Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cut it Off, Pluck it Out

In Matthew 18:8-9 Christ asks us to cut off our hand, foot or pluck out our eye if it offends us. Now Christ really does not want us to chop off our limbs or get rid of certain body parts. But what he is saying is that if there is anything in our life that is not serving us right or offends us we need to get rid of it. And by getting rid of these things, we can become more Christ-like and focus on the things that really matter. Just like cutting off your hand or foot or plucking out your eye, these adjustments will be painful. But they will be for the better.

I had a friend this past year who did not have a great influence on me. I could not feel the spirit when I was around him. I also noticed that I acted differently because of him, and I did not like the person I was becoming. I also started swearing a lot when I was around this friend and even in everyday conversation. I thought I was being cool or funny, but after a while I did not feel good. I decided that I had to clean up my language so I could feel the spirit. And I just felt a lot happier speaking with clean language. Even though it was hard, I decided that I would stop hanging out with this friend, and after a week or so I noticed a huge difference. I was able to feel the spirit more and it totally blessed my life.

If there is anything in your life that is hindering you from feeling the spirit or from being more Christ-like, get rid of it. And do it now! I can promise you that you will be blessed for doing this. It will not be easy at first, but it will definitely be worth it. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Doubt Your Doubts Before You Doubt Your Faith

In John 6 Christ gives the Bread of Life sermon. This sermon is very symbolic, but those that were listening took the sermon very literally. Verse 35 says, “And Jesus said unto the, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” He’s saying that those who follow him and live the gospel will be fed spiritually. Their testimonies will be what fills their life. In verse 54 Christ says, “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Christ was referring to the Sacrament, but the people thought he was crazy. They thought, “This guy wants me to eat his flesh and drink his blood? No way! I’m outta here!” And many of those people left Christ and went their own way.

But then Christ turned to His apostles and said, “Will ye also go away?” And Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter was so strong in his testimony that he wasn’t going to let anything take him away from Christ and the gospel.

All of us have our own questions about the gospel. I know I have plenty! And most of my questions won’t be answered until I return to live with Heavenly Father again. Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating to not know everything, but we can’t let these questions define our testimony. Our testimony needs to be based on what we know and what we believe. I have a strong testimony in the Plan of Salvation. I know that someday I will be reunited with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ if I continue to live faithfully.

I love President Uchtdorf’s quote, “Doubt your doubt before you doubt your faith.” Please don’t question your testimony. Know that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer, that Heavenly Father lives and he LOVES YOU. This gospel is true. As Peter said, there is nowhere else we can go. The way to eternal life is through Christ. Just trust in the Lord and believe. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lost and Found

In Luke 15 Christ tells the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal son became lost when he rebelled and ran away from home. He spent all of his money, and then was in need of money and food. But then in verse 17 it says that “he came to himself,” which means he humbled himself and repented. He decided to return home to his father. And when he was still a ways away from home, his father saw him, had compassion on him, and ran to him.

This parable describes how I decided to serve a mission. The year before the mission age change I began to wander away from the gospel. I neglected my testimony and came really close to not having a testimony. Then I finally realized that I had to humble myself and ask Heavenly Father for help and guidance. I was lost, but He found me and blessed me with the knowledge to serve a full-time mission. I still didn’t have a very strong testimony, but I could feel Heavenly Father’s love for me. He ran to me, just as the father ran to the prodigal son. No matter what, He still loved me.

One of my favorite pieces of art is “Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. This is what the artist wrote about the piece.

I recently received an e-mail from a young man who expressed his discouragement at not being able to find many images of the Savior with teenagers. He noted that he had seen many paintings depicting Christ with loveable little children, but rarely had he found his age group represented in such a setting. This young man closed his message with these heartfelt words: "What about us?" Many of us have probably asked a similar question. What about me? Who doesn´t love little children with all their precious innocence and charm? But what about those of us that may not feel as lovable; those of us who may have struggled and lost our way, or who have wandered paths that have left us worn and doubting our worth? Thankfully, Christ´s love carries no conditions and is extended in full measure, especially to those who feel lost and forgotten.

I know that Heavenly Father lives and that He loves us. He is always there to guide us back when we have lost our way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Peace, Be Still

In Mark 4:36-41 we get the miracle that the song “Master the Tempest is Raging” is based on. This is when Christ is traveling with his disciples on the sea and a giant storm comes upon them. Most of Christ’s disciples were fishermen, so they knew how to sail and navigate through storms. But this storm was bigger than any one they had ever seen. Their boat was filling up with water and the apostles assumed that their boat would sink. Christ was also asleep during the storm so the apostles were left alone to handle it. In verse 38 the apostles woke Christ and said, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Then Christ arose and said, “Peace, be still.” And the storm stopped and the seas were calmed. Then he asked his apostles, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” Christ was able to stop the physical storm, but he also stopped a storm of fear. Faith and fear cannot coexist. When we trust in God and act in faith the storms will be much easier to bear. We will be blessed with a feeling of comfort and peace much sooner when we act without fear.

A few months ago, before I submitted my mission papers, I started to fear that I wouldn’t be a good missionary. I felt inadequate to represent the Lord and worried that I didn’t know the gospel well enough. Then just a few days later, my friend posted a video on Facebook of an arrangement of “Master the Tempest is Raging.” I decided to take a listen and an overwhelming feeling of peace and comfort came over me. It was exactly what I needed to hear right then. The music and the message were just so beautiful. He added a line to the song that said “forgive us, O Lord, of our foolish fears, and please help us be still.” This line was just so perfect and helped to calm me. Most of my fears about serving a mission had gone away. The phrase “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called” kept running through my mind. I knew that it would be difficult but Heavenly Father would be right there to help me and calm the storm inside.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Be Ye Therefore Perfect

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” I read this scripture when I was younger and I thought that this was impossible. I’m human, so I am inherently imperfect. But I really want to return to live with Heavenly Father, so how do I do that if I’m not perfect? There’s no way! Well, Jesus Christ gives us the answer in his Sermon on the Mount.

He begins the Sermon with the Beatitudes. A lot of times when I read this I just thought it was really repetitive. Those who do this will get this. But it’s really Christ asking us to do certain things and to gain certain qualities. I never really understood the meaning behind them until today.

Christ starts out in verse three of chapter 5 by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poor in spirit means to humble, or poor in pride. He asks us to mourn with those that mourn, or be empathetic towards others, and to be meek or humble. Then he asks us to seek after righteousness and be merciful. He asks us to be pure in heart and to be peacemakers. We can apply this to ourselves. Christ wants us to humble ourselves and feel sorry for the sins we have committed. Then He wants us to humble ourselves again and come unto him and live His gospel. He asks us to be kind towards others and help them as they come unto Christ.

Then he concludes the beatitudes with verse 10 which says, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Both the beginning and the end say, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” By doing this, Christ showed that this is a progression and a cycle. We must 
constantly be doing all of these things in order to return to live with Heavenly Father.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ knew that it would be impossible for us to be perfect. But that’s why we have the gospel. By living the gospel and following Christ’s example, we can get closer and closer to perfection and live with Heavenly Father again.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Trial of Your Faith

Many times throughout the scriptures, and even throughout our lives, we notice that there is a pattern when we get to a spiritual high point. Either before or after that point there is usually a trial.
In Matthew 4, Jesus fasts for 40 days and 40 nights and counsels with God. Then right after he’s done fasting Satan comes to tempt him. Satan asks him to prove that he is the Son of God, but Christ does not let Satan get to him.

When Joseph Smith went to the Sacred Grove to pray, he was overcome by Satan. He was surrounded by mists of darkness and he could not speak. Joseph did all he could to call upon Heavenly Father for help. But then right as Joseph was about to give up, a pillar of light shone down and Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith. They told him that none of the churches were true and that they wanted him to restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have definitely seen this pattern in my life. During my junior year of high school I basically didn’t have a testimony. I didn’t know if God heard my prayers, loved me, or even existed. I wasn’t happy and I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life. Then one night I prayed and I asked Heavenly Father to tell me what to do, and I would do it. The next day was General Conference and about 15 minutes into the meeting, President Monson lowered the mission age from 19 to 18 for young men and 21 to 19 for young women. I knew right then and there that that was my answer. It felt so right. I finally knew that Heavenly Father was there, that He hears and answers prayers, and that He loves me.

I know that we are given trials for a reason. Yes, they’re not fun. They’re not supposed to be. We are given trials to test our faith. But I know that Heavenly Father will bestow great blessings upon us if we stay faithful and true. 1 Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

By Small and Simple Things

In Luke 1 we read about the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she will conceive and that she will bear the Son of God. According to Jewish customs, girls became of age between 12 and 14 and boys became of age at 13. So Mary and Joseph were very young parents. I’m 18 and I’m definitely not ready to have kids for a long time! I cannot imagine having a baby at age 13. Mary could have said, “No way, I am not doing this! I am too young!” But instead she said, “How can I fulfill this?” She had perfect faith, faith like a child. The end of Mosiah 3:19 says, “…Becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Sometimes the Lord asks really difficult things of us, but he asks us to be obedient and faithful.
Many times throughout history, Heavenly Father has called upon His young servants to preach His gospel. Nephi was very young and helped lead his family to the Promised Land. Samuel the Lamenite was not very old when he prophesied of Christ’s birth. Captain Moroni was 25 when he led the Nephite army. And Joseph Smith was 14 when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ asked him to restore the true gospel. These people didn’t have to be old or have an incredibly strong testimony. They simply had to have faith, obey, and trust in the Lord.
Doctrine and Covenants 64:33-34 says, “33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. 34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.”  These “small things” or young people are building up the kingdom, because they are willing and they are obedient. This principle is evident now with the lowering of the age for full-time missionary service. 18 and 19 year old young men and young women are being sent throughout the world to invite others to come unto Christ. Yes, they don’t have a lot of life experience and yes they are not that mature. But Heavenly Father needs them in the mission field right now, and more than 80,000 have answered the call to serve.
I am one of these “small things.” I have been called to serve in the New Hampshire Manchester mission and I report to the MTC on July 30th. I know that this will be the hardest thing I have ever done, but I know that this is what Heavenly Father needs me to do. I am ready and willing to serve and I can’t wait to get out there!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Feeling the Spirit

In the New Testament, there are four books called “The Gospels.” These books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All of them give an account of Jesus Christ’s life, his teachings, and their testimonies of Him. Each author describes Christ’s life differently, but they all work together in harmony to form a complete gospel and witness of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Everyone feels and interprets the Spirit differently. This is evident in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  They wrote their own personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences as they followed the Savior. Although some of their writings are similar, their accounts are unique. All of these apostles were present when Christ gave his Sermon on the Mount and performed miracles. They all heard and saw the same things, but each of them may have gotten something different out the message, which is why their writings are not the same. Just as for this assignment, we all read the same article, but have written different responses to it. I learned about the Spirit, while another student may not have received this same inspiration. This is a true testimony that the Spirit is the ultimate teacher. He knows exactly what we need to hear and when we need to hear it.

In the October 2013 General Conference when President Monson lowered the mission age, I felt the Spirit testify to me that I needed to serve a full time mission. There were a lot of young men and women who received the same answer, but some did not. A close friend of mine received the answer that she was not supposed to serve a mission, but was to do missionary work for the dead in the temple. We received different answers from the same message, but the answers were specifically meant for us. I know that the Spirit is real, that He testifies truth, and that the promptings and answers we receive are personal and especially for ourselves.   

New Testament Assignments

I'm taking a New Testament class right now at BYU, and we have a daily journal assignment. After our class on Mondays and Wednesdays we are to write our thoughts and insights on that days lecture and on our own personal scripture study. We are also supposed to share our daily journal somehow, so I will be posting mine here! I hope that my journals will be inspirational and inspiring to you as you read them!

<3 Melinda

Btw, I report to the MTC in exactly 90 days!!! :)