Sunday, March 11, 2018

"he that heareth the word, understandeth the word, which also beareth fruit..."

I want to compare two parables that we learned about this week in class. They are both from Matthew 13.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus Christ speaks of a seed being planted. If you've ever read Alma 32, you'll know that the seed is an important symbol of a testimony of the Savior that can grow within our heart. There were seeds that "fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up." There were seeds that "fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away." There were seeds that "fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up and choked them." And there were many seeds that "fell into good ground and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold."

In the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, the tares represent barren seeds of apostasy, while the wheat represents the fruits of the Kingdom of Heaven. Tares grow up to look very similar to wheat, but they cannot be harvested. They don't stop the regular wheat from growing.

I would like to draw a comparison between the thorns that choked some of the seeds in the parable of the sower and the tares in the second parable. The thorns stop the testimony from growing. I think of them as sins of omission. When we allow the world to get in the way of nourishing our testimonies, we aren't necessarily committing sins, but we are forgetting to keep the commandments that will keep the seed growing and strong. Tares are more like trial in our lives. Just because we have tares in our field, it doesn't mean that we are sinful or barren, it just means that we are going to have some hard times intermingles with the good times.

Interestingly, in Matthew 13:27-29, it says " The servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, an enemy hath done this. the servants aid unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them."

Heavenly Father knows that if our lives were perfect, they would be pointless. If someone were to take away all of our trials, our successes wouldn't be as strong. We would have a shallow earthly experience. We wouldn't have the opportunity to defend our testimony against the falsehoods and temptations that oppress. The wheat is stronger because of the tares. We are stronger because of our trials.

Monday, March 5, 2018

"Be of good cheer; it is I..."

In Matthew 14: 25, it says that the disciples' sailing trip wasn't going so well. "The ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the sea was contrary." I've never actually gone sailing before, but I imagine that it's a lot easier if the wind is not blowing contrary to the direction you are trying to go. Jesus knew that they were tired.

He's the commander of all the elements of the entire earth. You'd think He could bother to make the wind softly blow his friends to shore, without any trouble.

He doesn't do that. Instead, he waited until they have labored all night long, until somewhere between 3-6AM. They were rowing and toiling from sundown until about 3 in the morning, at best.

Plus, this was a pretty crazy storm. Peter was a professional fisherman, and he was still afraid for his life.

So the question is "why." Why didn't Jesus Christ exert his powers to calm the storm for his disciples. These men were dedicated to following Him! Even if He wasn't going to save them right away, why did He wait 9 hours before doing so?

It reminds me of a story called "The Ricciardi Letters" that I read while I was on my mission. After struggling with little to no success in his mission, an Elder talks about his prayer: "That morning I had prayed for close to 45 minutes when I decided to cease praying, still not having formally closed the prayer, just quiet in my thoughts and tears. I was having thoughts of going home, giving up. Then I heard this message: “Elder Humphrey, I am here. I know who you are. I sent you to those neighborhoods, the very ones where you experienced nothing but rejection. I prompted your changes in direction to even more difficult neighborhoods. I know where each of the elect in your area resides. I know their names. I could send you to those addresses only, and save you the time and sacrifice looking for them. BUT ELDER HUMPHREY, WHAT GOOD WOULD THAT SERVE YOU? The mission experience is to do what you are told, when you are told, to go where you are asked, and know that the blessing comes from enduring what I ask of you. This is not about you; it is about opening your mouth at all times in all places. Doing my will without thought to the end result or consequence… this is what serving a mission is."

The Savior doesn't save us in every moment and keep us comfortable. We haven't earned that by being faithful. Instead, we've earned the comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ is in the boat with us. When the storm is raging, He's there and we can be calm on the inside. He wants us to know that we can't do it alone. He needs strong sons and daughters.

In every trial, we are learning something. He is humbling us so that we will listen to Him, rely on Him, and step out of our comfort zone to come unto Him.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

"If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean."

"Can I believe enough that He knows what's best for me?"

Do I have the testimony even when I do not receive the miracles that I want? That would be unconditional discipleship. In Matthew 8, Jesus has just finished preaching the sermon on the mount and the comes out of the mountain being followed by this giant multitude of people. He's finished teaching the people, and now he's going to demonstrate it in the healing of the leper.

The leper says: "Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean."

He recognizes the power of the Lord, but has total submission and trust in the Lord. Simply in saying "if thou wilt," we can see that the leper was willing to accept a fate of pain and suffering for the rest of his life, if that was the Lord's will.

Jesus Christ doesn't shy away from interacting with broken and diseased people. Healing miracles have two components: physical and spiritual. The obvious change in the leper was that he didn't have to suffer that pain anymore. But does that mean that he will never ever experience any other type of physical ailment for the rest of his life? No. All physical miracles will eventually end in death. The spiritual healing and lesson that comes from a healing is never-ending. That's why disease is used as a metaphor for sin so many times in the scriptures. While physical healings are important, the most important type of healing comes from the cleansing power of the Atonement.

Elder Rasband said: "We get a glimpse into our Heavenly Father’s character as we recognize the immense compassion He has for sinners and appreciate the distinction He makes between sin and those who sin. This glimpse helps us have a more “correct [understanding of] his character, perfections, and attributes” and is foundational to exercising faith in Him and in His Son, Jesus Christ. The Savior’s compassion in the face of our imperfections draws us toward Him and motivates us in our repeated struggles to repent and emulate Him. As we become more like Him, we learn to treat others as He does, regardless of any outward characteristic or behavior."

We can be going through a turbulent physical time in our lives, outside of our control, and still remain calm inside knowing that we are in the ship with Jesus Christ who is only concerned with helping us. So yes, a thousand times yes, I can believe that he knows enough to do what's best for me.

Monday, February 19, 2018

"love your enemies"

We had a guest lecturer come to class this week. He was teaching us about the sermon on the mount.

Matt. 5:43-44 says:

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

we talked about the different meanings of love in Greek:

1) eros: expresses passionate love
2) philia: love between friends
3) storge: natural affection
4) agape: the highest form of love, charity and the love of God for man and of man for God

Guess which one the original Greek is in in this verse? Agape. What is Christ telling us to do? He's not telling us to simply tolerate the people that hate us or despite-fully use us. The commandment is to love them the same way that He loves them. Righteous acts cannot stem from unrighteous motives, or else they lose meaning and significance. Sometimes we seek to be validated horizontally rather than vertically. Shouldn't we seek validation from above rather than from those around us?

When Brother Griffin taught, the next class period, we continued talking about the Beatitudes, and he mentioned something that has stuck with me since then.

Forgiveness. We often think about forgiveness as forgiving others of their trespasses, but the hardest part is often forgiving ourselves. We seem to have this mindset:

"If I can't forgive myself, Jesus can forgive me but it won't do any good because I will hold myself hostage from His mercy" it's like saying that our badness is less than His goodness. Diminishing the goodness of Christ is not only blasphemous, it's something that we all know is wrong. Then why do we so easily fall into the trap of thinking that in all His infinite goodness, He cannot forgive us of our sins, no matter how grievous? 

The application of this is that we go through every single day and we do things that should cause us to feel guilty because yeah we make mistakes and yeah we aren't perfect. Godly sorrow is something that motivates us to be better! But if seen the wrong way, godly sorrow can cause us to feel really depressed and bad about ourselves and then we simply feel horrible and don't think that we can ever feel good about ourselves. We have to let our mistakes motivate us to be better rather than drown us in inadequacies.

Don’t forget that everyone is Saul-like, but they have a Paul-like potential. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

"God shall be with you forever and ever..."

Doctrine and Covenants 122
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

This passage of scripture took on a new meaning for me this week as we discussed the baptism of Jesus Christ. He was baptized in the River Jordan, which runs through Jericho. Jericho is right next to the Dead Sea, and subsequently has the lowest elevation in the entire world.

Jesus Christ got baptized in the lowest spot in the world.

He descended below all things even in his own baptism.

The very first thing that Jesus says in the scriptures is in Luke 2:49. He says "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?"

The second recorded thing that he says is in Matthew 3:15 "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."

I don't think it's a coincidence that the first two recorded sayings of Christ are a foreshadowing of the rest of his ministry. He would always be about his Father's business, and he would always be striving to fulfill his Father's plan to fulfill all righteousness.

What I glean from this is the importance of humility and our knowledge of our own divinity. Christ is the perfect example of this because he knew WHO he was, but he also knew WHO his Father was. Having love for oneself and being confident in our calling, is different than being prideful. We can tell Satan to get away from us, for we are endowed with the power to do so. However, that power doesn't come from ourselves, it comes from God. If we can connect in our heads, our own divine worth and potential with the source of that divine worth and potential, we will see that even though Jesus Christ descended below all things, he is exalted above all things. Through his mortal weaknesses, he was still spiritually strong. He was still free of sin. Even when pain, torment, hunger and thirst wracked his mortal body, he never gave into any temptations to satisfy the natural man.

"fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."

Monday, February 5, 2018

"I am come a light into the world..."

There are a few insights that I would like to share with you!
First... I was reading an assignment for a class and I came across St. John 12:46 "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness."

I really love how it says that we won't abide in darkness. To abide implies that we would always be in darkness. God doesn't promise that we will never experience darkness, but he does promise that each and every time we are experiencing darkness, we WILL be able to overcome it if we believe in Christ. So it's safe to say that there is no reason to feel guilty or unworthy if we are passing through a patch of darkness in our live. It will get light again, if we are patient and believing.

Second...Moses 6:31 "And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?"

There were 3 reasons that Enoch gave for not wanting to accept his calling: 1) he's too young 2) everyone hates him 3) he's slow of speech

Well, we can all relate! Right? We don't feel like we can accomplish a calling, and so why bother trying? Well, I would like to share a quote: "do not pray for tasks equal to your abilities, but pray for abilities equal to your tasks. Then, the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, you will be the miracle." -Thomas S. Monson

It's not like God doesn't already know it when we're too young or no one likes us or we aren't so good at public speaking. He doesn't call us because we have an infinite capacity already. He sees the potential. So, if something seems too hard, just know that you're supposed to learn something from it. It's not too hard, or else you wouldn't be faced with it.

Third...When we read the scriptures, they don't tend to emphasize the fact that we are mortals, and we are constantly falling short. Instead, we read almost always about how if we come unto Christ, we can overcome our shortcomings. Parents love children because of what they put into them, not what they get out of them. I think that we should pattern our thought processes after the prophets of the scriptures (and modern-day prophets). Hardly ever do you read of a prophet who fails to recognize that his weaknesses can be made strong through Christ. It's important to know that we have weaknesses, but it's not important to dwell on them. I'm still figuring out how to move on and allow the Atonement to heal and strengthen me without reverting back to my old ways, eventually. I guess that's part of the journey. Luckily, we aren't alone on that journey! Not only is the Godhead with us every step of the way, so are our families and friends.

Love always,


Sunday, January 28, 2018

"He shall prepare a way for them..."

We talked about Adam and Eve in class this week.


Brother Griffin really knows how to answer the questions of my soul. Well, I guess it's the spirit working through him...he's just really good at listening to the spirit and teaching us with the power of discernment. I was about to write about it, and then I realized that I left my notes in the library last night! I'll just write what I remember. I hope that I find my notebook in the lost and found....there are a lot of important notes in there.

First I want to present a possible problem that people have with the story of Adam and Eve. Moses 3:16-17 says:
16 And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: of ever tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

We teach pretty simply about this as missionaries, right? In Preach My Gospel, it teaches "Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and they chose to do so. This was part of God’s plan."

However, Nephi 3:7, says: "the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

The issue that some people have with this is WHY would God intend for Adam and Eve to sin and break commandments when he says that he would never give a commandment that we can keep or tempt us above what we will be able to overcome? It seems like God is contradicting himself.

Here's an excerpt from an article in the Ensign:
"President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!”

Regarding this distinction, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed: “This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: ‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression’ (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall.”

Even though Adam and Eve had not sinned, because of their transgression they had to face certain consequences, two of which were spiritual death and physical death. Physical death came to Adam and Eve at the end of their earthly lives, but spiritual death occurred as they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, being cut off from the presence of God (see Alma 42:9)."

The original command in Moses 3 is the ONLY commandment in the scriptures where God explicitly says the word "nevertheless." Nevertheless can be substituted with a < sign. It is clear that the Fall was a part of Heavenly Father's plan. I can't adequately explain in words the exact doctrine behind how I know this, but I know it. We needed to progress.

The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth was a higher commandment than the commandment not to eat the fruit. Eating the fruit WAS the way that God provided for Adam and Eve to fulfill his other, greatest commandment of having children. Remember 1 Nephi 3:7? It IS true.

I love the gospel! It's not always easy to understand everything, but understanding comes over time when we trust in the Lord.