Christmas lessons from Mary for every day of the year.

“By word and deed, Mary, the mother of Jesus, teaches devoted followers of her son about the significant virtues of a true disciple.” Susan Easton Black

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Each of the main characters in the story of the 1st Christmas have something important to teach us about our own desires and how we can best serve God. The lessons we can learn from Mary are particularly powerful. Let’s look at a few things we can learn from her.

Mary is Called

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

What we learn

Mary seemed to be minding her own business when her call to follow Christ came. And with it came immediate challenges. She had the challenge of facing Joseph and what must have been the overwhelming concerns about being the mother of Jesus.

Matched to the challenges, she also received heavenly help along the way. Joseph was visited by an angel and she had his support. The first challenge was overcome with help from God.

From then on, her scripture story is one of struggle and set back. She had to travel to Bethlehem. I wonder if she ever thought that this call to be taxed was incredibly bad timing and maybe God could have helped by delaying it or choosing to have Jesus born a few months later.

After getting to Bethlehem, she then had to give birth in a manger. I wonder if she ever wondered why God didn’t prepare a better situation for the birth of the Savior.

Shortly after Jesus’ birth, the family had to move to Egypt because of the threats imposed by Herod. I wonder if she ever thought that this seemed unfair and questioned why God would let this happen to them.

Remarkably, there is no scriptural record of any of this thinking or complaining. For Mary, the call to follow Christ was one of challenge, hardship and setback. But there is no evidence that she murmured, complained, or doubted.

The call for us to follow Christ will have some of the same challenges! Inconvenient timing, like Mary faced traveling to pay taxes right when she was about to give birth. Inconvenient disappointments in our lives, like Mary faced when they couldn’t find room in the inn. Inconvenient and unfair circumstances brought about by others, like when Mary had to move her family because of Herod.

The question is not if these things will come when we are called to follow Christ, they will. Even the earthly mother of Jesus was not exempted from the struggles and challenges that come in this life. We shouldn’t be surprised or lose faith when we face similar challenges.

The question is not if these things will come. The question is, can we have the faith of Mary? Can we move with faith when things are inconvenient, disappointing, and unfair? Can we take the story of Christmas and learn the lesson that following Christ will bring us joy and peace? And also test us as we grow to be more like Him?

Joy, peace, testing, disappointing, happiness, pain, rest, sanctuary, unfair. They all bundle together. They did for Mary and they do for us. And at the pinnacle moment there is the Light. The Star that shines the way for each of us. There is the Savior standing and calling to us. There is the hope and triumph.

Thank you, Mary, for setting the example.

Thank you, Jesus, for being the Light.

And thanks to each of us as we strive to live that example and share that Light.

Merry Christmas.

Courage when you need it. What the scriptures say that can help me!

Decisions are constantly before us which can determine our destiny. In order for us to make the correct decisions, courage is needed—the courage to say no when we should, the courage to say yes when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right. (Thomas S. Monson, Be Strong and of a Good Courage, April 2014)

There are so many scriptural examples of courage and it is so inspiring. Except that I don’t consider myself a courageous person. I think I stress about what other people might think of me. I think I get lazy and procrastinate some things that I know I should courageously do. I don’t courageously minister as well as I should.

But, there are a few scriptures that help inspire me. There are a few stories that help me dig deep and be the best and most courageous version of myself. It’s what I rely on every month when I’m convincing myself to reach out to the families that I minister to that haven’t been to Church in years. I hope they help you too!

Scripture #1: Turn to God

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

The first step in building our courage is turning our faith to God. Interestingly, both faith and fear are feelings of an expectation of an outcome based on unseen factors. When we have faith, we have a positive expectation based on things we haven’t seen yet. When we are afraid, we simply have negative expectations based on things we haven’t seen yet.

When we are afraid of the dark, it is an expectation of something negative coming out of what we can’t see. To overcome this we have to move our beliefs toward God with the understanding that no matter what happens, it will turn out to be good when we are with God.

God will sustain you. Whatever he allows you to get in. He will help you get through.

And then the battle in my head goes on. “That is so much easier to say than to do!” And I agree with myself and remind myself one of the pinnacle stories of faith from the Book of Mormon.

Scripture #2: Real Courage

Alma and Amulek were in a very bad spot. The people in Ammonihah were not happy with them. In fact they had tied them up and started a fire. Then they took all the people that had recently been converted to Christ and threw them in the fire.

I can’t think of many more heart wrenching experiences in the scriptures. This was Amulek’s home town. He must have known everyone that was thrown in the fire and everyone that was doing the throwing. The emotional and spiritual must have been overwhelming.

Amulek’s first thought was to stop it.

He said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames. (Alma 14:10)

Alma had a clear testimony that if we are committed to Christ, it doesn’t matter what happens to us, we are victorious.

But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory. (Alma 14:11)

They had won the eternal battle. Alma knew it. But would he have that same courage when it came time for him to experience pain because of his testimony? (Spoiler alert: YES! He never faltered!)

Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.

 And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. (Alma 14:12-13)

Alma was confident that no matter what the will of the Lord was, he would face it with faith and courage.

But, Alma and Amulek weren’t thrown in the fire. Instead they were put in prison where they were beaten, starved, bitten, and spit on. And their consistent response was one of faith in the promise that God would “sustain thee.”

And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek answered him nothing. (Alma 14:17, 18, and 19)

I don’t really think that is how I would have handled it. I think I would have had a few things to say to the people who had just killed all my friends and were now hitting me.

But Alma and Amulek didn’t fear what was being done to them or what these people could do. They had positive expectations of how things would turn out, even though they hadn’t seen them yet. In fact, everything they had seen would seem to indicate that things would go very badly for them.

After they had “suffered for many days” (Alma 14:23) the miracle happened.

The earth shook mightily, and the walls of the prison were rent in twain, so that they fell to the earth.

And Alma and Amulek came forth out of the prison, and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ. (Alma 14:27-28)

I remember that story and I remind myself that if I call my inactive ministering family, nothing that bad is going to happen. If I move with courage in my calling or in my responsibilities at home, or if I have to be bold and courageous in inviting someone to come closer to Christ, it won’t end up as badly as it did for Alma and Amulek.

I will move this week with confidence and courage that there will be positive outcomes even though I haven’t seen them yet. You interested in joining me? Email me and tell me what courageous steps you are going to take this week!

Does God have a plan for you? These scriptures help answer it!

We are children of Almighty God. He is our Father, He loves us, and He has a plan for us. We are not here in this life just to waste our time, grow old, and die. God wants us to grow and achieve our potential. (Elder Carlos A. Godoy, The Lord Has a Plan for Us! October 2014)

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Given the way my life has gone, I sometimes do find myself wondering if God really does have a plan for me. My life was going along so well, I couldn’t believe it! I had the greatest childhood ever! I went to college, got hired to teach seminary full time and started a family. Everything was like a cute family movie. Right up until it wasn’t! 😊 Within one year my dad passed away, I lost my job (I had made a career change from teaching seminary), and then I was hit by the reality of divorce. If God had a plan…this was it?

Luckily, I found some scriptures that helped.

Scripture #1: We will win!

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)

This is a powerful verse of winning and conquering. And when it is tied with another verse from Paul it gave me some of the strength I needed.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 17)

I had to realize that part of God’s plan was being troubled, perplexed, persecuted, and cast down. Paul used the words “light affliction” to describe it. (We might not always agree with the word “light” when we think of our afflictions, but I think Paul was making a point!).

What I was going through was not evidence of the lack of a plan, it was the plan in its actual fulfillment. God’s plan is that we come to earth and experience all these things, turn to Christ and still “do all things.”

The pain is evidence of the plan because of the healing that follows.+

Scripture #2: Even if I can’t see it now.

Nephi experienced something else that raised my hope and faith.

When Nephi was writing on 2 sets of plates, he wasn’t exactly sure why.

Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. (1 Nephi 9:5)

He didn’t know what was going on with God’s plan…and this was Nephi! Here is what he did know.

But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. (1 Nephi 9:6)

While he did not know all the parts of God’s plan, he did know that the Lord knew all things and has all power to fulfill that plan. This gave me hope. If someone like Nephi (who knew so much) still didn’t know all the details of God’s plan for him, but he could still move with faith, I could do.

And speaking of Nephi I wonder if at any point when he was tied up on the boat, or getting beaten up by his brothers, or tied up and being left for dead in the wilderness, or starving and making his own bow, or arguing with his brothers over the boat, or a hundred other difficult things that happened to him, I wonder if he ever had a little doubt of God’s plan?

O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! (2 Nephi 2:26, 27, 33)

For Nephi, the pain was part of the plan. It was designed to bring him to Christ and feel the strength to do all things.

Because as Nephi said, “Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen.” (1 Nephi 22:31)

These verses have really helped remind me that God does have a plan for me. A plan that does include pain and discomfort and also love, healing, kindness and grace. I hope they help you find that too.

2 Scriptures for When Satan is Lying To You

Understand, my young friends, that there is only one way to win the war against Satan, and that is to win it in the same way it was won in the beginning: faith, testimony, and consecration on oneself to the Lord and His work. (James J. Hamula, Winning the War against Evil, October 2008)

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We are in a state of conflict. And the best tool that the adversary to our peace has is lies. From the beginning Satan has used lies, deception, and trickery to lure us off the path. In the vision of the Tree of Life, Lehi saw it as a midst of darkness. Try to hide and blur us from seeing the tree—the Love of God.

And he is doing that now to all of us. He wins when we lose sight of who we are, of who God is, and how we can get to His love. And in our day, the way he tries to accomplish this is to lie to all of us.

What can we do when Satan’s lies are trying to pull us away from God?

Scripture #1: The Power I Get with God

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13)

One of the most common lies that we are told is the “You Can’t” lie. It was told to Moses, Enoch, and Jeremiah in their calls to be a prophet. It was told to Peter. It was told to Joseph and Emma Smith. And it has been told to you.

If Satan can get you to believe you can’t do something, he usually wins. Because then we don’t try. Or we try without our full effort and faith. And let’s be honest, many of the things we have been asked to do, we can’t do on our own. And this is where the lie becomes the most damaging.

Satan wants you to believe you can’t because then he knows you won’t reach out for help. He knows you won’t strengthen your faith and your relationship with God as you overcome challenges and trials. It will be so much easier to convince you that you can’t do something the next time.

That midst of darkness of “can’t” comes over us and instead of reaching up in prayer and forward in faith we tend to turn inward on ourselves.

But that is not God’s plan! When Moses started to doubt himself the Lord gave him a simple answer:

“And he said, Certainly I will be with thee” (Exodus 3:12)

It was almost the same as he told Jeremiah

“Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8)

It was what Paul was telling the Philippians. The truth we must know is that God is with us. And with His power we can do anything.

It’s one of the powerful lessons on the 1st Vision. Joseph by himself was in real trouble and about to succumb to the darkness. By ourselves we can’t do it. But God has not left us by ourselves. He gradually descends with His light and power into all our lives. He is there to strengthen each of us.

Shout out “I can do all things through Christ” the next time you feel that lie that you can’t!

Scripture #2: God is with you

“I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

The second lie is that you are alone. Satan wants you to believe that you are by yourself and that you won’t get the help you need from God or others.

That is not true!

The scriptures are the record of God’s love and interaction with His children. And the scriptures tell the story repeatedly of God being there, no matter what.

God was there for the Children of Israel even when they complained.

God was there for Enos even though he had not fully kept the commandments.

God was there for Alma the Younger even though he was fighting against the Church.

God was there for the Lamanites that Ammon taught even though they had been wicked for generations.

God was there for Peter even when he had betrayed him.

God was there for Paul even though he had fought against the Church.

God was there for Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdry even though they made mistakes.

God is there for you! Satan will want you to believe you have complained too much, sinned too much, made too many mistakes, or are in too deep to get the help you need.

This is a lie.

The next time you start to feel that lie, shout out, “God is on my right hand and on my left!”

God is there to support you. He sends His angels to bear you up. Because God loves you.

2 Scriptures to Use When You Have Negative Thoughts

“I think it would be very accurate to say that, as a man persists in his thinking, so he will become. There is that kind of power in thoughts.” Elder Dean L. Larson “Thoughts About Thoughts

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Sometimes keeping our thoughts positive can be a challenge. When life presses down on me I often find myself battling with thoughts that are negative. Things like, “I’m not good enough.” “This will never get any better.” “My efforts are just not worth it.”

When negative thoughts start to take effect in our lives, one of the tactics to combat them is to try as quickly as possible to replace them with positive thoughts. Here are a few scriptures that can help you do just that.

Scripture #1: I can have power through Christ

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

I love to recite this scripture in my mind when I am struggling with fear or doubt. Sometimes it’s about a calling or task I’ve been given at Church. More often it is about a challenge in our family. I feel fear that I’m not leading my family well enough. I feel fear that there is more I need to do in my marriage. I feel fear that my kids aren’t being spiritually prepared for the world they face.

But, God does not give us fear.

God gives us power. God is a God of power. He is the same God that created a path for the Egyptians. He is the same God that created a path for Lehi. He is the same God that created a path for our modern-day pioneers. He has power to create the path for us through our fear.

He is a God of love. He is the God that showed love to the woman with the issue of blood that touched his coat. He is the God that showed love to the woman taken in adultery. He is the God that showed love to Nephi when he was “much cast down.” God frequently talks about lifting us up to Him, this is an act of love.

What about the God of a sound mind? Most often this is referred to as self-control or discipline. This is a part of God’s plan as well. Power from on high. Love from God. And self-control and discipline from us. That is the partnership of power that brings results.

And when I feel like I am not good enough. Or that things won’t work out. I reach out for God’s power. I open my hear to feel God’s love and I take action so that I can fulfill my part of disciple and obedience.

Soon, I am feeling a sense of hope and optimism. My thoughts have totally changed.

Scripture #2: God gives us cheer

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

And remember…that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. (2 Nephi 10:23-24)

That one line runs over and over in my head. “Cheer up your hearts.” That is God’s hope for us. That we are of “good cheer.” It is a statement that is often quoted in the Doctrine and Covenants.

When my thoughts are far from cheerful, this is what helps me start to get back on track to more positive thinking. There is always something to be depressed and unhappy about, if that is what we choose to focus on.

But look what God is asking us to focus on. When our focus is on “eternal life”, the “grace of God” and our agency to “act for yourselves” we can go from negative thoughts that are dragging us down to thoughts that lift and inspire us.

When I start thinking more on using my agency for positive. When I start thinking more on God’s goodness and grace, when I move my thinking to eternal life and perspective my thoughts start changing and improving.

The power of these verses and God’s goodness start me thinking down a more positive and productive thought process. Try these two verses in your life this week when you face challenges and negative thoughts.

A little worried about teaching more at home?

With the announcement of a reduced Church block and more emphasis on teaching at home, that puts additional pressure on parents who want to do a better job of teaching in the home.

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For my wife and I, the first conversation we had after the announcement of the reduced block was what our new Sunday schedule would look like. With an extra hour of time and the expectation that we teach more in the home we don’t want to just come home, put on comfy clothes and watch TV the rest of the day. We want to do a better job of teaching the Gospel and sharing our testimonies with our kids. We are worried about 2 things:

1. Are we good enough teachers to teach our kids the way we need to in today’s society?

2. Will our kids be interested and engaged in the lessons we try to teach?

For both of these questions we know we need preparation and help. Maybe you feel like we do?

The Prophet’s Call

You were probably as inspired as I was when you heard President Nelson say this quote at Conference. We knew something big was about to happen and I felt inspired to be a part of the call of a prophet. I’ve highlighted a few parts that are key to what we can and need to do with our families.

“The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God, and to strengthen and seal their families. In this complex world today, this is not easy. The adversary is increasing his attacks on faith and upon us and our families at an exponential rate. To survive spiritually, we need counterstrategies and proactive plans. Accordingly, we now want to put in place organizational adjustments that will further fortify our members and their families.”

Counterstrategies

Our families need increased faith.

We have additional responsibility to teach them.

Satan is working against us more than ever.

We need counterstrategies and proactive plans.

Counterstrategy #1

In a 2016 worldwide training broadcast on teaching Elder Jeffrey R Holland counseled us not to “over-program, over-plan, over-prepare.”

The key is to plan and prepare and realize that you are teaching people, often kids, and it’s ok if the lesson doesn’t go exactly as you had originally planned. If you spend more time on one topic and don’t get through everything, that’s ok. If you end up talking about something different than you planned, that’s ok.

As Elder Holland said, “the great fundamental reminder that we are teaching people, we are teaching human beings, we're teaching each other, and we are using material—we are using lessons and doctrine—to do that.”

So, don’t stress out if the lesson doesn’t go perfect. Don’t stress out that you have to have the perfect lesson planned.

Having a positive conversation is more important than trying to have a perfect lesson.

Proactive Plans #1

We do need to do some preparation. Trying to have a conversation without ANY preparation is “asking too much of the Spirit. That's asking the Spirit to do His work and our work too." (Jeffrey R. Holland)

It always helps to have tools to create better home Gospel conversations. That is exactly what I’ve created for you on my new Facebook group, Your Lifelong Seminary Class.

Every week you will get a Home Gospel Conversation Kit to have conversations with your kids at home about the principles you learn at Church.

Now you can try it out with the promo code HomeFree to get your first month free!

Go to Join Your Lifelong Seminary Class to sign up to join the Class. Make sure to use the promo code HomeFree! It’s all the preparation help you need to be ready for great family Gospel conversations every week!

A birthday present...I always ask for the same thing.

Limhi and his people were in a pretty bad spot. Somewhat because of things they had done to themselves, and somewhat because of things outside their control. They paid a price and got the one thing most of us are looking for.

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Whenever I am asked what I want as a present (birthday, Christmas, whatever) I always give the same answer: peace.

With 7 kids, custody schedules, sports, school, stress, work, and callings, I almost never have a calm and peaceful day. There is always something that comes up that turns peace into stress and rest into strife. So when I find examples of peace in the scriptures I am always interested.

Here’s what I learned about peace from Limhi.

The cause of the stress.

There were two main causes of the stress and strife that Limhi’s people faced. The first part was not their fault.

1. Limhi and his people were living in the middle of the Lamanite nation. They didn’t choose to live there. Their grandparents (Zeniff and his followers) had moved there and now they were stuck. The Lamanites wouldn’t let them leave and they weren’t strong enough to fight their way out.

They were stuck. Sound at all familiar? Is there something that causes you stress and strife that you are just stuck with?

The second piece of their stress and strife was of their own making.

2. They had chosen to follow wicked King Noah. He was a terrible leader and now they were in bondage to the Lamanites, having lost a battle and their freedom. They had made poor choices and the impact of those were causing them stress and strife.

They were stuck with their own consequences. Sound familiar? Is there something that is causing you stress and unhappiness that is the result of your own behavior?

Let’s look at their solutions.

Limhi and his people had to deal with both things, things that had been put on them and things they had chosen themselves. The second one was the first one to get solved. They had to pay a price for their decisions.

And also Limhi, being the son of the king, having the kingdom conferred upon him by the people, made oath unto the king of the Lamanites that his people should pay tribute unto him, even one half of all they possessed. (Mosiah 19:26)

The price they had to pay was ½ of everything they had. A major sacrifice! Possibly, we are the same. Maybe to get peace in our own lives there is a significant and painful sacrifice we need to make.

Anything come to mind for you?

The second path to peace took a little bit more time and patience. After years of patience and conflict with the Lamanites they finally came up with a plan.

10 And king Limhi caused that his people should gather their flocks together; and he sent the tribute of wine to the Lamanites; and he also sent more wine, as a present unto them; and they did drink freely of the wine which king Limhi did send unto them.

11 And it came to pass that the people of king Limhi did depart by night into the wilderness with their flocks and their herds, and they went round about the land of Shilom in the wilderness, and bent their course towards the land of Zarahemla, being led by Ammon and his brethren. (Mosiah 22:10-11)

But it didn’t come right away. They had spent a few years in conflict and it wasn’t until a servant of God (Ammon) came and the people made covenants with Him that deliverance came.

32 And now since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments. (Mosiah 21:32)

Anything come to mind for you? Are there covenants you need to live more closely or patience you need to endure through as you wait for deliverance?

Sometimes peace comes after waiting through pain

Elder Richard G. Scott taught,

He is our perfect Father. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He knows what is best for us. He sees the end from the beginning. He wants us to act to gain needed experience:

When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence.

When He answers no, it is to prevent error.

When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act. (Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayers)

Just like Limhi’s people, we must do both things. Act as we wait on the Lord. That is our path to peace.

What is grace? I need it to be saved!

Nephi taught “it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:24). That sure makes GRACE seem important. But I wasn’t even sure I knew what it was or how I tried to get it!

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A few years ago, I had a conversation with some friends of another faith while we sat and watched our boys play baseball. They really didn’t like the Church. So much so that they wouldn’t park their cars in the parking lot of an LDS Church—even when baseball practice was in the field right next to the Church.

They had strong negative feelings about the Church. So much so that they made a commitment to God that they won’t step foot on property owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…EVER!

After that experience, the thing that has stayed with me is not how different we are in our beliefs, but how similar. Like when we talk about grace.

What is grace?

My favorite definition is found in Gospel Topics under Grace. “Grace is the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Grace). That breaks down into three areas.

1. It is through the Grace of God that we will all be resurrected.

2. It is through the Grace of God that we are forgiven of our sins.

3. It is through the Grace of God that we received additional strength to overcome our daily challenges.

Our Part

What is our part in this process of Grace? Do we have to do anything, or do we get resurrection, forgiveness and daily help no matter what?

Nephi taught, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23).

Now from President Oaks:

“And what is “all we can do”? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moro. 10:32).

We are not saved in our sins, as by being unconditionally saved through confessing Christ and then, inevitably, committing sins in our remaining lives (see Alma 11:36–37). We are saved from our sins (see Hel. 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Ne. 9:20–22).” (Have You Been Saved?)

Grateful and Humble

This amazing gift is beyond our comprehension. Everything from getting through the day to day struggles to every hope we have of salvation are tied to the Savior and His grace.

President Uctdorf said it so well!

“I marvel to think that the Son of God would condescend to save us, as imperfect, impure, mistake-prone, and ungrateful as we often are. I have tried to understand the Savior’s Atonement with my finite mind, and the only explanation I can come up with is this: God loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly. I cannot even begin to estimate “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height … [of] the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)

“When I think of what the Savior did for us leading up to that first Easter Sunday, I want to lift up my voice and shout praises to the Most High God and His Son, Jesus Christ!

“The gates of heaven are unlocked!

“The windows of heaven are opened!” (The Gift of Grace)

I join with every follower of Christ to state my gratitude and humility for the goodness, kindness, and grace of God. That is one thing we can all have in common with each other!

How have you seen the grace of God as a part of your life? Comment below

How Do I Get A Testimony?

Last blog post we talked about what a testimony is. For many of us, we have a testimony—we often feel the pull to grow and strengthen it even more.

And possibly more important, we feel the desire to help those we love to strengthen their testimonies too. But how? Elder Bednar taught us it’s kind of like a sunrise.

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Having grown up in the Church I can’t tell you when or where my testimony started. I do remember the first time I read the Book of Mormon all the way through and prayed about it. I was about 13 years old and I will always vividly remember sitting in my room praying. That memory of testimony is burned into my heart. But that wasn’t really when my testimony started.

I remember sitting in Church once when I was about 13 or 14 and having a powerful experience feeling that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God. But that wasn’t the real beginning of my testimony.

I can’t even start to pinpoint where my testimony of my Savior and a loving Heavenly Father started. Primary I suppose.

And for many members it is the same. The only problem is, that when you don’t know where your testimony came from or how it started it is hard to go back and recreate the experiences that helped shape your testimony in the first place.

Here is how Elder Bednar described it:

The second experience takes place as we watch night turn into morning. Gradually and steadily the intensity of the light increased, and the darkness of night was replaced by the radiance of morning. Eventually, the sun did dawn over the skyline. But the visual evidence of the sun’s impending arrival was apparent hours before the sun actually appeared over the horizon. This experience was characterized by subtle and gradual discernment of light. (The Spirit of Revelation, April 2011)

Because it is so gradual and almost imperceptible we have to figure out the steps necessary to add more light. Both to bring more light into our own lives and to show an example to others of how to increase the Light of Christ in their life.

Luckily we have some advice from President Uchtdorf.

  • First: Desire to believe. The Book of Mormon encourages us: “If [you] will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, … even if [you] can no more than desire to believe” (Alma 32:27).

Some may say, “I cannot believe; I am not a religious person.” Just consider, God promises us divine help even if we have only a desire to believe, but it has to be a true and not a pretended desire.

  • Second: Search the scriptures. Have questions; study them out; search in the scriptures for answers. Again, the Book of Mormon has good advice for us: “If [you] give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart” through diligent study of the word of God, the good seed “will begin to swell within your breasts” if you will not resist with unbelief. This good seed will “enlarge [your] soul” and “enlighten [your] understanding” (Alma 32:28).

  • Third: Do the will of God; keep the commandments. It is not enough to enter into a scholarly debate if we want to know for ourselves that the kingdom of God has been restored upon the earth. Casual study is also not enough. We have to get in on the action ourselves, and that means learning and then doing God’s will.

We need to come to Christ and follow His teachings. The Savior taught: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16–17; emphasis added). And He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

  • Fourth: Ponder, fast, and pray. To receive knowledge from the Holy Ghost, we must ask Heavenly Father for it. We must trust that God loves us and that He will help us to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost. (The Power of a Personal Testimony, October 2006)

Concrete steps. Simple things we all can do. Important steps to adding more light in our life.

Each of us need to make sure that even through it is small and simple, that we have more light in our life this week than we did last.

Pick one of Elder Uchtdorf’s ideas and start putting it in action today. Comment below with which step you will take.

I'd like to bear my testimony. Let me make sure I have it first...

Every time fast Sunday come around we hear this phrase. Sometimes we might even think we would like to bear our testimony. Have you ever felt that you’d like to bear your testimony, but you aren’t quite sure where to find it?

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I remember as a young Deacon that I would love to be the person that ran the mic around. We don’t do that much now, but back then you just stood up and I would run a mic to you and you could bear your testimony from there.

For me, it was such a fun way to spend sacrament meeting.

Didn’t have to sit by my brother.

Didn’t get bored.

And never had to worry about bearing my testimony (the guy with the mic just never did that!)

Now, there isn’t that luxury. And nearly every fast meeting there is that little stress of if I’m going to bear my testimony. If I have something to say. And what exactly I believe with all my heart that I would say.

Today, let’s do a quick check on our own testimonies.

Don’t Worry. It’s a Process.

Bonnie Oscarson reminded us that,

True conversion is a process that takes place over a period of time and involves a willingness to exercise faith. (Do I Believe?, April 2016)

This sounds a lot like how Alma said he got his testimony.

“Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true. (Alma 5:46)

So, if you are struggling, don’t worry! We all grow our testimonies and it is a lifelong process. Celebrate where you are. And keep growing.

Am I focused on the right things?

In growing our testimonies, there are a few key areas to focus on. President Uctdorf taught,

A testimony is very personal and may be a little different for each of us, because everyone is a unique person. However, a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will always include these clear and simple truths:

·         God lives. He is our loving Father in Heaven, and we are His children.

·         Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world.

·         Joseph Smith is the prophet of God through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the latter days.

·         The Book of Mormon is the word of God.

·         President [Russell M. Nelson], his counselors, and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are the prophets, seers, and revelators in our day.

(The Power of Personal Testimony, quote altered to include our current prophet, original referenced Gordon B. Hinckley)

If you know these things

That is the start. If we can confidently testify of God, Jesus, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and a modern prophet, we are on a solid and powerful foundation.

This is the beginning of every testimony that we try to teach to children and teens. It is the ongoing foundation where we can build our lives knowing we are building on a solid and true testimony.

Comfort and Peace in Your Testimony

This gave me such great comfort. I might not always be able to testify of every principle or doctrine, every rule and policy of the Church, but I can always come back to that foundation of God, the Savior, and the prophets and know I can find peace, comfort, and stability.

Peace I leave with you. Come unto me all ye that labor…and ye shall find rest. The wiseman built his house upon the rock. God wants us to have this peace, comfort and stability in our own lives.

But what if…

If you feel weak in one of these areas, what can you do?

I will share that in my Sunday Studies next week! We will cover, “How to Build Your Testimony.”

But I want to hear from you on how you have done it!

Application Invitation

If you are reading this from Sunday Studies, reply to the email with a thought on how you have built your testimony of the thing President Uchtdorf mentioned. If you are reading this on the Help Me Understand The Book of Mormon blog, respond in the comments.