Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Best Marriage Advice I Know Of

Currently, I know quite a few people who are engaged or newlyweds. It makes me reflect on all the different marriage advice I've been given and overheard.

The best advice I know is to seek to become as an individual what you want your marriage to become, and what you want your spouse to become. One of the greatest things about this advice is it's something one can try to do before marriage as well as during. This advice could be summed up by paraphrasing Ghandi: "Be the change that you wish to see in [your marriage and family]."

To explain what I mean: if I want to my spouse to be more patient, I should try to learn patience. If I want my home to be more peaceful, I should try to have inner peace. If I want the family to have more financial security, I should learn to be more responsible with money, and so on.

Rather than focusing on what needs to change or guiding my spouse or children to change appropriately, I should focus on bettering myself. I believe that this is truly following Christ's example. In the New Testament we have many of the Lord's teachings and miracles recorded; almost all of these things occurred in the final 3 years of His life. Before He began His mortal ministry, He privately, quietly lived a perfect life for 30 years. He perfectly lived everything He taught, and in doing so became the greatest teacher to walk to earth.

I'm not saying we shouldn't counsel together with our spouses and families; of course we should. There are also exceptions to this advice - for example, no one in an abusive relationship should work on becoming better so that the abuser will stop. Anyone facing these kind of problems should seek appropriate help immediately - but the ideal is that becoming better will help those around us more than offering good advice. If my children regularly see me reading then they are more likely to read than if I tell them books are awesome and they shouldn't watch TV so much.

Many times in my life I've felt uplifted and improved by those around me, and I have felt the strongest positive influence from people who I know to be of high character because of who they are. Who my role models are has always been more important than what they've said. I believe that following this advice allows me or anyone to have the same power to uplift marriages and families.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Making Things Right

Throughout life countless things happen that we wish didn't happen. Some large number of these are things that we do to each other because we are imperfect, and some things we do now are things that we'll inevitably regret and wish we could undo later.

This brings me to a question: can we really make things right? If we are able to turn from our sins and walk justly, what of all of the lost time? What of the good we were supposed to be doing, the people we were supposed to help?

I know that exactly this is the power of an infinite Atonement; through Christ we can repent even from years of living below the standards of what we knew was right. I believe that, even in the most desperate scenarios, there is a way. I have felt this in answer to my prayers.

I do not know how, but I believe that part of the way Christ can solve unsolvable problems - even the most horrible ones - is that this life holds neither the beginning nor the end of our existence. This world is unjust, but it is only act two of our being, our final state will not be revealed here.

I know that Christ paid the unfathomable price to be able to mend our ways. He is our Lord and Savior; because of Him we can correct uncorrectable mistakes. I can only speculate as to the how, but I know that it is.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Learning Divine Truths

Many people in the world find it hard to understand why people have faith; many people who want to have faith find it difficult to strengthen that faith. One explanation for the difficulty in comprehending divine truths and having faith in them comes in the New Testament:

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
In these verses we see a main idea repeated: we must understand God through the Spirit of God instead of relying solely on our own intelligence. The Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of God, teaches truth and speaks directly to us if we seek Him and will listen to Him.

It is completely normal to want to understand things all in our own heads, but some questions lie beyond our scientific knowledge, and even outside our mortal understanding, such as: What is an eternity? Where do we come from? Why do we live? Where have our predecessors gone? Are they lost to us forever, or will we meet again someday, somehow? Why do disease, suffering and pain exist? Why was I born to my parents and in my country?

I cannot answer these questions of myself, nor can I fully comprehend the answers that I do have, and yet I can say that I know that God has a plan. How can I know that God has a plan? I have sought Him in prayer and in study, and I try to understand as much as I can. As He is my Father, He understands my limitations and weaknesses, and He sends the Spirit to teach and guide me.

It is by the Spirit that I know, and the Father will send the Spirit to teach all of us if we are willing. The scriptures say that He will tell us in our minds and in our hearts. I remember one person who described the first answer to his prayer as the sweetest orange you could ever eat, with a feeling that permeated his entire being like juice flows from an orange when you bite into it. Others may receive it differently, but I know that God answers prayers for all those who seek with real intent.

I pray that we may all go to our Creator as we seek greater knowledge and understanding. I know that He will teach us line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, until our cup runneth over.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Perfect Sacrifice

All of mankind, every last one of us, are sinners. We all fall short of our best, no matter what our best is. God The Father knew this when He created us, but He also knew that we needed the chance to be born on earth and have the experience of mortal life. At the same time, no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, and we needed some way to become clean despite our inevitable sins.

The Father created a plan for a Savior to sacrifice for all of us, so that we may all have the opportunity to repent of our sins. The Book of Mormon teaches that this Savior's sacrifice needed to be a "great and last sacrifice," and that it must also be "infinite and eternal." Jesus, The Son, then volunteered to come to earth and be the Savior called for in God's plan, which we call the Plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness. He offered Himself as the infinite and eternal sacrifice.

In what ways was His sacrifice infinite and eternal? If one is going to pay for the sins of all of humanity that has ever lived, every last one of our sins, then the sacrifice must be infinite to be able to cover everyone; it must be eternal in order to span all of humanity's existence.

He was the Son of God. The Savior was born of Mary, but His father is The Father of us all. As such, He was not subject to death as the rest of us are. He has power over death, just as He has power over nature, sickness, and really all things. He is eternal, and therefore His sacrifice is eternal.

Before anaesthesia worked as well as it does today, it was common practice to restrain the patient for painful procedures. Most of us cannot prevent ourselves from fighting back against pain, even if we know we need the operation done. What bands could've held our Lord's power for Him to submit to whipping, scorn, and utter humiliation? Even worse, to suffer all this at the hands of pathetic men revelling in the power of ruling a subdued nation. His sacrifice was infinite in humility: He had power over every soldier and ruler and could've exercized it as easily as over the fig tree, yet He chose to submit.

He was perfect. He never fell short in any way. This is almost incomprehensible. Of all of the things we do every day, how many can we do perfectly? I think I'm now perfect at getting my right shoe on my right foot. I think I'm really good at washing my hands, but I don't think I'm 100% perfect at it. Our Savior lived a perfect life. I've never lived a perfect day. His sacrifice was infinite and eternal because He was completely innocent and He was sacrificed for us, the guilty. The only man ever to achieve mind-bogglingly impossible perfection willingly suffered and died for us, despite the fact that we do not deserve it.

I do not understand how our Savior paid for all of our sins. I don't understand how it is possible for Him to take upon Himself all of our guilt and also all of our pains and sufferings. I cannot comprehend how He can do this for me, let alone for everyone. However, I know that it is true. I know that He bridges the infinite gap between our sinful mortality and the eternal glory of God.

Monday, August 18, 2014

All Is Not Lost

A week ago today the news spread that Robin Williams died; he committed suicide, at least partially because he suffered from depression. This was shocking news to many of his fans and has lead to a lot of media coverage and commentaries both on suicide and mental illness. Hopefully, at least some of this coverage may help anyone suffering similarly to know they aren't alone and help them become aware of some of the resources available to help those contemplating taking their own lives.

Those who have had friends and or loved ones that end their own lives know how tragic it is. Death is very difficult to accept, and attempting to understand why our loved one would seek his or her own life makes it even harder to comprehend. Feelings of guilt, questioning why I didn't see it coming or if I could've stopped it often can creep into the minds of those who loved the person the most. It can seem that there is no way out of the emotional pit those left behind have fallen into.

I want to say that all is not lost. Through Christ, all is never lost. It can seem that someone who commits suicide has died in the midst of a terrible sin, and one might be tempted to judge that this person must be lost forever; however, the Church doesn't teach it this way:

It is wrong to take a life, including one’s own. However, a person who commits suicide may not be responsible for his or her acts. Only God can judge such a matter. -The Handbook on Administering the Church
I am grateful for this wise council on an extremely difficult and emotional matter; we might think that because we knew someone so well that we know what was going on in their heads, but we don't. I feel liberated to know that a Loving God can sort out the hearts and minds of those whose burdens are indeed heavy. I know that Christ loves and knows all of us, and my faith tells me that even the most wounded among us may not be beyond His help.

Many things seem like they will never work out - for a time. Many trials feel like they are too heavy to bare - for a time. If anyone is considering ending their own life, please seek immediate help in every way possible; the link I just posted has a 24/7 hotline as well as an option to chat. If anyone is suffering because of a loved one who chose this path, I repeat my thesis: all is not lost. The Atonement is infinite and eternal. Christ, through His sacrifice and selflessness, gained an infinite and eternal ability to help and bless others; He is after the one who suffers in the wilderness.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Overcome all things"

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 we have a description of those who will be exalted in the Celestial Kingdom. The description says that these "overcome by faith" and later says: "And they shall overcome all things."

For those unfamiliar, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches about more than just heaven and hell. We call hell "outer-darkness" and believe that only those who know Christ and wilfully rebel against Him will be sent there; all the rest go to a kingdom of glory in heaven: the Telestial, Terrestrial, or Celestial Kingdom, which correspond to the stars, the moon, or the sun respectively. The Celestial Kingdom has the glory of the sun and is where we all hope to go.

These phrases teach us a bit about how we can get there and what blessings we will enjoy should we get there. If we get there, it means we overcame by faith in this life. In other words, we rely on the Lord to get through the trials we face here. A few differences between simply overcoming and overcoming by faith might be:

- Humility in recognizing we need the Lord's blessing and are delivered by His mercy.
- Greater patience while we wait for a trial to pass.
- A willingness to submit to the Lord's will.
- Obedience to the Lord's commandments even in difficulty.
   - Such obedience is a sign of abiding faith.

We are also promised that if we are going to the Celestial Kingdom we will overcome all things. This promise seems great beyond comparison and comprehension. Imagine staring at your greatest insecurity in the mirror without the slightest twinge of inadequacy. How about knowing that your worst fears can have no power over you? This is just the beginning of the deep peace of overcoming all things through faith.

I know that God would have us be strong and empowered through His Son. It is true that if we come unto Christ He will show us our weakness, but none who follow Christ will be laid low. Instead, they shall "mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sharing Is Caring

My primary class tomorrow is on the subject of sharing, and preparing it got me thinking: people that don't learn to share can never really be happy. The Lord taught: "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." When we hoard things to ourselves we lost them, and when we share them we truly gain them.

There are an enormous number of evils in the world because we don't share with each other: there is enough food for everyone in the world, but we have starving people. Information is freely available but many are kept in ignorance. There's so much of virtually every human necessity that we throw away the leftovers we can't use, but because so many choose to establish their personal worth in a comparative manner many needlessly suffer.

It is probably more practical to look at what happens to each of us personally if we don't share. I said that if we don't learn to share we cannot be happy; at the very least we cannot be as happy as people who share willingly. The philosophy of not sharing vs. sharing can explain my point.

Not sharing teaches me that I don't have enough. The more extreme I become in not sharing, the more I will ultimately believe that I need more, and that this need trumps all others. My things come before those around me. Sharing tells me that I can spare a little to help my brother or sister in need; I will figure out how to make do with less. It teaches me that my fellow earth-dwellers are more valuable than my possessions. Not sharing is ultimately the path of greed, over-indulgence, and the endless pursuit of more. Sharing is ultimately the path of love, self-denial, and taking care of others.

Knowing what we know: that this world is a temporary stop on an eternal journey, and that everything here must perish, which path is correct? Which leads to happiness? Should we be the one who is filled with love and will rejoice with friends in the next life, or will we hear the words: "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?"

Sharing, or giving more completely of ourselves, is something anyone can get better at. If we all reflect, we can probably see many ways that we fall short of the Master's example of perfect selflessness. I know that I have many. I can say that when I manage to share and to love not the illusion I am truly happy, and I receive the blessings of God far beyond what I deserve.