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)

 

 

 

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)

Gospel Doctrine, New Testament Lesson 16: “I Was Blind, Now I See”

My wife and I drove recently to Seattle to see my brother in law and his wife get sealed in the Seattle temple, we drove through central Oregon and Portland (saw the Columbia river, green fields, rolling hills, snowy mountains, the Pacific Ocean, rainy beautiful green forests and saw an amazing waterfall) my wife commented to me, “how can people see all of this and not believe in God?” We all have the risk of being blind to spiritual truths that are right in front of our eyes if we choose not to see them and not to believe them.

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John chapter 9 tells the story of the healing of the blind man, and gives examples of the terrible state of those who allow themselves to be spiritually blind and refuse to see the truth.

(John 9: 1-7)

“…who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)

A pre-mortal existence is implied in this question, how else could the man sin prior to his birth? This belief in the pre-mortal existence of the spirit was apparently a belief held by the Jews of this time.

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)

This man’s blindness appeared to carry with it for him a special mission that the “the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

Q. Why did Jesus anoint the man’s eyes with clay?

Believe it or not there was a specific prohibition by the Jewish rulers against the application of saliva to the eyes on the Sabbath. This strange restriction came into being because of a common belief that saliva was a remedy for diseases of the eye.

**** It would seem that Jesus was deliberately violating the Pharisees rules of the Jewish Sabbath.

“…Jesus is putting the people in the position of choosing between him as one sent of God to do the work of the Father, as one who can open blind eyes, and the traditions of the elders about Sabbath observance. They must make their choice at the peril of their salvation…”

– Elder Bruce R. McConkie (Mortal Messiah, 3:201)

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John 9:18-23

So his neighbors see or hear about his miraculous healing and are amazed and not sure what to think, are we sure this is the man who was born blind? They ask him and he gives his testimony and tells what had happened and how he was healed by Jesus. This was the first time he shares his testimony

Their reaction is essentially to take him to the Pharisees to be judged. Wouldn’t you be happy for someone who was just miraculously healed?

He then bears his testimony to the Pharisees that he was healed and that Jesus is a prophet, he doesn’t appear to know more about Jesus than that but he defends what he knows is true.

His parent’s are brought before the Pharisees and questioned, they give a simple testimony – we know that this is our son and he was born blind, his parents were afraid to say any more. Why? The threat was excommunication for anyone who confessed Jesus was the Messiah. Does their testimony give enough witness/evidence to the Pharisees that the man is telling the truth about being healed of his physical blindness?

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Q. Why do you think this man might have been chosen to have this special mission of being healed and having the works of God made manifest in him?

Did his life as a blind man (already somewhat of an outcast in his society) prepare him for what would likely follow of a hard road of being cast out of Jewish society and testifying to those who might reject him?


Q. What can we learn from (his example and) the way this man handled all the things that happened to him AFTER he was healed?

He not only had faith to be healed, he had faith to bear testimony of what had happened to him after he was healed in spite of heavy opposition and threats. This says a lot about why he was chosen to be a witness of this miracle of the Savior, he stayed true to what happened to him and stood up for that truth. He had integrity.

“Jesus saw the need of an individual…[He] performed the service immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.

[He] didn’t just dump that service on the man and walk away. He gave that man a way to exercise faith and strengthen the faith he had by asking him to participate in his own healing. It was a simple thing—washing in the pool of Siloam. But what if the man had refused? Jesus took that risk and let the man participate in his own miracle.”

– Chieko N. Okazaki, “Spit and Mud and Kigatsuku

The Savior comes to visit him again after he is cast out of the synagogue (excommunicated), notably not until after the trial of his faith and testimony.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

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 9:35-41)

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Q. What does the Savior mean when he says those who see not will see, and those who see will be made blind?

“[Jesus] came into the world to sit in judgement on all men, to divide them into two camps by their acceptance or rejection of his word. Those who are spiritually blind have their eyes opened through obedience to His gospel and shall see the things of the Spirit. Those who think they can see in the spiritual realm, but who do not accept Him and His gospel will remain in darkness and be made blind to the true spiritual realities.”

– Elder Bruce R. McConkie

Feed My Sheep

One of my favorite stories from the Bible, probably a big reason for that is because of a talk given by Elder Holland titled The First Great Commandment.

Also reminds me of a favorite scripture in Ezekial, where the Lord is speaking of how he will gather and feed his sheep. It’s important to remember, as Pres. Monson taught, that “We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children.” We each have a duty to watch over those who are around us.

“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

…I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.

…I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick…”
– Ezekial 34:12(-16)

Quotes from April 2014 General Conference

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A few of my favorite quotes from the recent general conference:

“In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return. You are infinitely more precious to God than a tree. You are His son or His daughter. He made your spirit strong and capable of being resilient to the whirlwinds of life. The whirlwinds in your youth, like the wind against a young tree, can increase your spiritual strength, preparing you for the years ahead.

–Elder Andersen, Spiritual Whirlwinds

“Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.”

–President Uchtdorf, Grateful in Any Circumstances

“…there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members …In addition to teaching, encouraging, and cheering people on (that is the pleasant part of discipleship), from time to time these same messengers are called upon to worry, to warn, and sometimes just to weep (that is the painful part of discipleship). …Friends, especially my young friends, take heart. Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world.”

–Elder Holland, The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship

“Like most things of great worth, knowledge which is of eternal value comes only through personal prayer and pondering.”

–President Packer, The Witness

“We live in a world where moral values have, in great measure, been tossed aside, where sin is flagrantly on display …decisions are constantly before us which can determine our destiny… We will all face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us—all of us—have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval.”

–President Monson, Be Strong and of a Good Courage

I add my testimony that I know these men are are living prophets of God, called of him to declare his words.

Gospel Principles Lesson Outlines

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I’ve been teaching gospel principles class for a while and decided to post my lesson outlines. In my outlines I’ve organized the main points from the lessons that I wanted to cover. I’ve also included the questions, scriptures, video clips and quotes I chose to use as well as my testimony for each lesson. Obviously this is not intended to replace your own personal preparation, rather to provide lesson plan suggestions.

I hope my fellow gospel principles teachers will find this to be helpful. As always, allow the Spirit to guide with the best way to present the lesson. Its less important to cover all of the material and more valuable to encourage an uplifting and edifying discussion in your class. Pray for a spirit of love and unity in the class, that the needs of the people there will be met, and that the Holy Ghost will be present to bear witness of truth.

Download My Lesson Outlines (.doc files)

Lesson 1: Our Heavenly Father

Lesson 2: Our Heavenly Family

Lesson 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior

Lesson 4: Freedom to Choose

Lesson 5: The Creation

Lesson 7: The Holy Ghost

Lesson 9: Prophets of God

Lesson 10: Scriptures

Lesson 12: The Atonement

Lesson 16: The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times

Lesson 17: The Church of Jesus Christ Today

Lesson 19: Repentance

Lesson 20: Baptism

Lesson 21: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Lesson 25: Fasting

Lesson 30: Charity

Lesson 31: Honesty

Lesson 32: Tithes and Offerings

Lesson 35: Obedience

Lesson 36: The Family Can Be Eternal

Lesson 40: Temple Work and Family History

Lesson 41: The Postmortal Spirit World

Lesson 42: The Gathering of the House of Israel

Lesson 43: Signs of the Second Coming

Lesson 44: The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Lesson 45: The Mellenium

Lesson 46: The Final Judgement

These are a few scriptures that have been meaningful to me as I consider what it means to truly be a teacher or a preacher of the gospel. I know I’m dependent on God in receiving guidance to help the people in the class, in order that comments and thoughts will be shared and that testimonies will be borne which will be of worth to the people there.

“And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.”
Alma 1:26

 

“Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say. But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things. And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.”
D&C 100:5-8

If you have any suggestions on gospel principles lesson plans or teaching please comment!

We Determine our Eternal Destiny

Yesterday in gospel principles class in church we talked about agency, the freedom to makes choices, a gift we’ve all been given by God. This is a gift we had in the pre-existence as well.

Agency is the same principle over which the war in heaven was fought, and a major principle over which wars are fought today. The book of Moses explains how during the war in heaven Satan rebelled, sought to dethrone God and eliminate man’s ability to make choices, and to instead force them to follow and worship him:

“Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice. (Moses 4:3-4)

I’ve always thought it very ironic that in the pre-existence Satan used his agency to attempt to destroy the agency of others. We know he was successful in doing this to many of God’s children, as the Doctrine & Covenants tell us that because of Satan’s rebellion against God, “a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from [God] because of their agency”. This third lost their right to receive a physical body and lost the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of eternal life.

Because we are here, we know that the rest of us made the right choice in following God’s plan of salvation. Our choice guaranteed that we would receive a physical body and required that we come to Earth and be tested again, whether we would choose to follow Christ or whether we would allow Satan to deceive and overcome us.

We read part of 2 Nephi chapter 2, which explains that the only way for us to truly be tested and for righteousness to exist, is that there must be “opposition in all things”. Without opposition, “…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad”. And so it is for us in this life that we must experience trials, hardship and temptations.

Verse 16 has an interesting phrase, which says God gave us the ability to act for ourselves, and that “man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other”, meaning enticed by good or by evil.

One person in the class a made the point that the word “enticed” in this verse is important because tempation can be enticing to the physical body and carnal mind. If it wasn’t enticing no one would sin and it wouldn’t really be a difficult choice to not sin. On the other hand following God’s commandments is enticing to the spirit because of the power of the Holy Ghost and the promise of blessings and eternal life if we are faithful.

We read about how we can discern which potential choices are good and which aren’t:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:17)

We talked about how certain actions can limit our choices. One member of the class is a nurse and talked about working in the hospital and seeing people who were addicted to smoking and now required breathing machines, and how they lost their ability to choose to smoke or not smoke because of their addiction. We talked about other addictions and how they enslave and and limit one’s ability to choose. We also discussed how avoiding those types of addictions, following God’s commandments opens up more choices for us, and how making good choices strengthens us to be able to make more good choices. One example was how choosing to learn a skill or get an education can open up more options for a career.

We read a few more scriptures, one in the book of Alma that tells us the way to be sure we always make good choices is to “watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit…” Another scripture in 2 Nephi explains it is ultimately up to us whether we are free or in bondage in the eternities:

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:27)

At the end of the class we read this quote, which a friend of mine recently showed me and which I feel sums up the great consequence of our choices:

“Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character—and our character will determine our eternal destiny.”
–Ezra Taft Benson

I know that our freedom to choose is a gift from God, and that we really can determine our own eternal destiny by the choices we make. These choices always begin with our desires and our thoughts. God’s way is not to force or manipulate, he lets us choose for ourselves. He uses love, kindness, encouragement and gentleness to persuade us to do good and to choose to follow Christ. When we choose to follow Christ in the big and small things in our life, we become strengthened, more able to do good and to help other people do good. Making right choices and following God’s commandments helps us become more like the Savior, makes us more free and will enable us to live with our Heavenly Father again and receive eternal life, through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

“My sheep know my voice”

Orson F. Whitney on why the Savior said “My sheep know my voice”:

“…After meeting someone whom I had never met before on earth, I have wondered why that person’s face seemed so familiar. More than once, upon hearing a noble sentiment expressed, though unable to recall that I had ever heard it until then, I have found myself in sympathy with it, was thrilled by it, and felt as if I had always known it. The same is true of some strains of music [some perhaps heard today]; they are like echoes of eternity. I do not assert pre-acquaintance in all such cases, but as one thought suggests another these queries arise in the mind.

When it comes to the Gospel, I feel more positive. Why did the Savior say: “My sheep know my voice?” Did a sheep ever know the voice of its shepherd if it had never heard that voice before? They who love the Truth, and to whom it most strongly appeals—were they not acquainted with it in a previous life? I think so. I believe we knew the Gospel before we came here, and that is what gives to it a familiar sound.”

[Orson F. Whitney, “The Undiscovered Country,” Improvement Era, vol. 23 (December 1919), p. 100]

Several religious and other charity groups work together in Oklahoma tornado cleanup effort

There’s a lot to like about this news report. I love how several volunteer groups, including Mormon Helping Hands, the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Baptist charity groups and other organizations were working together to help the people in Oklahoma after the recent tornado. Also just seeing people care enough to voluntarily give their time and money in service for their neighbors strengthens my faith in society and inspires me to want to do the same. These are people of faith putting their time and money where their prayers are.

From mormonnewsroom.org:

“…an estimated 2,500 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers assisted their neighbors over the Memorial Day weekend, working an estimated 15,000 hours. In several neighborhoods, Church volunteers worked shoulder-to-shoulder with other groups to assist tornado victims in a common effort.

“The focus of who we are in terms of wanting to give service to our fellow man really binds us together as a community,” said local Church leader, Kevin Graves. “You see people of great faith and a lot of love for their fellow being regardless of their religious denomination.”

…volunteer Carlos Coronado said all of the groups were helping together because they believe in following the example of Christ.

..Baptist charity Mercy Chefs served meals to the hungry including Mormon Helping Hands volunteers working in different parts of the devastation. The charity is made up of professional chefs who donate their time to prepare hot gourmet meals for victims and volunteers.

…When around 40 Church missionaries clad in Mormon Helping Hands vests and tee-shirts arrived on their property, Karen Johnston was overwhelmed with relief. “I was like, oh my… the army is here! The army in the yellow shirts!” she said.

A little while later, a group from the Journey Church from Norman, Oklahoma and the Fellowship church out of Dallas, Texas came to help too. Soon the “army of yellow shirts” was mixed with an army of people wearing red tee-shirts, all working together.

Pastor Andy Boyd said there are churches and faith-based groups all working for a greater cause to help people like Mark and Karen. “It’s not telling them the gospel it’s showing it to them,” said Pastor Boyd.”

On a few occasions I’ve heard people say something to the effect of, mormons spend a lot of time and money building temples and doing missionary work, why doesn’t your church do something to help the needy? Resisting the urge to blurt out, “we do!” and pull out a stat sheet, my better response is this, let’s work together and do more to help because there’s a lot of people who are in need, and not just people who are suffering from natural disasters, and not just people who need monetary assistance. All of these groups have given us a tremendous example of how to do it.