Our Eternal Hometown

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/boys-raft-ocean-894534?lang=eng

Who am I, really? What makes me me and you you? Are we not, all of us, from the same hometown?

The Bible refers to God as our “Father which is in heaven” many times. Think of it. God is our Father and Creator, so it follows that heaven, where we once lived with Him, must be our hometown. That means you and I are from the same hometown. We’re homies!

In the beginning, our bodies were formed in His image. We are literally in His image, and those prophets who have been blessed to see Him have confirmed that we are alike in form (see for, example, Ether 3:6–16 and Joseph Smith–History 1:17).

So our true identity, who we really are and what we can actually become, comes from God Himself. Keeping His commandments is how we identify with Him; disobeying His laws separates and alienates us from God and our true identity. Sin, in essence, is a denial of who we really are, while faith and obedience are ways we show our acceptance, and even reverence, for our identity.

What we focus on creates our perception of reality. It is our choice to create that perception. If you focus on the words that come from God every day, what will your perception of reality become? If you focus on prayer, what visions will fill your soul? If you are looking up to heaven instead of around at the world, Who will guide your spiritual GPS? If you are preoccupied with feeding an addiction, for example, what will fill your mind and shape your perceptions then?

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:21–23.)

What I am saying is that denying God is the opposite of who we really are. Accepting the Source of Light from which we spring helps us to see more clearly who we are and what we can become.

The Beauty of Holiness

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/kansas-city-temple-lds-940258?lang=eng
Kansas City Missouri Temple

I happened to read Psalm 96 this morning and rediscovered verse 6:

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. (Emphasis added.)

Then I remembered Carol F. McConkie’s talk of the same title, listened to the audio, and found this wonderful quote:

I see the beauty of holiness in [those] whose hearts are centered on all that is good, who want to become more like the Savior. They offer their whole soul, heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord in the way that they live every day. Holiness is in the striving and the struggle to keep the commandments and to honor the covenants we have made with God. Holiness is making the choices that will keep the Holy Ghost as our guide. Holiness is setting aside our natural tendencies and becoming “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord [see Mosiah 3:19].” “Every moment of [our lives] must be holiness to the Lord [Brigham Young].” (Emphasis added.)

We are all children of God which means that holiness is our eternal identity. Our God is holy for Man of Holiness is His name (see Moses 6:57). It is not only becoming like God that is our goal: It is becoming who we really are.

Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16.)

Being unholy is a denial of where we came from and who we are. We can be holy, sanctified and cleansed, without being perfectly perfect. We came here to be imperfect. Striving and struggle are the path through the valley. No other way except through the valley will lead to the mountain of God.

 

A Few Thoughts on the Sacrament

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/sacrament-meetings-389976?lang=engIn the last few years, the sacrament has become more meaningful to me. I cherish it, long for it. I try to not show up at the weekly meeting and just plop in a pew. I try to prepare for these moments of communion hours, even days in advance.

Last summer, we visited a small branch of the Church on the Oregon Coast. During priesthood meeting, a man talked about struggling with his kids during sacrament meeting. He reminded us of the words of the Savior in the garden of Gethsemane, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).

Yes, I’ve thought since, I can watch with You one hour. It’s the least I can do. I’ll try. I’ll practice. I’ll be with you.

Neil L. Anderson has said, “We must protect the sacred against the invading routine.” How do we do that? We have to be awake in the present, alive to the its meaning, its virtue.  We can choose to see our sacred moments in the full light of our wide-open hearts.

Save

“I’ve Got the Mommy Power”

A fellow quorum member told this story in a meeting recently.

He was visiting his grandchildren and took them for a long walk. They became a little agitated when they realized that they weren’t in familiar territory. Then his five-year-old granddaughter spoke up.

“You know what my dad told me?” she asked.

“What’s that?” asked the grandfather.

“I’ve got the mommy power.”

The grandfather smiled. “What’s the mommy power?” he asked.

“It’s when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be, but you still know that everything is going to be all right.”

I’ve witnessed the mommy power, haven’t you? I love it. I am in awe of it. I am grateful for it.

I’ll go so far to say that the mommy power is one thing—if not the very thing—that holds the universe together.

Will You Light the World?

Here’s a video I can’t resist sharing. Every day starting December 1 and leading up to Christmas is an opportunity to remember the things our Savior did and to follow His example. Here you’ll find daily inspiration on 25 ways to follow the example of Jesus Christ in your daily life—and make this season unforgettable.

Because He is the light of the world (John 8:12), we can light the world (Matthew 5:14).

When Doubt Crawls into Your Sleeping Bag

More and more I am finding doubt among friends and family. I believe doubt is a normal thing, like the common cold. Just about everyone comes down with it from time to time. But we all must, at one time or another, face the dark side of our consciousness and decide what we are going to do about it. It’s not easy, but this life was not meant to be easy. It was meant to be educational.

I had to face the dark before I ever joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ll call it my pre-faith crisis. As some of you know, my parents were violently opposed to me joining the Church. At 17, the bright light of the gospel showed up in my life. I was so excited about it I could hardly contain myself, but my parents, especially my father, went apoplectic. They piled books and pamphlets in my lap that were, well, less than complimentary of the Prophet Joseph, Brigham Young, the Book of Mormon, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre . . . you get the idea.

I read that material with an open mind. I wasn’t afraid of it or particularly shocked. Why would I be? I literally knew nothing about Mormonism before that time. As I sorted through the criticism and negativity, the accusations, the logic and the illogic that shouted from those pages, I was also reading the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, feeling the presence of the Spirit, hearing the voice of the Lord come to my heart, and experiencing miracles daily.

Even at that young age, I could discern the dissonant voices who spoke against the truth and the light that shined from scripture and from the lives and examples of my Latter-Day Saint friends. The contrast was crisp and beautiful. It brought everything into focus for me. I knew I had to choose the path of light or the path of darkness.

I also knew that God was not in the dark and that I wouldn’t find Him there for “that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23). I also came to know that He will reach into the dark to pull you out, if you turn to Him with all your heart.

And what do I mean by dark? I mean criticism, mockery, sarcasm, blame, belittling, bitterness, disrespect, and contention. If any of these attributes are present, darkness is also present.

I made a simple commitment that unforgettable autumn, before I was baptized, to look to God and follow the light, to take my questions and fears to Him and patiently wait for His answers. That was 41 years ago. I have stayed true to that commitment my entire adult life.

That choice was the best choice I’ve ever made. It hasn’t always been easy, to be sure. I’ve certainly had my dark days—even dark weeks and months—but I’ve stuck it out. And I’m so glad I have.

And I have always received clear answers on whatever question I’ve asked. The promise “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7) really works.

I do not rely on the “arm of flesh” for my answers (see 2 Nephi 4:34). We’ve been counseled to “ask of God” who promises to give answers “to all men liberally.” He won’t upbraid us in the process; He won’t rebuke us or treat us condescendingly. He will simply give answers to us, if we ask sincerely and patiently (see James 1:5).

I’ve had a 100 percent success rate using that formula. I’ll probably keep using it for the next 40 years, though I don’t think I’ll last that long—not as a mortal, anyway.

I want to share a verse that is very powerful to me. It’s short and I memorized it during the first few months I was a member of the Church. It’s one of my favorites:

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36.)

Let’s talk about these ten words for a moment. This is the voice of Jesus Christ, pleading with you and me to look to Him in every thought; He is also commanding us—yes, commanding, in an imperative voice—to not doubt or fear.

Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart. . . . (Mormon 9:27.)

Yes, we will all struggle with doubt at one time or another, but it doesn’t have to be our constant companion. We can do something about it.

Look at it this way. If a rattlesnake crawls into your sleeping bag, are you going to let it stay there? Are you going to stay in there? I hope not. I would put as much energy into getting away from doubt that you would put into getting away from a rattlesnake.

I’m not talking about getting away from the truth. I am talking about getting away from darkness and poison.

You are not obligated to doubt. You are not forced to doubt either. It is ultimately your choice. It, like an addiction, might be a hard habit to break. If you trust the wisdom of men and your own wisdom above God’s, your doubts will proliferate. Unchecked, they’ll eventually infest every thought. You might wake up one morning doubting everything. Your heart will be troubled, if not embittered, and your outlook will be dark and contentious. These are signs that the rattlesnake is near or has already bitten you. But you don’t have to stay loyal to your doubts. You can turn from them at any time.

I remember years ago hearing a friend quote the wise advice of his grandmother. “Don’t let the devil get into the car with you because pretty soon, he’s going to want to drive.” You don’t have to let doubt take the wheel; you don’t even have to let it get into your car.

Turn your back on doubt and turn your whole heart to God. Turn your whole heart to His light. Trust that light and follow it. Don’t wait for complete and perfect answers before you choose to follow the light. Those answers will come after you choose the light. As you walk toward the light, the shadows always fall behind you.

And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12–13.)

You’re here to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you turn toward the light, “thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). You’ll know what to do. You’ll have peace in your heart. You’ll get your answers. You don’t have to cling to your misunderstanding. Light won’t treat you with disrespect.

Have not I [the Lord] commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9.)

You have not been asked to cross the plains of the American West. You’ve been asked to cross the plains of doubt. You can do it. Of course you can. I know you can. Make doubt your servant; don’t let doubt be your master. Let doubt be your acquaintance, but don’t invite it over for Christmas dinner.

Let me close with these words about the fruits of the Spirit and righteous living. I love the way Galatians 5:22–23 reads in The Message:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Who has the light? You’ll know them by their fruits (see Matthew 7:15–20)—that is, in the long run, they’ll produce joy instead of bitterness, unity, not separation, love, not hatred. Let His light lead you to the good fruit. He will not fail you if you put your trust in Him (see Mosiah 7:33).

And you’ll get that rattlesnake out of your sleeping bag.