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Valuing Freedom

Considering what has been done in the name of safety and of protecting life, because of COVID-19 since early 2020, there has been a departure from the value of freedom, in the United States. I don’t think that anyone of goodwill would question that protecting human life is crucial at any time. I also don’t think many would dispute that safety is very important. Do people also agree on the importance of preserving and protecting other rights that have long been declared by the United States’ Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights? The Declaration of Independence affirms the reality of “unalienable Rights” and that “…among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. If each of these rights truly are unalienable, why are the rights which secure individual liberty often treated today, by some, as having such little value that those rights are ignored and abandoned in favor of restrictions that promise safety in return? Can we really be safe without the protection of our rights? Why is freedom not more present in the minds, hearts, and words of the people of the U.S. during this time? I believe that we owe it to ourselves, our ancestors, and our posterity to consider the value of freedom in our lives.

I’m grateful for family

With Thanksgiving this week, I’ve been reminded again how grateful I am for family. The support, encouragement, and enjoyment that can come from family is something I am extremely grateful for. Many families have problems (what family doesn’t?). Some people want to be married or have a family and currently don’t have that. There are loved ones close to me who have experienced divorce, an unexpected death, health issues or other extremely difficult family challenges. I’ve experienced some of those things as well. In spite of this, it’s clear to me that the family exists by divine design. It’s an important teaching in my church that families can be eternal, and continue after death. I know this is true and I’m grateful for that knowledge. I also believe strongly that whatever our current family situation may be, if we follow God’s plan for us we will eventually be in the best family situation possible for us.

I’m grateful (again)

It seems overly simple, but looking for things to feel grateful for, along with watching President Nelson’s video about gratitude really has helped me feel better. There’s a lot of things in the world right now that can cause frustration, but I’m grateful (again) for President Nelson’s words on gratitude, and his encouragement to focus on being grateful.

PowerofGratitude.org

I’m grateful for missionaries

A former missionary spoke of some of his experiences today at church. He made some points that I felt applied to me and there was a definite power with which he spoke. The missionary program has been a huge reason I have a testimony of the Savior and the Church of Jesus Christ. There’s a good spirit that accompanies a faithful missionary’s words and actions. I’m grateful for missionaries.

Faith, Not Fear

It is a fundamental belief of my religion that one should live a life of faith. I suppose that is somewhat self-evident, and I think this is probably foundational to many religions. What is faith, and what does it mean to live a life of faith?

It is a fundamental belief of my religion that one should live a life of faith. I suppose that is somewhat self-evident, and I think this is probably foundational to many religions. What is faith, and what does it mean to live a life of faith?

Faith is a belief that things will ultimately work out for the best in the end for those who trust God, in spite of any challenges along the way. Faith is written in the scriptures to be “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”1, or also translated as the “proof” of things not seen. To have faith we must believe in, and hope for the good things that are ahead for us, even when we don’t have complete proof that those good things are coming.

Faith requires action. The “substance” of faith, as noted in the quote mentioned above, includes the efforts exerted by us in giving life to our hopes, and longings. These actions and efforts may be prayers, studying scriptures, focused and optimistic thoughts, or acts of kindness. Acts of faith may also include stepping out of our comfort zone to build a friendship, apply for a job, go to college, have children, or follow through with an idea to do something good. These are some ways that we live a life of faith.

“Faith is the opposite of fear.”2 In church, and in scripture we’re taught to “be not afraid”3. Instead of being fearful, we are to “walk by faith”4, and to “be of good courage”5. It can be difficult to have faith when life gets hard, things seem bleak, and our faith is tested, and yet these are exactly the times when faith is needed most.

Today, the voices of fear and anxiety in the world seem to be growing louder. These voices would have us believe that when hope is fading and solutions are hard to find, fearfulness and capitulation is the only response. If we act with fear, the result is often more fear, pain and confusion. What does faith offer instead?

“And Christ hath said: if ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”6

“Faith is a principle of power”7. Faith must be centered in Christ. If we have faith in Christ, He enables us to accomplish things we would otherwise consider impossible.

“What, then, are the blessings of faith? What does faith accomplish? The list is almost endless:

Our sins can be forgiven because of faith in Christ.17

As many as have faith have communion with the Holy Spirit.18

Salvation comes through faith on Christ’s name.19

We receive strength according to our faith in Christ.

None enter the Lord’s rest save those who wash their garments in Christ’s blood because of their faith.21

Prayers are answered according to faith.22

Without faith among men, God can do no miracle among them.23

–Elder Quentin L. Cook8
  1. Do Not Fear, President Boyd K. Packer
  2. Hebrews 11:1
  3. Mark 5:36
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:7
  5. Isaiah 41:6
  6. Moroni 7:33
  7. Faith, a Power That Centers in Christ, Doctrines of the Gospel, Student Manual
  8. Foundations of Faith, Elder Quentin L. Cook

A Warning from Prophets

Ancient and modern prophets have warned repeatedly of what follows, if people and nations turn away from God, abandon their moral foundations and allow wickedness to rule their lives and their societies. Numerous examples offer critical instruction and a desperate warning for the time we live in.

Ancient and modern prophets have warned repeatedly of what follows, if people and nations turn away from God, abandon their moral foundations and allow wickedness to rule their lives and their societies. Numerous examples offer critical instruction and warning for the time we live in.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in his time, declaring to the people, “…Amend your ways and your doings, …if ye thoroughly execute judgement between a man and his neighbor; If ye oppress not the stranger, and fatherless, and the widow, …neither walk after other gods… Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.” (Jeremiah 7:3-7)

In the Book of Mormon during a time just before the birth of Jesus Christ, we read of a civilization in dire circumstances, where many of the people had become hardened with great wickedness. Ultimately, two nations of people faced destruction at the hands of a large army of men, known as the Gadianton robbers, who had banded together to support one another as they robbed, plundered and terrorized the two nations. The people who desired peace and righteousness eventually united. Their righteous leader declared, “As the Lord liveth, except ye repent of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers.” (3 Nephi 3:15)

In the New Testament, Jesus lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate.” (Mathew 23:37-38)

The people from the civilizations mentioned above who responded to the prophet’s warnings, found peace and protection in following the words of God. However, many who chose not to listen to the prophets were eventually destroyed. Will we hear the warning today?

The ancient prophet Mormon foresaw the modern world, and wrote, “…there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, …unto envying, and strifes and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; …For behold ye do love money, and your substance, … more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Mormon 8:36-37)

James, who is commonly believed to be the brother of Jesus, wrote: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. …Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:8,10)

King Benjamin, beloved by his people, taught them: “And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:10)

What promise do we have if we follow the prophets’ warnings, repent and forsake our sins, and choose God? “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18)

This is not the easy path, but it is the better path and it ultimately leads to peace and eternal joy. I know that the Savior, Jesus Christ, has the power to cleanse us, heal us, change our hearts and minds, and pardon sin. He is our judge and also our advocate. His plea on behalf of those who choose to follow Him is this: “spare these… that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life”. (D&C 45:3-5)

 

 

 

An Example to Me

I’m writing just a few notes about someone who inspires me, whom I admire, and who is an example to me of Christ-like love and kindness. She doesn’t get a lot of free time these days, spending most of her time taking care of two young kids, however she took the time to go sing recently with a group at a retirement home during the holidays. When her daughter grew out of one diaper size, she bought a larger size and took what was left of the smaller size of diapers to someone who has a younger baby. She volunteers to do things like make cinnamon rolls for social gatherings and take meals to people. You may have a guess about who I’m writing about. These simple, yet meaningful things that she does so often, helps me want to be better.

The healing of the blind man

I love the story of the blind man being healed by the Savior that is found in the book of John. It not only records the experience of the Savior healing him, but also demonstrates the faith that is required for anyone who would be healed by God. It seems that in addition to the test of having to endure living his life without the ability to see, the man’s faith and integrity are also tested after he is healed and receives his sight.

It’s indication of his faith that the man responds right away when the Lord tells him to “wash in the pool of Siloam”. He doesn’t hesitate, even though he likely has to slowly feel his way there, he is blind after all. He obediently washes and is healed, it was a miracle evident to everyone around him!

We’re then given insight into the level of the man’s loyalty to Jesus as he is questioned and hassled by the Pharisees who want him to deny that it was Christ who had healed him. They don’t seem to put much effort into denying the fact that he was healed, it was too obvious. They were in a position of power and were doing their best to intimidate the man into turning against the Savior so they could have a witness against him. The man didn’t give in even though there could have been consequences for withstanding the Pharisees. He stood up for Christ and the truth of what happened to him. The Pharisees in their apparent disgust then “cast him out”.

After the man has been cast out, the Savior comes to him again, with comfort and possibly to confirm that his integrity and unwavering faithfulness is recognized and approved of by the Lord. Jesus then asks him if he believes in the Son of God. The man didn’t realize at first that Jesus was speaking of himself, he had thought Jesus was a prophet. Now understanding, the man answers, “Lord, I believe”.

Though my story is quite different from this man’s story, I’ve spent a large part of my life spiritually blind. During one of the more extreme periods of blindness, there came a point where the Lord reached out to me in a way that I couldn’t ignore, offering His healing. During this time I had become very sick physically and spiritually. I honestly didn’t think I would live much longer, and my family were concerned as well. I made several visits to the doctor but they were inconclusive. I pled for the Lord’s help, made significant changes in my life that were needed in order for me to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Lord raised me up and changed my heart. This is as obvious to me that Christ’s power healed me as was the miracle of sight given to the blind man in the story above. What the Lord did for me was a miracle. I simply wouldn’t still be here without the Lord intervening, through His power and through loving family members who gave me Priesthood blessings, prayed for me and helped in other ways.

 I still can only partially comprehend and understand the great change He has brought about in my life in such a short time. I know the healing I have received is from Christ. It has taught me about the depth of God’s love and that He doesn’t give up on us. I love and trust Him more deeply. I learned that I have to still trust and rely on Him completely. I know that Jesus Christ has the power to heal us, if we will trust Him, turn our hearts to Him and follow His commandments. I also know that the power of the Priesthood is real, that the power of God is manifest through those who hold the Priesthood, and that this power ultimately comes from the Savior himself.

Why are some people born blind? Why do other people choose to not see the truth? Why does it take some of us so long to learn the things we need to learn? Why are we sometimes afraid to allow the Lord into our life to heal us, and to change us into the people He knows we can become?

I return to John chapter 9:

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:39-41)

And finally, on another occasion Jesus taught why many of us don’t see more miracles like this in our lives:

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matt 13:15)