24 February 2013

The Atonement

Elder Orson F. Whitney describes a dream he once had. He explained that in this dream he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he was a witness to the Saviors agony that night. These are his words: 

"I was in the Garden of Gethsemane... I stood behind a tree in the foreground... Jesus, with Peter, James, and John, came through... at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, He passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed... 'Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt.'

"As He prayed the tears streamed down His face... I was so moved at the sight that I wept also, out of pure sympathy with His great sorrow... I loved Him with all my soul and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else.

"... All at once the circumstance seemed to change.. Instead of before, it was after the Crucifixion, and the Savior, with those three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at His feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with Him. 

"I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped and raised me up and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real that I felt the very warmth of His bosom against which I rested. Then He said: "No, my son; these have finished their work, and they may go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.' Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face... I besought Him most earnestly: 'Well, promise me that I will come to You at the last.' He smiled sweetly and tenderly replied: 'That will depend entirely upon yourself.' I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning." 

This dream that Elder Orson F. Whitney shares, fills my heart to its brim. My gratitude and humility flow over every chamber of my heart. I know the way Elder Orson F. Whitney felt when seeing the Lord, is nothing short of how each and every one of us would feel. I know that is why there is a veil placed in our minds; because I know that if we were to behold the Savior in all His glory, our absence and longing from our home in heaven would take over our heart, and we could not bear to be away from it a second longer. 

My Savior suffered for me. He suffered for the sick. He suffered for the sinner. He suffered for the unbeliever, and each of us - all of us - no matter what we have done, or where we have been, are entitled to the saving and precious gift of the Atonement. There are times, in my selfish and un-Christlike heart, I wish He would withhold the precious gift of forgiveness and mercy from someone, because of their unfaithful heart. How arrogant and prideful my heart can be. He has paid the price for all of us. The repentant heart who feels sorrow for mistreating a friend, is just as entitled to this gift as is the repentant who has fallen away from the church, committed serious transgressions, and come back to the gospel. This perfect and beautiful gift is not withheld from any of us. It is always there, as is our Lord, Whose hand is perfectly and always stretched forth. There is no greater gift. There is no greater blessing. How eternally and forever grateful I am. 

05 February 2013

We know Who we are, when we know Whose we Are

This past week I have been studying King Benjamin's sermon, found in The Book of Mosiah. You know when you come across something in the scriptures that totally tugs at your heart strings? The entire Book of Mormon does that, but, there are some things that - when read - feel almost familiar. King Benjamin's sermon was that for me. 

His sermon starts in chapter two, and King Benjamin goes on to counsel his people to keep the commandments of God, to continually serve, to repent and humble themselves, and to be merciful towards others. My favorite part begins in verse 23:

Mosiah 2:23 "And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him..."

Mosiah 2:24 "...Ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? "

Mosiah 2:25 "...Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you."

Mosiah 2:31 "...Ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are..."

Mosiah 4:5,7 "...If the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness... I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation..." 

Mosiah 4:11 "...Ye should remember... your own nothingness... you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility."

Mosiah 4:19-20 "...For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God?... And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay... God... has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are..."

I don't know how to express the feelings I felt when I read that. I could have articulated my point with one or two of those verses, but it's amazing to me how many times King Benjamin makes it clear that without the Savior and His Atonement for each of us, we are nothing. King Benjamin - A PROPHET - when speaking of himself, refers to himself also, as less than the dust of the earth. If that isn't humility I don't know what is. 

President Gordon B. Hinckley says this:
"Let us be more merciful. Let us get the arrogance out of our lives, the conceit, the egotism. Let us be more compassionate, gentler, filled with forbearance and patience and a greater measure of respect for another. And if, through our lives, we have granted mercy to others, we shall obtain it for ourselves." 

An English author - John Ruskin, shares the following statement,
"the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean, by humility, doubt of his own power... [But really] great men... have a curious... feeling that... greatness is not in them, but through them... and they see something Divine... in every other man... and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful."

Mercy and humility might quite possibly be two of the hardest attributes to excel at. I know personally, I have a very long way to go, but reading those scriptures humbled me deeply. The point is, we are nothing without our Heavenly Father and Savior. The point is, our Savior Jesus Christ is perfect, and He is perfectly humble and merciful. He was mocked and ridiculed and attacked. He was hated and betrayed and the things He went through and the way He lived His life is a testament that each and all of us have absolutely zero excuse to ever feel superior over anyone, and to ever feel that we in some way can excuse ourselves from giving mercy to others. We, as humans, we as 'unworthy creatures', we as less than 'the dust of the earth', feel that we somehow have the nobility to borrow our Saviors calling to judge another. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ will and always will be the ONLY two who is EVER justified to place judgement, and for us to think we could ever be great enough to do so is hypocrisy and selfishness at it's finest. 

I am grateful for my Savior, who willingly, and perfectly, and selflessly submitted to His Fathers will and atoned for each of my sins, my infirmities, and my weaknesses. The horrific things He endured we will never, ever, ever be able to comprehend even the smallest fraction of. He gave His life for us, and for heavens sake, the least we can do is give our lives to Him, which were only His to give. We are nothing without Him. We have nothing without Him. We owe absolutely everything to Him. 

I am immensely grateful for the Atonement, and immensely sounds ridiculous because the appreciation I have can only be shown in my actions and the way I live my life. 

Saint Francis of Assisi says it perfectly,
"Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words."

It is the way we live our lives we can express our love, our gratitude, and our humility to the Savior, and thank goodness we have the ultimate and perfect example.

01 February 2013

"Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face..." -President Gordon B. Hinckley

The time has come. As I'm finishing last minute packing and saying my final goodbyes, a staggering wave of emotion sweeps over me. Angst and discord, contentment and hope, nostalgia and excitement. Leaving this little apartment in Takapuna New Zealand is so final; the finality of it all confounds me. Saying goodbye to this perfect little place on earth is saying goodbye to the last seven months. Saying goodbye to the last seven months is turning the last page, and starting an entirely new chapter. Living on the other side of the world map has been my escape and refuge. Largely, it has been a perfect excuse for me to hide and spend all my time reading scriptures, studying gospel doctrine, and watching the waves on the beach until they are too dark to see. Takapuna, New Zealand has been my sanctuary; my sweet, precious haven, and to be perfectly honest, I'm getting profoundly sick and tired of saying goodbyes!

There is so much uncertainty, so many doubts. I have more questions than I have answers to. I don't know where I will be six months from now. I don't know where I will be two years from now. I don't know what state I will be living in, or what school I will be going to. Every aspect of my life is incognito. However; despite the apprehension, the indecision and the suspense, with conviction I can say that in six months from now, two years from now, five years from now; I will be okay. With conviction I can say my Heavenly Father and Savior will be totally aware of me, as They have been, as They are, and as They always will be. There are some things I know, and these things that I know are enough.

I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the one and only true church on the face of this earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is a book written by prophets called of God, and I know these prophets were and are very real. I know the things they write are true, and I am amazed at their unshaken faith in the things they believe, and in the complete and utter trust they put into their Heavenly Father and Savior. I know the temples we are blessed with truly are the Lords dwelling places here on earth, and I know that in those temples we are closer to heaven than we could possibly imagine. I know the men who preside over our church in these latter days are called and chosen by God, and their words and their counsel are correct, and pure, and complete. I know that our mortal lives are only the smallest fraction of what our eternal lives are and can be. I know that if we prove ourselves here in this earthly realm, we have an eternity so perfect and so glorious waiting for us. I know that heaven is much closer than we think, and I know there are angels in heaven and on earth that have been placed in our lives to protect us and guide us. I know the Lord atoned for the sins of each and every spirit that ever has been and ever will be. I know that we have a Savior Who is so perfect, and so devoted to His Fathers will that He was willing to pay a sacrifice that our earthly minds could never comprehend, and I know I owe Him absolutely everything that I have and everything that I am. I know that the love our Father in heaven and His Son have for us is unfathomable, and I know that neither our Father nor His Son will ever forsake us, nor ever forget us. I know that, as Elder Holland perfectly said, "It is not possible for you [us] to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines." I know that the Lords hand is stretched out still, always, and forever. I know that we are not given trials and difficulties in vain. I know that the trials and difficulties we are given in mortality are given to us with love and trust. I know we are given trials because we are required to prove ourselves worthy of the blessings that eternity has waiting for us. I know these things are true and so many more, and I know that the knowledge of these things will get me through every obstacle, every trial, and every question I will ever have. I have an all-knowing perfect and Eternal Father, and He has a perfect and all-knowing Son, who is my Savior. We are so loved. We are so cared for. We are children of our Heavenly Father, and we are never, ever alone. 

"For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you... Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the church. Never forget that you came to earth as a child of the divine Father, with something of divinity in your very makeup. The Lord did not send you here to fail. He did not give you life to waste it. He bestowed upon you the gift of mortality that you might gain experience - positive, wonderful, purposeful experience - that will lead to life eternal. He has given you this glorious Church, His Church, to guide you and direct you, to give you opportunity for growth and experience, to teach you and lead you and encourage you." -President Gordon B. Hinckley

The church is true.