Thursday, February 27, 2014

Called to Serve and Learn

I'll never forget my oldest son’s high school graduation. He was one of just a handful of Latter-Day Saint students at the school, and the only Mormon that hung out in that group of scholars at his high school in central Florida. He, as the valedictorian, would be leading the group into the auditorium. While we were waiting for the processional to begin, I, and several of his schoolmates’ parents were talking about our sons’ plans for the future. All included higher education at prestigious universities, but mine was the only young man who was going to be leaving in the middle of that college experience for two years to perform missionary service in a place yet to be determined.

My son had decided to take a two year break from his college experience to go serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Since these people were not members of our church, they were shocked. They'd never heard of such a thing. Did I know that he would be putting his education in jeopardy? Did I mean that he was not going to be able to choose where he served that mission? Was I serious about not being able to speak to him except on Christmas and Mother’s Day? Was I sure that our family could afford such a venture?

As proud as I was of his high school accomplishments, I was even more proud that he had chosen to serve a mission and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was going to take the spiritual knowledge he had gained from a lifetime of diligent church attendance, from regular gospel lessons he had been taught in our home, and from four years of faithful attendance at Early Morning Seminary, and share it somewhere in the world. Through those things and through personal study, he had gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and he wanted to share with his fellowmen. He was going to take two years of his life and invite others to come unto Christ.

My son did head off to Brigham Young University for a year. Then he was called to serve in the Connecticut Hartford Mission. Again his friends’ families were surprised. Why was he not going to a third-world country? Why would our church send missionaries to the United States? Would we be able to visit him since he was in the states? How could we stand only being able to communicate through letters once a week? (These were the days before email.) I was peppered with questions.

Being the mother of a worthy, able, and prepared young man gave me great pride. We watched him and later, his two brothers and one of his sisters (currently serving) make a similar commitment and leave our home for two long years. But in turn, we have felt the joy and the blessings that such missionary service brings. My husband and I have been grateful to be able to support these children financially. We have been grateful for the blessings brought by sacrifice and obedience. Above all, we have been amazed as we have watched the growth of these children as they have taught the gospel and shared their testimonies. We are grateful that they love the Lord Jesus Christ and have a desire to spread his message throughout the world. We are grateful for the foundation that their service has provided for the rest of their lives. We are grateful for the people they have met who have enriched their lives. We are grateful for how their experiences have enriched our lives.

Our son did eventually graduate from college. Yes, he graduated a couple of years behind his schoolmates, but in the end it didn't matter. He served the Lord AND he got an education. He learned some of life’s lessons that I don't think he would have learned in any other way. He took the commission of our Savior to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” And that is something he'll never forget!

By: Susan Curtis

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Living on Purpose: Who is Jesus Christ?


Living on Purpose:  Who is Jesus Christ?

         His name has been known throughout the world since the beginning of time.  His influence has been felt by millions upon millions of people through the existence of the world.  His love is offered to all who have been, are or will be on this earth. 
         To discuss or define such a person could take volumes.  (Don’t panic- I didn’t go that route!)  In answer to this question, I turn to a written testimony signed by modern day prophets and apostles.  I cite an undeniably reliable source.  These men, called after the pattern established during Christ’s mortal ministry and under His direction and with God’s priesthood authority, bear the responsibility to be especial witnesses to Jesus Christ.  It is part of their lifelong calling to answer this question and to invite others to come to know the answer for themselves. 
         As I read this beautiful testimony, I feel the divinity of Christ.  I feel the power of His love for me and for all humanity.  I feel assurances from His Holy Spirit that the things I am reading are true.  I feel inspired to be like Him and understand His teachings more fully.  I feel a great desire to someday be in His presence and personally offer my deep gratitude for what He did for me.  He knows every kind of pain because He experienced it all and His Atonement is a greater power than any evil that exists in the world.  It can overcome any wrong and provide relief to any sufferer.  What a gift He is to every single person!  I love that this testimony helps me understand the gift of having a Savior so I can enjoy His gift throughout my life. 
         This testimony is titled “The Living Christ” and it answers the question of who Jesus Christ is in a very succinct and reverent way.  It is my prayer that you will also feel of His divinity and love as you come to understand, as I am doing, the answer to my question- Who is Jesus Christ?

Mitzi Robins

 



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Google is a Smart Missionary

Testimonies of The Christ are not found in the evidences of the world, but only in and through The Spirit of truth or the Holy Ghost.  This blog post has very little if any value spiritually and as a missionary I hesitate to write it with any missionary spin at all.  I find it interesting what my years in search engine optimization has taught me about the importance of quality content and authority when seeking to rank in google.  The sheer amount of #1-3 rankings The Church of Jesus Christ has for Christian keywords is unprecedented in my experience.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ranks for over 60,000 top 20 keywords in Google. These top 20 rankings come from only two of The Church's top websites lds.org and mormon.org This huge success should be noted, as well in my opinion the question asked: Why does google.com seem to love the LDS digital presence? The Mormon Church owns and controls over 125 sites I quit counting.   I draw only from the two main sites of the church for the following numbers and ranking results as of February 9th 2014:


Keyword Ranking Keyword Ranking
Jesus christ 1 jesus christ videos 1
savior jesus christ 1 jesus christ lives 1
jesus christ is god the father 1 jesus christ scriptures 1
jesus christ is the son of god 1 jesus christ website 1
jesus christs teachings 1 jesus christ church 1
jesus christ is god the father 1 jesus christ atonement 1
jesus christs teachings 1 jesus christ our lord 1
jesus christ in the bible 1 jesus christ hymns 1
jesus christ power 1 jesus christ in gethsemane 1
jesus christ healer 1 jesus christ faith 1
jesus christ teaching 1
jesus christ is our savior 1
Jesus
jesus christ being baptized 1


The estimated cost of purchasing the same number of visitors from ad networks organically was $1,135,662 on LDS.org and $257,611 on Mormon.org in January 2014.  That means that it would have cost any organization 1.4 million dollars per month to buy the rankings that The Church has been "gifted" just because it's a trusted site authority for Christianity.   I was joking at lunch with a partner this last week that if I had this I would has used it on my mission.  Not the best way to win a bible bash I know.




















It may be interesting to note that just eliminating the wonderful (competitive) keywords for use in this post was difficult.  As a matter of fact I think with little analysis it would be amazing for someone to do an exhaustive search of all 60,000 keywords.  The Church ranks for many very competitive long and short tail keywords for example addiction programs, how to become a better teacher, and get out of debt.  










Google is a noun, but has become a verb because of their mission which "is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful".  We all use it.  When we want to know something we just"google it".   When I think of Google I think of an entire company dedicated to a good search experience.  It is a company that has almost completely dejunked the world's results. Leaving only what it sees as the most valuable and relevant results on top.

Google has surpassed Exxon Mobile to become the second most valuable company in the world with a market capitalization of about $391B.  Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University in 1995. By 1996, they had built a search engine (initially called BackRub) that used links to determine the importance of individual web pages.  Today Google prides itself for returning the most relevant search results to it's users.

Google writes of The Ten Things we Know:

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  3. Fast is better than slow.
  4. Democracy on the web works.
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  6. You can make money without doing evil.
  7. There’s always more information out there.
  8. The need for information crosses all borders.
  9. You can be serious without a suit.
  10. Great just isn't good enough.
So what is the point?  The point in my opinion is we have two very large organizations at the top of their game.  The one has a desire to serve it's users and serve up the most relevant content and omit any unnatural or bad content from reaching #1-10 in their search engine.  The other has a responsibility to not manipulate in any way anything it does.  Even the perception of deception is avoided at all costs. The Church has the hardest time keeping itself out of the cross hairs of the world.  I am convinced without any reservations that if any of the Churches websites were ever involved with anything unethical Google would wipe their rankings.  This to me is a testament of the honest and ever consistent message The Church produces.

Rankings surrounding Christianity are not easy to win #1 spots in.  These are phrases that as pointed out before are competitive and worth money.  As a matter of fact when researching the name Jesus Christ you will be asked to consider keywords less aggressive.  




There are 2.1 billion Christians in the world.  Christians have the largest of all religious populations on earth with 31.5%


The sheer fact that Christianity is at the top worldwide would make it okay for me if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint's were not picked to be #1 by Google.  The fact that the Church ranks #1 for almost all keywords desirable for a Christian church is incredible.  It is also incredible to be part of an organization on earth with such complete focus on The Savior and His mission proven not only in action but by robots with no emotion or agenda.  It's worldly evidence yes that google ranks the Church so high, but it's no joke in a worldly way that Google keeps The Church #1 either.  This means in no small way that The Church has the best of all things spiritually and temporally covered.

  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Living on Purpose: Praying with Real Intent

Living on Purpose:  Praying with Real Intent

    I said the worst prayer of my life when I was 4 years old.  I was mad at my grandmother for putting me to bed before my parents got home so I devised a plan!  Instead of the usual, I said, “Salami, salami, bologna, bologna. Amen.”  Blasphemous, I know.  She quickly set me straight!  And so did my parents the next morning.
    My take away from this experience?  Prayer is real!  God, our Father in Heaven is real.  He is always at the receiving end of our prayers and we should not mock Him or waste His time with false prayers.  So what is a real prayer and how should we pray with, as the scriptures instruct, “real intent” (see Book of Mormon, Moroni 7)?
    Sincere prayer is easier when we think about God and His role as the Father of our spirits, an incredibly loving parent, omniscient (He knows all) and omnipresent (He can be with us always).  He knows the answers, He knows our hearts and circumstances and wants us to be close to Him!  Understanding this relationship makes it easier to approach Him.  We know He won’t turn us away. He will never “hang up” on us.  He will listen and respond as often as we need Him to.
    Where to begin?  I found a very simple answer in a song children sing during their Sunday instruction.  It is called, “I Pray in Faith” written by Janice Kapp Perry. 
        I begin by saying, “Dear Heavenly Father”;
        I thank him for blessings he sends;
        Then humbly I ask him for things that I need,
        In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.



    It is very simple.  But then we need to open our hearts and minds for the answer.  It may come and we don’t notice because we are preoccupied either in thought or deed.  It may come and we don’t fully trust God’s answer.  It may not come because we are not asking in the right way. 
For example, when I was preparing to graduate from high school I really wanted to know what to do with my life.  I prayed a lot but never felt my prayers were being answered.  I guess I hoped God would go through all the options for me and send me an easy and fully prepared map for my future.  Wrong!  I had to do the leg work while I was praying.  And I had to learn through the busyness of this time in my life how to listen and take moments through my day, and especially while I prayed, to just stop and listen.  He will “tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2)
And sometimes we are not asking in the right way.  It’s hard to pray when your heart is not right before God.  Just ask Huckleberry Finn:

. . . I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all . . . You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.

Mark Twain had his mischievous Huckleberry learn one of the most important lessons of life.  God knows our hearts and He answers prayers but we have to be ready and willing to do our part. 
Praying with real intent often requires a sacrifice of some kind.  We may need to give up an undesirable habit or become more humble and acknowledge a need for God’s help and blessings.  We may need to re-examine what we are praying for and make sure it’s reasonable. 
My daughters all dance competitively and prayer is always a part of our preparations.  We don’t pray to win.  We don’t pray the other dancers will mess up.  We don’t pray the judges will ignore our faults and award us first.  We pray to do our best, to feel calm, to remember all the things we have practiced- and if we make a mistake, to learn from it.  That’s a prayer He can answer! 
And much as I would love Him to take away my 4 year old nephew’s leukemia, I fast and pray that he will be courageous as he goes through his treatments.  I pray his family will be strengthened emotionally to continue supporting him.  I pray his brother providing the bone marrow for the transplant will be cooperative and healthy (he’s not quite 2 and rather spunky!).  Time and again I have seen these prayers answered. 
Last time my nephew went to the hospital he said hi to the nurses, asked for his favorite toys and a cup to pee in and jumped up on the bed (sorry if that was irreverent but it’s almost a direct quote- the nurses love him!)  He smiles in every picture and continues to find incredible joy in the very simple things in life. 
He may have a cancer diagnosis but he is not letting that get him down.  I know a loving Heavenly Father is pouring incredible blessings upon him and his family.  Could God take away the cancer?  Yes.  But we have all learned so much going through this process I believe He didn’t so we could have abundant opportunities to learn.  I want him to live but maybe God needs him to do something he can’t do here on the earth.  I can accept that, although it makes me heartbroken to think about because I will miss him tremendously.
I have faith in God’s ultimate promise that we will all return to live with Him if we are faithful and obedient.  That testimony gives me an eternal perspective as I pray and helps me understand the answers I receive, especially if the answer is not what I originally thought it should be!
I conclude with a challenge to anyone reading:  Pray one more time every day than you have been in the past.  That may be once or it may take you to 100.  Either way, write down somewhere how that makes you feel after a week.  You will certainly begin to notice the hand of God in your life.  Remember, this can happen anywhere- turn the radio off in your car, close your eyes and have a quiet moment on the subway or in a waiting room, kneel by your bed in the morning or at night.  Start the conversation!  Heavenly Father wants to hear from YOU. 
        -Mitzi Robins