Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Youth Mini-Mission Message: God Answers

The past week I have been struggling with everything, including the gospel.  So last night I got down on my knees and asked for help and strength.  I then asked to re-affirm and feel it again, if this was the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  Immediately  a thought popped into my mind and said, "You already know."  I know this is the true gospel of Jesus Christ and if we ever have a question and we ask God with a sincere heart, he will answer.  I testify of that. 

Brigham 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Finding Strength to Carry On

I am realizing that summer is just around the corner as the youth (both the young men and the young women) are preparing for summer camp.  It sounds like they are all going to have a lot of fun.  These preparations remind me of scout camp two summers ago.

The scouts were working on their hiking merit badge.  For the merit badge they needed to hike 20 miles all in the same day.  We had big plans, a scenic hike in the beautiful, central Utah Mountains. We kept telling ourselves that this would be good mission preparation for all the miles the boys would walk on their missions’.

We started out early in the morning on the day of the hike, with intentions of getting a good part of the hike completed quickly.  But soon disasters began.  We had only walked for about 10 minutes before someone had tripped and fallen and was bleeding.  We “paused” our hike to practice our first-aid merit badge before continuing.  This should have been a warning of events to come.

We were challenged continually throughout the day, both physically and emotionally.  The steep hills and thick brush that we had to work our way through slowed our hike.  Soon we realized that we would not make the trip as quickly as we had planned.  That meant we were going to run out of food and water and possibly need to spend the night without any over-night gear.

Emotionally it was a challenge to wonder where the next watering hole would appear.  In the deserts of Utah these can be few and far between.  We filtered and drank water that I am sure should have killed us, or at least should have made us all very sick.  The constant barrage from the sun, burned us all quickly, and yet we had to keep hiking.  There was no relief from the heat.  We faced challenges that should have made us quit.  And yet we wanted to succeed, and knew we could.  We were also blessed tremendously.  We saw first-hand several miracles.  However to keep a long story short, I will only recount one of many.

As the day had progressed, we had become separated into several small groups.  Each group had not heard from the others for several hours.  This was disconcerting as darkness was drawing near and we were still miles from the end of the hike.  The trail we were following would split and rejoin itself and split again.  In the thick brush it would be easy to pass another group and not know it.  Several questions were constantly asked: what if someone was hurt and could not complete the hike?  Would we pass by them and not know it?  Would we need to return tomorrow to find them?  Could they survive the night in the desert without any gear, food or water?

Each group decided (independently of each other) to pray for the other groups: prayer for safety, health, and strength to carry-on, and most importantly to be reunited.  With blessings from our Heavenly Father, these prayers were answered.  As the sun set and darkness enveloped us, we were all reunited.  Everyone was safe and healthy.  The decision was made to continue with our hike as we were ill-prepared to spend the night.  We formed a line as we pushed our way through the thick brush.  We had two flash lights in the group, one for the front and one for the back of the line.  We hiked for at least 3 more hours in the dark before we emerged from the canyon at our destination.

As we told each other about the experiences we had while we were separated and anxiously hoping to be reunited, we began to see the blessings we had received and the miracles we had experienced. One young man told how he was too tired to go any farther, and somehow right at 8 pm he had gained strength to continue hiking.  Another group told of how they stopped hiking at exactly 8 pm and prayed for that same young man that he would have the strength to continue.

Another group told how they had no flash lights and would be unable to hike in the dark.  Just as the sun set they prayed one more time to be reunited with the others.  Right as they said “amen”, they heard voices in the distance coming toward them.  What a happy reunion in the dark!  These prayers and many others were answered on this miraculous day.

Having our prayers answered was only one of many amazing events of that day.  My testimony of the power of prayer was strengthened that day.  I know our Heavenly Father listens, and answers prayers!

I have one lingering desire from this experience and it is that the young men will remember the power of prayer.  I know there will be more difficult challenges ahead for them.  I know that if they will pray for each other they will be blessed.

Daniel Burr

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is My Heart Healed?

Have you ever had a question in your mind for years, pondering on it from time to time, wondering if you will ever figure it out? I have a few questions like this, and I think about them sometimes, but mostly I just “put them on a shelf” in my mind until I receive some future enlightenment that reminds me of my question.  Then I can run to my “shelf” and grab my question off and rejoice that I have an answer—or at least a tiny bit of an answer—to my question.  Then I think about it more and put it back on the shelf if needed until more understanding comes to me.

I was given a blessing once when off at college when I was very sick.  I was having an allergic reaction to some medication taken after my wisdom teeth had been removed.  I remember my brother arriving to give me a priesthood blessing just before I was taken to the hospital.  Some of the words of that blessing have always stayed with me, and I have wondered about them for years.  I was told that the Lord knew of my circumstances and would “heal my heart.”  Yet, it was not my heart that was physically sick!  I knew it and my brother knew it, so what did this blessing mean?

I wondered if I was being called to repentance because the Lord knew of my many sins and imperfections.

I wondered if the Lord was telling me that I wasn’t a very kind or nice person and I needed to change, or that my choices in life up to that point hadn’t been done wisely and I needed to improve.

Another piece of enlightenment came to me a little while back.

As I listened to a January 21, 2014 BYU Devotional speech by Jonathan G. Sandberg entitled “Healing = Courage + Action + Grace,” clarity came.

"Healing is much more than ‘getting better’ or ‘having our problems go away.’ Healing is growth, development, and maturation. In a word, healing is change. It takes time and energy and struggle, but healing teaches us.”

When the Lord told me I had a heart that needed to be healed, He wasn’t chastising me, he was encouraging me and letting me know that staying focused on His plan was more important than anything else going on in my life at any time.  He was there for me and more aware of my complete situation than I was. It was a blessing of love and hope.

The Lord knew I was going to be fine with my allergic reaction.  He also knew all of my struggles, joys, and fears. He took this opportunity to remind me that He had a bigger work for me than I could imagine, to trust Him, and to stay on the path no matter how hard it got physically or spiritually. He would work with me. And He did and still does.

Every now and then I get a new glimpse into how He sees me and what He wants me to be. When I get this insight, I also realize that it is going to take continued work from me—and healing and strength from Him—for me to get there.

I didn’t fully understand the blessing because I couldn’t at the time. It has taken growth through living and experiencing to be able to look back on much of my life and see how I have been taught, corrected, changed. I know I still don’t fully see nor completely understand His great and perfect love for me and for all of us.  I have to keep remembering to trust Him and to keep seeking Him. I need to offer Him a softened heart, so He can continue to teach me and heal me.

I am grateful for my testimony that God lives. He watches over us, plans for us, and guides us as we give our hearts and efforts to Him. I know that He does all of this because He loves us and that through our Savior we can become whole and healed. 

I have wondered, “Is my heart healed?”  My answer is “Not completely yet.” But it’s doing much better than the day I received that blessing 22 years ago.

Kelly Ericson

Friday, May 1, 2015

Three Aspects of a Testimony

Our kind, loving Heavenly Father has provided ways for us to come to know Him, His “Plan of Happiness and Salvation” for us, and the truth of His gospel and doctrines.  God’s plan is given to us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Savior’s Atonement for us makes every blessing of God available to us.  A knowledge of these things is often referred to as a “testimony.”

A modern-day apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ taught that a testimony consists of reason, experience, and the witness of the Spirit.  He said:

“Today I desire to hold up that light by testifying of Jesus Christ and what he has done according to what I know, have seen, felt, and heard in my life. This testimony involves my reason and my experience—the two limited but helping witnesses! Happily, there has been given to me the third witness of the Spirit—the unimpeachable and convincing witness!” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King” Ensign, May 1976)

In my life, I have also experienced the growth and development of my testimony of Jesus Christ and His restored Church and gospel to the earth in these same 3 ways:  by reason, experience, and the witness of the Spirit.  I am grateful for each of these and how they have worked together to help me learn and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  My testimony did not come all at once.  Rather, it has been a gradual process over my lifetime.  My testimony has been greatly strengthened through my study of “The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared the process he went through to receive a spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon:

“When I first read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, I read the promise that if I ‘would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if [the things I had read were] true; and if [I would] ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he [would] manifest the truth of it unto [me], by the power of the Holy Ghost’ (Moroni 10:4). I tried to follow those instructions as I understood them.
“If I expected a glorious manifestation to come at once as an overpowering experience, it did not happen. Nevertheless, it felt good, and I began to believe. … I learned that anyone, anywhere, could read in the Book of Mormon and receive inspiration….
 “My experience has been that a testimony does not burst upon us suddenly. Rather, it grows. … Do not be disappointed if you have read and reread and yet have not received a powerful witness. You may be somewhat like the disciples spoken of in the Book of Mormon who were filled with the power of God in great glory ‘and they knew it not’ (3 Nephi 9:20).  “Do the best you can” (Ensign, May 2005, 6–8).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered more insight into how to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon by pondering a question while reading:

“There is another and simpler test that all who seek to know the truth might well take. It calls for us simply to read, ponder, and pray—all in the spirit of faith and with an open mind. To keep ourselves alert to the issues at hand—as we do read, ponder, and pray—we should ask ourselves a thousand times, ‘Could any man have written this book?’
 “And it is absolutely guaranteed that sometime between the first and thousandth time this question is asked, every sincere and genuine truth seeker will come to know by the power of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true, that it is the mind and will and voice of the Lord to the whole world in our day” (Ensign, Nov. 1983, 73–74).
God does not hide the truth from anyone.  He makes it available through His authorized servants—prophets, apostles, and missionaries—and invites us to learn for ourselves.  He sends His Spirit, the Holy Ghost, to teach and testify of truth to us as we study, ponder, and pray about these things.

That’s how I gained my testimony and how I am striving to help it grow today.  I read the scriptures (God’s words through ancient prophets) and read the talks from General Conference (God’s words through modern-day prophets and apostles).  God has always communicated with mankind through His prophets and He does so today as well.

By reason, experience, and witnesses of the Spirit, I know that Jesus Christ lives today.  He performed the Atonement for all mankind, died, and was resurrected.  He restored His true Church back on the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1830. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true church on the earth today and contains His priesthood authority, true doctrines, covenants, and the correct ordinances that will bring us happiness and salvation in His Kingdom here and hereafter.  The Book of Mormon really is another testament of Jesus Christ (alongside the Bible) and is true.  The Savior leads His Church and people through true prophets and apostles today, just as He did anciently. President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet today.  I share my testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
by Mike Graf