Saturday, April 23, 2011

He Is Risen

Since tomorrow is Easter, I've been pondering on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus The Christ. I could not begin to recount the ways in which Christ has affected my life and the lives all of who have lived or ever will live. I echo John's words, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (John 21:25)

I cannot add much to the scriptures, the revelations, the numerous books, and the continuing testimony of the prophets that already preach and testify of Christ. I can only encourage anyone seeking for truth to look to the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, for it truly testifies of Christ. Believe the words of the living prophets and apostles; they are special witnesses of Christ and have been given power and authority in this time to testify of the reality of a living Savior who gave His life and then took it up again in order to redeem the world.

All I have to give is my testimony of a personal Savior. I know He knows me, cares for me, and wants me to return to His presense to live with Him and my Father in Heaven again. I know that through following His teachings, I can have joy and peace in this life. I echo Peter who, when asked by the Savior if he would continue following him, said "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." (John 6:68-69) I know that Jesus is that Christ, the only one who had power to perform the great and last sacrifice that would satisfy the demands of justice and encircle me in the arms of safety. (See Alma 34:9-16)

Joseph Smith testified, "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father- That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God." (D&C 76:22-24) I have a testimony that Joseph spoke the truth. That the true church on the earth today is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I know that Jesus Christ is the head of our church and that He has given the priesthood authority to our leaders today.

I know He lives. I know that He atoned for my sins, was crucified, and rose again that Easter morn. He overcame the pains, afflictions, and sins of man. He overcame the bands of death. I know that He did this for me. Christ's ministry was for the one. I know He knows me personally, and He knows each of us personally. He gave His life for me so I could return to live with Him again. This is why I celebrate the Easter season- He has given me hope, peace, and love. He is the author and finisher of my faith, and the reason for the hope that is in me.

I cry every time I read the words of the angels, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen." (Luke 24:5-6) I add my testimony to that statement and testify He is risen, and He is the Savior of the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Firm A Foundation

I know it's a Christmas picture, but I just love the Salt Lake Temple. I'm always humbled to think about how much was sacrificed to erect this magnificent edifice. It's beautiful both outside and in. It stands as a beacon; a shining testimony of the truth held dear by Pioneer Saints of the importance of temples and the work done therein. The part of the temple not seen, however, is my favorite story to hear.

The account is given of how the Saints intially built the foundation of this structure using sandstone. They completed the foundation only to have to bury it for fear of the US Army coming through the valley. Once they uncovered the foundation, they were disheartened to realize that the stones they had worked to lay for years had cracked. The wrenching decision was reached to remove the sandstone foundation and replace it with granite. The effort took years, but was worth it as the granite foundation has held up the temple that has become a symbol of faith for millions. The Saints knew that only a sure foundation would be able to hold the weight of the temple. It had to be built carefully, one stone at a time. It had to be exact, so that the pressures it was under would not cause it to collapse.

Our spiritual foundations are just as crucial in supporting us through the pressures and trials we face, as the physical foundations are in supporting buildings like the Salt Lake Temple. Recently I've experienced a trial in my life that has given me pause and caused me to honestly examine my foundation of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. How have I built my foundation? On whom does it rest? And is it really strong enough to withstand the pressures in my life?

A scripture came to mind of an account Christ gave of the wise and the foolish man in Matthew 7:24-27. He states "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

When I am afflicted with the rains, and the floods, and the winds of life I know that I can withstand, because I have built my foundation on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have faith in my Savior, in God's plan, and in His ability to help me stand firm in times of trial. If I hold true and faithful to the covenants that are my foundation, then I know I can weather life's storms. This doesn't mean that the storms won't come. In fact, I think the winds, the floods, and the rains try harder to tear down those houses that are built upon the rock. But if we have built ourselves up as carefully as the Saints did in laying the granite foundation for the Salt Lake Temple, then our foundations will be sure, solid, inmovable, and able to withstand the tempest.

In the Book of Mormon, Jacob teaches the Nephities, "This stone (meaning Christ) shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the [we] can build." (Jacob 4:16) Later, Helaman exhorts his sons, "Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (Helaman 5:12)

As we carefully lay the foundations of our faith in Christ, as we keep His covenants and obey His laws, He has promised that we cannot fall. When we're beaten down, we will be there to lift us up again, to strengthen our feeble knees, and keep us on the path to eternal life.

It is foolish to believe, however, that we don't need to take care in building our foundation. Haphazard efforts in laying our spiritual cornerstones would be as ludicrous as thinking that throwing stones into a trench would create a solid base for a building. Firming our foundations takes precision, effort, and time. But once laid, it becomes our anchor in the storm.

One of the greatest examples to me of a firm foundation is Captain Moroni. The scriptures state, "He was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ...Yea verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." (Alma 48:13,17) What a character statement! If we could be like Moroni, firm in the faith of Christ, what a difference it would make in our lives. How crucial it is to build our foundation firmly on the gosepl of Christ. Only then will we "be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13)

In the hymn "How Firm A Foundation" it reads,

"How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for yor faith in his excellent word!
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am they God and will still give aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!

God will never forsake us in our times of need if we build our foundation of trust on Him. Though He won't stop the storms from coming, if we are firm in our faith He will enable us to weather whatever trials may come. When the tempest is raging, He will always be there to calm the winds and the waves. And I know that because my foundation is built upon Christ, I will always be able to stand.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Worth of A Soul

I recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C. Our capitol houses wonderful collections inside the various Smithsonian museums of those objects we deem to be of great worth. Among these, in the Museum of Natural History, is the Hope Diamond. One of the largest diamonds in the world, it is accounted of great worth and is therefore guarded closely to ensure its protection. How interesting it is that this diamond, this piece of compressed coal, should be valued so highly as to ensure its safety and our admiration. In contrast, I was thinking tonight of how little society seems to value life. We hear daily accounts of lives taken throughout the world in wars, natural disasters, or local disputes. How sad it is that this has become so common place that we often do not ponder the deeper implications of the loss of life.

More important still, I've come to realize that while life is important, the blessings of eternal life are more precious than all diamonds in the world. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith God counselled, "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. For behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him." (D&C 18:10-11) God is our Heavenly Father and as such He deeply values the lives of each of His children. He paid the ultimate price- sacrificing His only Begotten Son- so that each of us would have the chance to return to Him. It is hard for me to sacrifice those things in my life that I truly care for and desire. Would I be able to sacrifice a child?

But because He has a perfect comprehension of our eternal worth, God proceeded with the plan. We might look past Him, but He never forgets us. Nephi quotes Isaish and states "But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath fogotten me-but he will show that he hath not. For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (1 Nephi 21:14-16)

The scriptures are filled with numerous parables and testimonies confirming the worth of the soul. In Matthew, Jesus recounts the parable of the sheep. "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and on eof them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." (Matt 18:11-13)

I like the verse in Luke 19:10 that states "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Christ not only saves us, He seeks us out to be saved. This is further illustrated in the parable of the piece of silver which reads, "what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the resence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." (Luke 15:8-10)

One of my favorite parables is that of the prodigal son. We know how it goes- disobedient son wastes his inheritence in riotous living, falls into poverty, at first is too proud to return, but then decides that his father will at least treat him as well as the servants and starts home. My favorite verses, however, describe the father's reaction. He has every right to be angry and disappointed but instead this is how he reacts: "But when he (the son) was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." (Luke 15:20)

How the father must have loved this wayward son! Firstly, he saw his son a great way off. He must then have been looking for him to return; watching and waiting with faith that his wayward son would come home. Secondly, he had compassion, ran to his son, and kissed him. I love this image. Being in the position of the father, would we have enough love and forgiveness in our hearts to recognize the worth of those that have hurt us? In the place of the son, are we humble enough to ask for forgiveness and return when we've done wrong? When we understand both the worth of others as well as our own worth, we begin to see how God can have charity and understanding when we do wrong. We might not grasp the full measure of our worth, but God does, and I know that He waits with open arms to receive us and longs to bring us safely back home.

John 3:16 states "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Moses 1:39 states "For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." God not only wants us to live forever, He wants us to live like Him and with Him.

Remember the worth of souls is great. In this world where souls are sold for pennies, never think that you have no worth. You are a child of God. You have the capacity to become like him, to live with him. You are of great worth.