“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden”

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I got to teach the Gospel Doctrine class today in Sunday School. We were studying 3 Nephi chapters 8-11. It seems that in preparing a lesson for something like this, it always seems to end up being more for oneself than for anyone else. I feel like I was edified and learned more than anyone else in the class.

These chapters talk about the destruction that occurred in the Americas after the death of Jesus Christ – the terrible storms, lightning, thunder, earthquakes, and the thick darkness that followed. The more wicked part of the people were destroyed. I was touched by the Lord’s invitation to the people that were spared to repent and come unto him. He descended out of heaven and showed himself – in his perfected, resurrected form – to the people, and taught them his doctrine: faith, repentance, baptism, and the receipt of the Holy Ghost. His whole message was one of love for the people, and his never ending mercy towards them, inviting them to come unto him and be saved.

This is the same invitation that he offers to you and me today. He does not want any of us to perish. He does not want anyone to lose their eternal inheritance. He is willing to forgive us all if we come unto to him and repent. I can be spiritually healed if I repent. The choice must be ours – this must be done willingly.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28 – 30)

He can make my burden light if I allow him into my heart, if I take the steps to repent of my sins. I can find the peace that only the Spirit can give and so can everyone. This is the message that Jesus Christ wants us to give to the world – a message of hope and of joy.

Prone to Wander, Lord, I feel it

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A scripture to consider:

 

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God… ( 2 Timothy 3:1 – 4)

Every day the fulfillment of this prophecy becomes more and more apparent.  The world today is a scary place, with all these evils all around us, even infiltrating our families.  What can we do to fight this tide of evil, this wave of wickedness? One of the answers is found in the same chapter:

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.  (2 Timothy 3:14 – 17)

As I consider the implications of these scriptures I am reminded of how imperfect I am in my attempts to implement daily personal scripture study.  I tend to do all right for a while, then slack off.  I need to be more steady in my efforts with both daily scripture study as well as with personal prayers.  These are the basics by which we put on the armour of God.  “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  (Ephesians 6:13)

When I fail to take the simple steps of personal scripture study and personal prayer, I leave myself vulnerable to the temptations of Satan.  And he is not stupid – he is astute in his attacks.  He knows our weaknesses – he knows my weaknesses.  I pray that the Lord will strengthen me in my daily battles with this enemy, that I may come off conqueror and draw nearer to God.  The words of the hymn become my prayer:

“O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.”

I am so grateful this day for Heavenly Father’s mercy and grace.  I am so grateful for Jesus’ love and mercy too.  I am grateful that I can repent of my sins.  I know that I am so far from perfect, but I am trying.  I am just grateful to know that   the Lord loves us all so much and wants us all to return to him.  I am grateful for my family and the gospel of Jesus Christ on this Sabbath day.

May we all follow the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know that he is my Savior.

The Spirit Matters Most

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Today I had the opportunity to teach a Sunday School Lesson in the Teaching The Gospel Course – lesson 3, Teaching By the Spirit. I was overwhelmed with power of the Spirit in that class today. I wanted to share a few of my thoughts before they are gone.

One of the important points we talked about was the importance of bearing testimony of the truths of the gospel when teaching. Two quotations that relate to this lesson were very powerful:

 

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, reflected on a lesson he learned while serving as a mission president. He wrote that his mission wasn’t progressing as it should. He didn’t know what it was that needed changing. During a testimony meeting at a zone conference, he heard the testimony of a frightened, new elder. President Packer recalled:
“The testimonies we’d heard from all the other missionaries went something like this: ‘I’m grateful to be in the mission field. I’ve learned a lot from it. I have a fine companion. I’ve learned a lot from him. I’m grateful for my parents. We had an interesting experience last week. We were out knocking on doors and. . . .’ Then the missionary would relate an experience. His conclusion would be something like this: ‘I’m grateful to be in the mission field. I have a testimony of the gospel.’ And he would conclude ‘in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.’
“This young elder was different somehow. Anxious not to spend an extra second on his feet, he said simply, in hurried, frightened words, ‘I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that we have a prophet of God leading the Church. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.’
“This was a testimony. It was not just an experience nor an expression of gratitude. It was a declaration, a witness!
“Most of the elders had said ‘I have a testimony,’ but they had not declared it. This young elder had, in a very few words, delivered his testimony—direct, basic, and, as it turned out, powerful.
“I then knew what was wrong in the mission. We were telling stories, expressing gratitude, admitting that we had testimonies, but we were not bearing them” (Teach Ye Diligently [1975], 275,http://institute.lds.org/manuals/missionary-preparation-student-manual/miss-1-4.asp).

 

“A testimony is not an exhortation; a testimony is not a sermon (none of you are there to exhort the rest); it is not a travelogue. You are there to bear your own witness. It is amazing what you can say in 60 seconds by way of testimony, or 120, or 240, or whatever time you are given, if you confine yourselves to testimony. . . Every time you bear your testimony it becomes strengthened” (President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony, by President Spencer W. Kimball [August, 1981],http://lds.org/new-era/1981/08/president-kimball-speaks-out-on-testimony?lang=eng).

 

I need to be more diligent in bearing my testimony so that it can be strengthened! I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. His atonement is real and he does indeed live. I can be forgiven of my sins and become better. Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and I know that he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ face to face and talked with them. He translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. I know the Book of Mormon is true. There is a power in this book like no other. I know that the priesthood of God was restored to the earth. It is real. I know that we have a living prophet on the earth today – President Thomas S. Monson. Heavenly Father loves me and is mindful of me and my family. I cannot deny these things that I know because they were made known unto me by the Holy Ghost. I want my family to know that I know these things. We can be an eternal family if we will but live according to these things that are true. I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for this knowledge he has given me through his Spirit.

A New Chapter

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A new chapter in my life has begun as another has come to a close. I have just finished working at New Haven Residential Treatment Center as the Spanish Teacher. I worked there for two and a half years. Over that time period I have met and worked with many girls who struggle with things like depression, learning disabilities, harmful addictions, and other mental, emotional, and behavioral problems. I worked with girls from Australia, England, Canada, the Bahamas, Panama, New York, Illinois, Florida, Missouri, California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Washington D.C., Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Wyoming, Hawaii, Georgia, Colorado, Utah, and a few other places.

Many of us prejudge kids that are in a treatment center as being the rabble of the earth to avoid, thinking of them like criminals. I admit, I tended to think that way when I was growing up in Hurricane with several girls’ homes nearby. I remember that girls from Crosscreek Manor in LaVerkin attended Hurricane High School, and I tended to avoid them as much as I could. I don’t think I intentionally tried to judge them as bad, but in the back of my mind I thought of them as that way, even when I was asked to Sadie Hawkins dance by a girl at Crosscreek. Outwardly I tried to be nice, but I think that deep inside I held a personal judgment of them as bad. I realize now, after having worked at a treatment center for two and a half years, that these judgments were flawed. I came to enjoy and appreciate my associations with many girls, admiring the good I saw in them. And, I think that is what they needed from me. That is certainly a more Christlike approach, after all, they too are daughters of our Heavenly Father. Even if they have problems and have made some bad choices in their lives, they too deserve a second chance. They too deserve to be treated as and thought of as a child of God. That is how I now see these girls. While I am happy to move on into the new chapter in my life, I will miss the associations and friendships with, and the opportunity to teach these girls. My heart goes out to those struggling with these things in their lives. I will also miss the wonderful associations I had with co-workers there. There are some FANTASTIC people working at New Haven. I think it is one of the best treatment centers that exists, with its family approach, including the family in the treatment process. Goodbye New Haven!

The new chapter of my life now includes a new job at Utah Valley University as a Web Developer for the Distance Education department. I am blessed to work with some AWESOME individuals there! I don’t know why I’ve been so blessed to have such wonderful work environments, but I have! I thoroughly enjoy this new job. I highly enjoy doing web coding all day! I don’t know why I didn’t find this out until later in my life. Maybe it’s because of the lives Heavenly Father needed me to influence as a teacher. Maybe it was to help me grow as an individual. Maybe it was both. Whatever the reason, at least I am now getting into something I more highly enjoy! Thank you Heavenly Father for this new chapter!

Reflections on my Family

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I am extremely grateful today for my family! As I write this, I am holding an adorable little girl of 18 months on my shoulder – she is fast asleep. She fell asleep while I was holding her, as she watched one of her favorite YouTube videos, I Am A Child of God:

How is it possible to have such a perfect little gift, such a perfect little angel of innocence from heaven sent to me? I am such an imperfect person to be the father of such a perfect little spirit, of such a beautiful little angel. It feels so good to feel her snuggled up against her daddy! I relish this moment because I know that it won’t be long before this little girl is grown. I cherish the moment while it is now!

I am also grateful for my wonderful wife and eternal companion! Jill continues to serve our family and do so many things for everyone even when she doesn’t feel well at all, without complaint. She is an amazing example of selfless service and strength, and that is the very essence of love. She exudes this love and this service daily! How I long to be like her in this way – filled with such compassion and caring. She truly embodies what President Eyring talks about in this YouTube video on families – joy from putting the welfare of others first. Why am I so blessed? I thank Heavenly Father daily that he allowed my closest friend to become my eternal companion. I just pray that I can live worthy to have her in the hereafter.