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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Repentance: A Deeper Cleaning

Before I left on my mission I was working with my Branch President to resolve a couple of transgressions. I did what I needed to do, and left on my mission. I’ve since worked with my bishops to repent of various things that come up, but it wasn’t until this past Sunday that I fully understood repentance.

Imagine, if you will a gorgeous home with a beautiful white carpet that you swear twinkles silver in the right light. One day, you come home from a hunting trip and forget to take your shoes off as you sneak in late at night. The next morning you hear a wail coming from the hallway. You run out to find your wife staring at the muddy, maybe even bloody (you were hunting, right?) boot tracks going from the garage, into the kitchen, to the bathroom, then right into the bedroom. You made a mess, and it has to be cleaned!

In the traditional view of repentance you clean the boot prints, maybe even hire a professional carpet cleaner, or even replace some carpet! The problem is taken care of, and you vow to never come inside with muddy boots again.

Call it revelation. Call it actually reading the manual, but this last Sunday I had a spark of personal revelation about repentance that makes it so much more than spot cleaning.

Chapter 19 of the Gospel Principles Manuel outlines the repentance process, and goes a step further than the tried and true final step of repentance, which is to “NEVER DO IT AGAIN.” Under the subheading, “We must keep the commandments of God.” It reads, “To make our repentance complete we must keep the commandments of the Lord. We are not fully repentant if we do not pay tithes or keep the Sabbath day holy or obey the word of wisdom. We are not fully repentant if we do not sustain the authorities of the Church and do not love the Lord and our fellowmen. If we do not pray and are unkind to others, we are surely not repentant. When we repent, our life changes.”

So, going back to our example, when we choose to clean the carpet and never bring our muddy boots inside again, to be truly repentant, we don’t only get those carpets spotlessly cleaned, but we work to keep the rest of the house clean as well. We vacuum the floors, clean the bathrooms, and dust the house. And not just the one time! We keep the house clean, and continually work to make sure it doesn’t fall into a state is disrepair. It is no longer about filthy boots, it is about our beautiful home.

Knowing this, I can look back on my life and see that I’ve never truly repented. Sure, I’ve improved my life overall, and I’ve made a lot of good choices, but I don't think I've ever become a "new creature” in Christ. (Mosiah 27:26, 2 Cor 5:17) I still have a long way to go. Now, it is my duty to clean my own proverbial house, and to keep it clean. I must learn to be Christlike to others, better keep the Sabbath day holy, watch my language, and a score of other things.

What it really comes down to is following the Savior's admonition found in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Only then can we become new men in Christ.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Teaching in the Lord's way


It was early in 2000 in the Arimo Idaho Stake. My companion and I, through hard work and prayer, found ourselves teaching 10 different families. We had great relationships with them. They were all great families. However, their progress was slow.

We couldn't figure out why, but kept at the work. We did everything the two of us could do to tailor each visit to the family's individual needs. Each visit, we hoped, would be the big step to baptism, and each visit seemed only a mini-step in their progression.

It wasn't for another 15 years that I would realize that everything we were teaching, though good, didn't really matter. Don't get me wrong, what missionaries teach is important, but what we were teaching didn't matter to the people it needed to matter to, the investigators.

Our voices were nothing more than little finger cymbals tinkling away in the background. It wasn't that we didn't love them, for we did love them dearly. It was that we had not worked to instill them the testimony of the Holy Ghost. We were so busy teaching STUFF, that we neglected to make them aware of the Holy Ghost, much less encourage them to learn by it. How could we overlook such an important step in their conversion?


Everybody in the church has heard, and knows that conversions only happen through, and by the Spirit. But how do we as members and missionaries make that happen?

I can only really speak from my own experience. When I investigated the church I remember the Elders excitedly pointing out every time I felt the Spirit. When I expressed that I felt the Book of Mormon made sense, they told me, "That feeling, that's the Spirit telling you it's true." Looking back, I recognize the power that recognition had on me. It was the most important thing they told me during the entire two weeks they taught me.

So, how does a missionary recognize the Spirit? A seminary teacher, Brother Richardson was teaching a class I was sitting in on, and he told the class that there were angels in the room. He stated that he could not see the angels themselves, but could see their effect upon the class. That was how he knew.

So, as a missionary, future missionary, member missionary, it is vital that you yourself learn to see the effect of the Holy Spirit on others. Learn to recognize the Holy Ghost when it sets upon yourself and others. Maybe the best place to make this observation is in church. As you attend your classes, pay attention to those AHA! moments people have. Pay attention to the effect the Spirit has on members during fast and testimony, when it hits them strong and their emotions overflow.


Remember D&C 42:14 "And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach."

Begin your lessons (long before your lesson) with the prayer of faith, meaning faith "nothing wavering" (James 1:6) that the person you are teaching has the will, desire, and ability to progress, receive the Spirit, and gain a testimony. (Don't underestimate them!)

Then remember that the second part of that scripture isn't a commandment, it's a fact. If you don't have that faith, you won't have the Spirit. If you don't have the Spirit, nothing you teach will matter to your investigator.

Lastly, Study how to recognize and  teach by the Spirit from the Prophets and Apostles. They are truly your second greatest source of inspiration (the first being the Spirit himself.)


As you learn to teach by the Spirit, I promise you that teaching will change for you. What was once a struggle will be an open door, and the Light of Christ will lead the way. You will find more people coming to the baptismal font, and coming back to full activity, not because they listened to you, but because you helped them listen to the Spirit of the Lord.

Friday, April 17, 2015

EQ Lesson 8: The Power of the Word

I've been trying to prepare this post for a week and a half now, but every distraction that could distract me has distracted me! I began reading reading the lesson last week, but had very little ability to get past the first two pages. It was as if I were being blocked by every Earthly hindrance. Upon pondering the problem, I was reminded of the First Vision. When Joseph Smith began his solemn prayer to Heavenly Father, Satan immediately set upon him in an attempt to stop this latter day work from coming forth. I'm no Joseph Smith, but I can testify that Satan will do everything in his power to keep men from doing the work of God.

Upon that enlightenment, I have dedicated myself to the study of this lesson, as I know there are things therein I (and my students) need to learn. So, this can't be any normal lesson, now can it?

As I began studying this lesson I was struck by the fact that this was no ordinary lesson. This lesson was from a special Leadership Training, and President Benson felt that his message to the Leadership was important enough to be printed in the next Ensign, for all the membership to see. As I read, I had an unshakable sense that these words, from the Prophet of God held a great weight, and that in them were promises which if followed, could bless the lives of many.

I also got the sense that the promises made by President Benson fit under the edict found in D&C 130:20-21, that doing as he said would yield very specific, and very powerful blessings.

So, what did President Benson promise? In short, he promises that immersing ourselves in the scriptures daily will give us protection against the adversary, and help us to resist the temptations of our times.

This promise is even more important to us today than it was in 1986. The tempestuous paths our membership can get into today make the 1980's look like simpler, easier, and safer times. Heck, the 80's look innocent in comparison.

So what is it about studying scriptures that makes them so powerful? Here are a few things:

The Word of God

The scriptures are the word of God, but reading the scriptures themselves isn't enough. You can read the scriptures cover to cover and never read anymore than facts and stories. To get the most out of the scriptures we have to have the Holy Ghost with us. This of course, requires prayer. It also requires us to "meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein." (Joshua 1:8) When we meditate on the word of God, it is then that the Lord can "put [his] law in [our] inward parts, and write it in [our] hearts." (Jeremiah 31:33)

Similarly, Moroni instructs to read, ponder, and pray. (Moroni 10:3-5). However, I like to think that meditation has a deeper connotation than pondering. Meditation connotes the making of a spiritual connection to the object of our focus.

The Holy Ghost

For just a moment, I'd like you to think about the scriptures just a little bit differently than you have previously. Think about them as a tool. Not a tool to be more Christlike, repent, or live the Mormon life. No, not even a tool for you. The scriptures are a tool for the Holy Ghost to use on you. Without the Holy Ghost the scriptures are just a collection of rules, stories, and genealogies. With the Holy Ghost however, the Master Carpenter can use the scriptures (as a tool) to form you into something amazing, for it is only the Holy Ghost that teaches our spirits.


The scriptures give us faith to live the gospel. When we read the scriptures we read what the Lord has done for those who came before us. He parted the red sea. He brought Lehi and his family safely across the ocean. He protected Abinadi as he testified against King Noah. He caused a mighty change of heart in Nephi the Younger. If the Lord has done all these things for others, can he not do the same for us?


One of the common questions I get asked from patients is, "What do I have to do to get out of here?" (I work in inpatient psych.) Usually they're looking for concrete answers, and quite often our staff provide those answers, "Go to groups, take your meds, follow the rules." In my head I'm yelling, "You're missing the point!" The answer is to, "Improve your health, learn to control your actions, increase your hope, and learn how to better manage your life and your illness."

Like my patients, we often lack insight into our spiritual health. "How do I get to the Celestial Kingdom?" "Have faith, repent, be baptized, endure to the end." As nice as it would be, our place in the celestial kingdom will not be held depending on how many check marks we checked on the list of righteousness. We will be judged by our intangibles.


There are of course many more things that can be added to this list. What this lesson comes down to is gaining a testimony of the power of the word of God, not just in the scriptures, but from our modern prophets, and through personal revelation, then acting on that testimony and reading the scriptures, and seeking personal revelation every day.

I want to add my testimony to President Benson's. I have seen great blessings from studying the scriptures often. I am more patient, and kind. I make better decisions based on the promptings of the Spirit. I think less about myself, and more about others. I am better guarded against the world, and better able to live righteously, My decisions are easier to make, because I have a pattern by which to make them. And most of all, I am more receptive to the Holy Spirit, so am able to be guided better by it. In Jesus' holy name, Amen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Of Our Misplaced Faith

A couple days ago I picked up my Book or Mormon, and chose a random scripture to read during my lunch break, What I read was eye opening. It showed me that my faith in missionary work has been misplaced. Heck, maybe my faith as a whole has been misplaced, and maybe I need to make that self-evaluation.

The scripture I read is Ether 12:14: 

"Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost."

We are all guilty of it to some degree. We ponder the faith of our friends, and our family. We say to ourselves, and to the missionaries at our dinner table that "They're not ready." "Oh, she would never listen to the discussions." "He wouldn't be interested right now." "They're a great family, but they both drink, and smoke." etc. etc. etc.

When we ponder the individuals and families we want to share the gospel with, we often place our faith (or lack of faith) in them. After all, it is up to them whether or not they join the church, right? It's not that they don't have faith, many of them do, but its not their faith that will bring them to the waters of baptism. No, it is our faith in them and their ability to change, our faith in ourselves to take the first step toward their conversion, our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to guide our hands, and to affect change in the hearts and minds of his children. We too can be as Nephi and Lehi to change the hearts of the people, but we must first realize that it is our part to have the faith to do so.

Sometimes I look at this city I live in, Portland, Oregon, and I wonder how can we teach and baptize the people here? It's quite the strange city, where coffee, microbreweries, and strip clubs are as much a part of the culture as church buildings, Temples, and Diet Coke are in Provo, Utah. It is not their lack of faith that blinds their eyes, so much as our lack of faith in them that gives them nothing to see. It is not their inability to change that prevents them from repenting, so much as our lack of faith in their ability to change that gives them nothing to change for. It is OUR responsibility to be the catalyst for change in their hearts, not their own.

Brothers and sisters, look into your hearts and ask yourselves:

Do I have faith that those I love can be changed? 

Do I have faith that they will see the light of the Gospel?

Do I have faith that they are capable of 

Do I have faith that if I deliver the message of the gospel to my friends that the Holy Ghost will testify to them of the truth of all things? 

Do I have faith that through the Atonement, those I love can find peace, fulfillment, and the ability to change into the sons and daughters of God?

If you can't answer yes, then it is time to plant the seed of your faith, and nurture it until you can.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Let's Move Beyond Tolerance

Todays is a short post penned on my lunch break. 12 hour shifts don't lend themselves to freetime.

Today we honor Martin Luther King Jr. It bothers me that even if our country is outwardly more pleasant to those of other races, cultures, religions, and ideals we are largely unchanged inwardly. A quick review of news sites, social media, and the internet in general can reveal this unfortunate reality.

My hope is that America will someday move beyond mere tolerance, and begin to appreciate one another.

May you all have a blessed day, and remember to do as Christ did, and serve one another, regardless of station.