me about things that were going on at school or I was following college football and he started following it more. I realized what he was trying to do and I first I didn’t really know what to think. But when I realized that he wanted to spend more time with me, not because it was a good “parenting technique” but because he loved me. I have to say I didn’t put forth a lot of effort from my end, I am definitely going to do that when I get home from my mission, but because of the effort he put our relationship got closer. I think a lot closer than if we started out with similar interests and relied on that to have a relationship.
Elder Ballard says to:
- trust your Father
- take an interest in your Father’s life
- ask your father for advice
I think these should be applied to any relationship we try to build, not just son to father.
What other things can we do to build relationships? Leave a comment.
I recently found this video on mormon.org…
This lady tells her story of how she helps people who are going through low times in their lives. She talks about how she knows what it is like and that people just don’t know others hearts. This reminded me of President Monson’s talk last fall about Charity: He shared this story:
A woman by the name of Mary Bartels had a home directly across the street from the entrance to a hospital clinic. Her family lived on the main floor and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.
One evening a truly awful-looking old man came to the door asking if there was room for him to stay the night. He was stooped and shriveled, and his face was lopsided from swelling—red and raw. He said he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success. “I guess it’s my face,” he said. “I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says it could possibly improve after more treatments.” He indicated he’d be happy to sleep in the rocking chair on the porch. As she talked with him, Mary realized this little old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. Although her rooms were filled, she told him to wait in the chair and she’d find him a place to sleep.
At bedtime Mary’s husband set up a camp cot for the man. When she checked in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and he was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, he asked if he could return the next time he had a treatment. “I won’t put you out a bit,” he promised. “I can sleep fine in a chair.” Mary assured him he was welcome to come again.
In the several years he went for treatments and stayed in Mary’s home, the old man, who was a fisherman by trade, always had gifts of seafood or vegetables from his garden. Other times he sent packages in the mail.
When Mary received these thoughtful gifts, she often thought of a comment her next-door neighbor made after the disfigured, stooped old man had left Mary’s home that first morning. “Did you keep that awful-looking man last night? I turned him away. You can lose customers by putting up such people.”
Mary knew that maybe they had lost customers once or twice, but she thought, “Oh, if only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear.”
After the man passed away, Mary was visiting with a friend who had a greenhouse. As she looked at her friend’s flowers, she noticed a beautiful golden chrysanthemum but was puzzled that it was growing in a dented, old, rusty bucket. Her friend explained, “I ran short of pots, and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, until I can put it out in the garden.”
Mary smiled as she imagined just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when He came to the soul of the little old man. “He won’t mind starting in this small, misshapen body.” But that was long ago, and in God’s garden how tall this lovely soul must stand! 3
God knows all of us and the potential we have, we don’t.
I recently learned something about speaking and judging. Someone said, I can’t remember where the quote originally came from, that before you say anything (and I add focus on anything) pass it through three doors.
Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind?
I have been trying this and it is really hard… sometimes it seems impossible. But as I am working at it I catch myself more and I realize 1) how far I have to go and 2) how much God helps us when we try.
One of the big parts of missionary life is getting transferred. We get a phone call that moves us to a new city with new people, spending every hour of the day with someone we may have never talked to before. A couple weeks ago I was transferred to Providence, Rhode Island. Things have been really busy here and that is why I haven’t been posting anything.
Moving to a new state changes a lot of things and sometimes I wonder why I couldn’t stay where I was before. But I always learn really quick that I am where God wants me to be. Allowing God to direct our lives isn’t about sitting back and letting him have the wheel. It is taking directions from him and doing what he would have us do. As missionaries, getting transferred reminds us of who is in charge but more importantly it gives us the opportunity to listen to what God wants us to do. It helps us stay focused on what we are doing and we have get new ways to learn and different struggles to deal with. Being in a city like Providence is much different than being somewhere like Hamden, CT. Even though I have been on my mission for quite a while, every time I get transferred it helps me think about all the things I need to work on that weren’t concerns where I was before. It can be pretty hard to change and let change happen but as we trust in God then it works out.
The lady in this video went through a lot more than we do as missionaries and it shows the great lessons we can learn from accepting change and adversity.
We each have within us two different entities. A natural man, and spiritual man (or women). We come into this world where the natural man, rules our thoughts and desires. We eat and sleep, when we are young the world seems to revolve around our physical desires or needs. As we grow older we are responsible for putting off the natural man. “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submisive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
so the goal is to overcome the natural man and let the spiritual man take over. But how do we do that??? We yield to the enticings of the Holy spirit and become childlike. We submit ourselves to the will of the Lord. Here is one simple suggestion that may help in understanding more of how to put off the natural man. There are many things you can do, but for one you can fast. This is an excellent way, it can almost be considered practice. you are depriving your body of something that you physically need to become more spiritually in tune. Fasting is a way to help us overcome our habits, addictions, and burdens. It helps us gain confidence and faith in the Lord to call down the powers of Heaven. It allows you to become closer to God.
Here are 5 principles of a proper fast given by Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Seventy:
Principle 1: A generous fast offering blesses others.
When we bless others, God blesses us. Isaiah teaches the principle of fast offerings. He teaches us that to receive promised power and blessings, we must not only fast but also care for the poor and needy.
We qualify for God’s promised blessings and power as we care for all of His children in accordance with the fast He has chosen. “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:7).
Isaiah 58:10 teaches the same fast offering principle: “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.”
Principle 2: Fasting invites enlightenment and the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
The Lord promises not only the power to overcome all of our sins but also light, health, and righteousness in our lives. And, just as with the children of Israel, He promises that His glory will surround and protect us.
“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward” (Isaiah 58:8).
As we all strive to put off the natural man, let us remember the importance of fasting, and how it can help us all become more spiritually in tune. Whenever I read this talk by elder Bowen, I am always very excited to fast. Knowing that it will only help me draw closer to God.
In the following verses we receive the promise that He will hear our prayers. We can approach Him with complete faith and confidence. Our hunger will be satisfied with the bread of life; our thirst will be quenched with the living water that never fails.
“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; …
“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:9, 11).
Principle 3: Fasting helps us subdue the natural man.
Fasting requires discipline. Fasting helps us accomplish one of the vital purposes of life: developing self-mastery.
King Benjamin referred to this self-mastery as overcoming the natural man. He taught that the natural man is an enemy to God, always has been, and ever will be. If we don’t overcome the natural man in this life and become “a saint through the atonement of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19), we will never live with our Father in Heaven again. Our physical bodies are created in such a way that we can have a spiritual victory over the natural man each time we properly fast.
Principle 4: Fasting intensifies prayer.
In the scriptures I have found at least 49 references to fasting—25 of those link fasting to prayer. Proper fasting magnifies our ability to pray, study, and teach.
Principle 5: Fasting prepares us to bear testimony.
President Henry B. Eyring has taught:
“The fast also helps us to feel humble and meek so that the Holy Ghost may more easily be our companion. By our fast, we both keep our covenant to care for others and we prepare to keep our covenant to bear testimony.
“Those who have prepared carefully for the fast and testimony meeting won’t need to be reminded how to bear testimony should they feel impressed to do it in the meeting. They won’t give sermons nor exhortations nor travel reports nor try to entertain as they bear witness. Because they will have already expressed appreciation to people privately, they will have less need to do it publicly. Neither will they feel a need to use eloquent language or to go on at length.”2
As we all strive to put of the natural man, keep in mind the power of fasting. I love this article because it always gets me excited to fast and reminds me why it’s so important.
With Christmas the goal is to think of others. To figure out ways to serve and give of ourselves. New Years is a different kind of Holiday. It makes us look at ourselves more and evaluate where we are in life. What a great opportunity to set some goals and figure out how to reach them. I have a hard time making myself change. When the idea of change and a clean slate is brought to the front of my mind I have learned to be very grateful for it. For a long time I wasn’t. I felt okay with where I was and didn’t see the point of sitting down and writing a list of things I want to accomplish and lose it within two weeks. Then I came to the stunning realization that the problem wasn’t with the idea of make New Year’s resolutions. I was way too content with living the way I was that I didn’t feel the desire to change. This video makes a really good point that we need to not keep turning to what we are trying to give up. We need to turn away from what is dragging us down and never look back. Just like President Packer said in his most recent general conference address.
“[President Joseph Fielding Smith] asked her to read to him from the Old Testament the account of Lot’s wife, who was turned to a pillar of salt. Then he asked her, “What lesson do you gain from those verses?” She answered, “The Lord will destroy the wicked.” “Not so!” President Smith said that the lesson for this repentant woman and for you is “Don’t look back!”
As you look forward to the New Year, take the time to set some goals, make some changes, and don’t look back.
My family didn’t have too many unusual Christmas traditions. Every year we would draw names and have to make a present for the person we drew. With a bunch of kids at different ages the presents could be anything. I still remember when I was a little kid and my four-year old sister gave me a box that had a stove top drawn on with a marker so I could pretend to be a cook. It wasn’t very much but the interesting thing is that is the only present from when I was a kid that I remember clearly. This tradition made us have to think hard about what to give and there wasn’t any last-minute rushes to buy some random gift. We had to think it out.
This is a little article about some leaders of our church and what they do for Christmas, I hope you like it:
Now what are your Christmas traditions?