Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Lord's Yoke

I've learned so much about the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the last few weeks. Mostly I've learned how all-encompassing it is (Alma 7:11-13). I've been reading a book called "Believing Christ" and in one part the author explains two means of justification. First "the law", under which we must do everything right and never make any mistakes, under "the law" the only way to receive salvation is by being perfect. As you and I both know, this is completely impossible for any of us because, we're not perfect. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. The other way to be justified is by faith in Christ. We turn to him and despite our weaknesses, but because of His perfection, when we join with him, we too, become perfect. The author, Stephen E. Robinson, says "in the New Testament the two means of justification, by law and by faith, are referred to as separate yokes or burdens." p. 44

I began thinking about this. A yoke is "a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs." I thought about this first yoke: us having to be perfect to make it back to our Heavenly Father. Then the second, our faith leads us to join with Christ and thus become perfect. Then I imagined a journey with a far off destination and a heavy load to carry. The first yoke, "the law", is like putting a yoke upon one oxen and then expecting that lone oxen to carry the whole load and go the entire distance. Travel that way is impossible, a yoke can't be worn by one and such a load can't be carried by one oxen alone. The second yoke is when one struggling, imperfect oxen allows himself to be yoked with a perfect, never tiring, full strength oxen. The responsibility of the first oxen is to remain in the yoke, the other oxen will take the weight of the burden and ensure that together, they reach the destination. This is like our journey of life. The destination is the Celestial Kingdom, returning to live with our Heavenly Father, and the load is all the trials, struggles, sorrows, and temptations that come with earth life. We are the first oxen; entirely human, and therefore flawed and imperfect. Our Savior is the second oxen. He has all the perfection and strength necessary for us to return to our Heavenly Father. Our responsibility is to join with Him in covenant and allowing Him to make up for our mistakes and weakness.   

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1 So often we put pressure on ourselves and believe that we're not good enough, that we need to be perfect, we try to take on the yoke alone. The Lord not only doesn't expect us to carry the load alone, He doesn't want us to. On our own it is not possible, therefore our Savior invites us to come to Him and receive his help and strength throughout the journey. 

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" Matt 11:30 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lessons I Learn from War

I love the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. There are so many things in them that can be applied to our lives today. A few weeks ago one of those life lessons came to me while I was reading in Alma 43. In this chapter the Lamanites are angry at the Nephites go to fight against them. The Lamanites fight stronger than they have ever fought before and the Nephites become very scared and start to flee but their captain, Moroni, reminds them that "they [are] doing that which they [feel] [is]their duty which they owe to their God for ... the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families and their lands their country and their rights, and their religion."  When they hear this the Nephites, "[cry] with one voice unto the Lord their God, for their liberty and their freedom from bondage. And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power; and in that selfsame hour that they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them." 

As I read this chapter I felt like this story was in the scriptures for me. The Nephites are righteous, they are doing what they believe is their duty to God. But they still fear and begin to lose the battle. Their righteousness and obedience alone cannot protect them. It's not until they cry unto the Lord- or pray- that they recieve the power to defeat their enemies. I think this part really hit me because this is something that I do so often in my life. I work hard and do what I should but I forget to call upon the Lord in my specific times of need. In the Bible Dictionary under prayer it says "The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them." Sometimes we have to ask God for help before He is able to grant it. I know that God loves us and wants to help us in our lives so that we can accomplish our righteous desires. I know that in my quest to achieve those things I should not forget to pray to my Heavenly Father and ask for help. I'm grateful for a loving Heavenly Father, for the ability to pray to Him at any time. I'm grateful for the scriptures and that I can read from them and find answers and direction that I need for my life.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


This Christmas has been different than any Christmas I've ever had. I have been away from my family, and my familiar traditions. But I've also been able to be away from some of the distractions of this time of year. The stress, the shopping, and the commercialism. I have loved being able to remember and share with others the true meaning of Christmas. Celebrating Christ, His birth, His life, His Atonement, and what that means for us. And what it means is pretty amazing! God sent His Son here so that all men could be saved. We are all saved from death and we can also be cleansed from our sins as we have faith in our Savior, repent, are baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. And that is the message that I have dedicated 18 months of my life to sharing. It's a beautiful message.  It is "good news". It brings direction, peace, joy, Salvation! I love it! I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ, for my Heavenly Father who made this plan for us so we can return to Him, I am so grateful for the gospel, for my family- who I can be with forever-, I'm grateful for being a missionary and having the oppurtunity to share Christ's gospel with the people here in Northern California. I am gateful for Chirstmas and what it helps me to remember.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Don't Judge a Bed by It's Cover

One of the things that you need to bring with you on a mission is bedding. When I left I brought a bedspread that my sister had used in college. It's easy to pack and very girly looking. She likes pink so it was a good one for her. I don't love pink, but I needed a bedspread so I wasn't going to complain. One day in Eureka while I was remaking my bed I looked at my bedspread and had a sudden realization. It's reversible. One side is pink the other side is purple (my favorite color). I had seen that blanket on my sister's bed for years, it had always been pink. Through all those months of packing the blanket, and using it at the MTC and in Eureka, I hadn't noticed that all I had to do to get a purple bed was to turn it over. I was so used to seeing a pink blanket that that was all I saw.

I sat there for a while wondering how it possibly could have taken me so long to realize. Then it dawned on me that we, as humans, do this so often. We see a person, ourselves or others, and say that what they have been is all that they can become. We forget that we are all children of God. The person we are now is only one aspect of us, it is within our grasp to change and become more. All we have to do is turn our lives to Christ and the Atonement and we can become a totally new and beautiful person. A person who was there all along but was hidden from our sight. 2 Cor 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is as a new creature". Don't let yourself be defined but what you have been, instead seek out what you can become.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Greatest Book Ever

So, I have a deep abiding love in my life that has given me much joy and great happiness. And that love is for Harry Potter. Harry Potter is one of the first books that I read and enjoyed. I love the books, I love the characters, I love the themes, I love the good conquering evil, and yes, I love the movies. Harry Potter has been a big part of my life since I was at least 10 years old. When I got my mission call I quickly noticed that my leaving date was two weeks before the release date of the final Harry Potter movie. WHAT! Something that had been integral part of over half my life was coming to an end and I was going to miss it? It was really sad to me but it wasn't going to stop me from going on my mission. 

Since coming on my mission I have re-started the Book of Mormon. I've read and studied it before, I've prayed about it, and I believed it was true. But one of the messages I got from conference was to "feast upon the words of Christ" 1 and as I have begun applying that to my studies, the Book of Mormon has opened up to me. I read as often as I can; while I eat breakfast, as part of my daily study, during lunch, and before I go to bed. I love it, I love the people in it, I love the things it teaches, I love the spirit I feel as I read it, and I know it's true.

The Book of Mormon has been a part of my life since I was born but I hadn't truly appreciated it or received as much from it as I could until a few months ago. I wouldn't trade the opportunity I have right now to devote myself and all my attention to sharing the Book of Mormon and spreading the gospel to God's children for anything. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II will be there when I get back.

I love Harry Potter, but I know that the greatest book, the one we can receive the most truth, direction, and joy from as we read from it, is the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and it comes with a promise to all that read and "ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." 2 I know this is true and I invite everyone to get a copy, read from it, pray about it, and act on it. It's true and it will bless your life forever.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Great Things Ahead (and behind)

Last Friday night I found out that I'll be serving in Eureka for at least a few more weeks. I'm happy I'll be here for a while more. I love the wonderful people I've been able to meet. They will be my friends forever. I've also had some interesting experience here. I think one of my favorites was when Sister Nestman and I were walking in Old Town on our preparation day and we saw a sign for a "Glass Blowing" shop, we thought, "Cool glass blown stuff, lets check it out"...bad idea. I was a different kind of "blowing" shop. We quickly left. These past weeks in Eureka I have learned so much about myself and about Heavenly Father. This is the place where, in mission lingo, I was born. I think I'll always have a tender spot in my heart for Eureka.

On the first day in Santa Rosa before I knew, really anything, about the mission, let alone where I was going to serve first, we were shown a sideshow with pictures from around the mission. I remember seeing the pictures of Eureka and thinking, "That would be a good place to go." In all truthfulness, pretty much from the night before (when I couldn't fall asleep), to arriving from the training center at the airport (where I realized that I would have to talk to and teach real people not just my peers and teachers), and then coming to Santa Rosa (and discovering I had not idea what I was doing), I'd felt pretty scared, and sad, and alone, and unsure about, well, everything. When we watched that video, and I saw Eureka I had a strong feeling of peace come over me.

I still don't know why I've come here to Eureka. Maybe I'll figure it out in the next 5 weeks, or possibly in 10 years, or maybe I'll never know the exact reason. But today I do know, and I've known on some level since I saw a picture of Eureka almost 3 months ago, that this is the place for me right now.

I know that just like Heavenly Father knows this is the place for me at this time, He know each one of us. Perfectly. He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, our needs and our desires. He has a plan for us and as we turn our will to His, He is going to be there for us and help us in ways we may not understand but which are ultimately for our greatest good. I know that sometimes we may feel like God isn't here because things are not going the way we want, but we have to remember what Nephi said in Nephi 1:1 "I Nephi... having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days."1 This life is a time of trial and experiences, but as we are obedient and faithful the Lord will support and strengthens us through all things.

He knows you, He loves you, He is here for you. Turn to Him, for His arms are extended.2

2. Mosiah 29:20

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Child of a King

I love Disney movies. The end.... No not really. But I truely do. They're the movies of my childhood. I know all the song, I used to imagine myself as Belle, and I remember watching Mulan every day, for what felt like a month, to see if I could out-watch my best friend (I'm pretty sure she won). Anyway, I have fond Disney memories, and one of my favorites is The Lion King. When I watched it as a kid I always liked the songs, and the love story, and, of course, Timon and Pumbaa, but its amazing what I've gotten from it as I've gotten older. As you may know, it's the story of a young lion, named Simba, who's the son of the King, Mufasa. Simba looks up to his father and learns a lot from Mufasa about his future kingdom and responsibilities. Mufasa is killed and Simba is driven away from his family by his deceptive uncle who wants to take over. Simba runs away and ends up living an un-fulfilling life with no purpose. But he's not allowed to continue in that life for long. He's found by someone, Nala, who reminds him that he's not acting the way he should be. Nala brings Simba to a wise leader who shows him that he has great un-achieved potential as the son of the King and he is told to "remember who you are". Simba goes back home to live the life that is his birthright and save his family from a life of sadness.

Ok, so this story is packed full of great things. I actually can't believe how much good stuff is in there. There was even more than I realized until I stated typing it up. Pretty much it's an amazing analogy of our lives. Before this life we lived with our Father, the King of Creation. He loved us, and taught us, and told us what to expect of the future. But we were separated from Him and often we are deceived by Satan to do things that are not befitting our royal heritage. But the Holy Ghost is there to remind us that we are worth more than making bad decisions. Like Simba, we too, need to realize our divine heritage. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."1

We are. Each one of us is a child of God. That's amazing! We are filled with potential and possibilities. No one can tells us we are worthless, or unloved, or not amazing, because we are. We have a loving Heavenly Father who is here for us and whose greatest purpose is to help us to reach our highest potential 2. We just have to remember this and live a life worthy of that heritage and blessing. We're fantastic, we have a great future ahead of us, we are children of God!

1. Romans 8:16
2. Moses 1:39

President Uchtdorf just gave an amazing talk related to this at General Conference this weekend and the Apostles always say it better then me :). You can watch it here.