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It has been wisely said, â€śService is the rent we pay for our own room on earth.â€ť We should be carefully reminded that the rent is due on a daily basis, and because of that, we will never receive a receipt that is stamped â€śpaid in full.â€ť
President Spencer W. Kimball taught:Â
It is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowman, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves. In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus, that by loosing ourselves, we find ourselves. Â (Ensign, December 1974, p.2, 5).
Have you ever stopped to wonder what it is that truly motivates you to do the things that you do? Do you go about life seeking only those things which will gain you some type of personal recognition, or do you do the things you do, thinking not solely of yourself, but with the best interests of others at heart?
For example, I have been blessed with the talent and ability to be able to share my thoughts and feelings through the things that I write and share with others. But, sometimes I have to take a step back and ask myself if I am writing in hopes that someone will recognize my talents and abilities, or am I writing in hopes that someone will read what I have written and be blessed by what they have read. I pray that the latter will always be true. I pray that I will always live my life with the realization that it is not about me and what I may be able to do, but what I can do to be a blessing to others. Even with my writing I am in some small way rendering a service to others. And as Russell C. Taylor once said, â€śService opens windows in your life instead of just mirrors that always reflect yourself.â€ť The things that I do are not just for me, but for the love of my brother.
I personally believe that to a certain extent we all want to be recognized for the things that we do. However, sometimes we can get so caught up in ourselves that we fail to see anyone else but ourselves.
Even sometimes when we are preparing a message or a lesson for Church, we tend to feel that it has to be the greatest message ever delivered or the greatest lesson ever taught. Afterwards, if we are not careful, we can feel as though what we said or taught was ineffective, especially if no one comes to us and thanks us for our â€śgreatâ€ť efforts. If we find ourselves in this situation, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, â€śWas the message that I delivered or the lesson that I taught for my glory or for His glory?â€ť If we look at things in the proper perspective, of being in His service and bringing Him glory, our entire approach - from preparation, to delivery, to finish will be different. We will experience a certain peace unlike any other. A peace that â€ścan come to both the giver and the receiver as we follow the promptings of the Spirit to serve one another.â€ť (Barbara W. Winder; Ensign, November 1985, p. 96.)
Along those same lines we need to ask ourselves what audience we are intending to reach with our message. Do we expect that our message will reach the world, or do we focus on reaching the one who desperately hungers for the spiritual bread that we have that can satisfy that hunger? Our concern should not be for any type of self recognition, but our focus and concern should be for the love and edification of another - for the love of our brother. Even when we are delivering a message or teaching a class, we are rendering a service to our brothers and sisters. As President Spencer W. Kimball taught us, â€śGod does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.â€ť (Ensign, December 1974, p. 5.) And Elder Richard G. Scott taught, â€śIf you would be loved, love another. If you would be understood, show understanding to another. If you would find peace, harmony, and happiness, lift another.â€ť (Ensign, November 1983, p. 71.)
In every area of our lives - in the home, on our jobs, at school, in the community in which we live, and in the Church that we attend - we have the opportunity to be of service to our brothers and sisters. Some of our acts of kindness and service may be great, some may be small. Some may be noticeable, and some may not be noticeable at all. In some cases the one receiving the service may be totally unaware as to who rendered the service, but as our beloved Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson has taught, â€śLoving service anonymously given may be unknown to man - but the gift and the giver are known to God.â€ť (Ensign, May 1983, p. 57.)
Perhaps Bryant S. Hinckley summarized it best when he said:
Service is the virtue that has distinguished the great of all times and which they are remembered by. It places a mark of nobility upon its disciples. It is the dividing line which separates the two great groups of the world - those who help and those who hinder, those who lift and those who lean, those who contribute and those who only consume. How much better it is to give than to receive. Service in any form is comely and beautiful. To give encouragement, to impart sympathy, to show interest, to banish fear, to build self-confidence and awaken hope in the hearts of others, in short to love them and to show it, is to render the most precious service. Â (New Era, June 1975, p. 14.)
As we journey through this life, it is my humble prayer that we may do so realizing that we are not the center of the universe and the sun does not rise nor set merely upon us. If in our lives we are able to help our brothers and sisters to lighten the heavy load that they may bear, in even the smallest of ways, then our living will not be in vain. Let us live our lives realizing and understanding that it is not all about â€śme.â€ť The real blessings in life come when we forget about ourselves, and focus on doing things that will help lift another - when we do things for the love of our brother.
I leave these humble thoughts with you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Tags: Love Compassion Service
I have always been blessed in life to have full use of my physical abilities and five senses. As a result, it has become easy over the course of my life to take having those things for granted. I could never imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning without the use of them, but yet there are people who live their entire lives without the full use of their physical abilities, or with the loss of one or more of their five senses. To live their lives in that manner has to be frustrating at best, but yet if you were to speak to some of them they could tell you stories of how their life limitations have not only blessed them, but have allowed them to be a blessing to others.
Of the five senses, I would have to say that the most important one for me is my vision. I love to read and write and so I greatly depend on being able to have my vision. I never realized just how important that is until the vision in my right eye started to give me major problems in October 2010 leading to cataract surgery in November 2010 in hopes that the vision would clear up. Unfortunately, things did not go as well as expected.
For the past eleven months, since my cataract surgery, I have been coping with extreme vision problems in my right eye. Several physicians from both the Veterans Association Hospital, and now the physicians at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Maryland, have been working with me to try and figure out why it is that no medication that has been prescribed or procedures performed seem to make any difference as far as being able to clear up the vision in that eye. Finally, about a month ago, it was decided that a biopsy should be performed to see if there would be anything discovered that might help shed some light on this situation. The biopsy did show that there is a small infection growing in my right eye and a couple of weeks ago I was given two antibiotic injections in my right eye in hopes of combating the infection.
The good news is that the inflammation and bleeding in front of the eye seem to have settled down, and the swelling in back of the eye has significantly decreased since July of this year. However, still at best, all that I am able to see with my right eye are hazy shadows of objects, and that is only when the objects are extremely close to me. My line of sight with that eye, as compared to my left eye, is extremely narrow, as objects literally appear to be washed out or disappear altogether as they are moved further and further away. Real bright lights being shined directly in right eye have become my arch nemesis because of the blinding effect that it causes. That has become one of the main reasons that I have had to curtail a lot of late night driving other than in areas that I am most familiar with. Also there appears to be no discernible color distinction with using only my right eye and so everything that I am able to see with that eye is in black and white.
Some people may look at my situation as a major setback. Others, if faced with a similar challenge, may even give up hope altogether. I choose; however, to be thankful that I still have one good eye, and with that eye I am still able to function and do the things that I need to do with minor limitations. Yes, it may be true that I may never regain full vision in my right eye, but that is not a reason to lose hope and quit. Frank A. Clark whose instructive and insightful "The Country Parson" sermons were treasured by loyal fans once said, â€śIf you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.â€ť Someone has also said, â€śA bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn.â€ť To me, my situation is just a small bend in the road that I am traveling, and by faith and determination, I choose to make the turn at the bend to continue on my journey.
I will admit that it does get frustrating at times when I want to do things and even my left eye after being put to full use for so many hours of the day grows tired and irritated prohibiting me from doing all that I have planned. Nevertheless, I am still blessed to be able to continue with my writing and to share the things that I write with others who are in turn blessed. As I think about my own minor infirmity, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul when he asked the Lord three times to take away the thorn in the flesh that had been given him and the Lord replied, â€śMy grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weaknessâ€ť (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul responds by saying, â€śMost gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christâ€™s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strongâ€ť (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). We are also taught in the Book of Mormon, in Ether 12:27, â€śAnd if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.â€ť
In this life each of us will have our challenges to face â€“ our own â€śthorns in the fleshâ€ť as it were, but we must decide whether we are going to give in and claim defeat, or become determined to continue to carry on. I may only have one eye that is functioning at an hundred percent at the moment, but I will humbly continue to press forward with the sure knowledge that the Lord will give me the strength that is necessary to do the things that are required of me. Yes, physically I may have only one good eye, but spiritually by His grace which is sufficient; I am able to see clearly with both eyes because I am seeing through the eyes of faith.
These humble thoughts I leave with you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Tags: Faith Vision Trials Tests Adversity Trust
I know that someone is going to read the title of this article and their first thought is going to be, "Keith, I think that you might have that a little backwards. Shouldn't the title read "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Perhaps it should, for that seems to be the question that is asked with great frequency these days. People have a hard time understanding why it is that the harder they try, there always seem to be some obstacle that stands in their way of succeeding. They believe that they are good people, so why do bad things always seem to happen to them? Why is it that they are always the ones that seem to find themselves in financial distress, without employment, in marriages that just don't seem to work and sometimes ultimately end in divorce, or always in poor health or constantly sick? Why is it that it seems they are always the ones who suffer while the bad people of the world seem to have it all and never have to deal with such adversities in life? Some even take it to the far extreme as to say and believe that God does not love them and that He is punishing them for one reason or another.
It would be easy to answer the question by simply saying that into every life a little rain must fall, and that rain does fall on both the just and the unjust. But that would not prove to be a satisfactory answer for most, as perhaps their next question would be, "Ok Keith, if that is the case, then why does it always seem to downpour on me and only sprinkle on others? Why isn't the amount of rain evenly distributed on good people as well as bad people?" That leads right back to the idea behind the question that was originally asked, and so we find that the discussion leads us into a continuous, endless circle without any real resolution.
First of all, and perhaps in some cases we will have to agree to disagree, we need to establish the fact that we are all children of our Heavenly Father and He does love each of us equally and unconditionally. However, we have been reminded in the scriptures that this earth life is a time to prepare, a time to learn, and a time to progress (see Alma 34:32-34). Each of us has been given the ability to choose. Therefore, we have the opportunity to make bad choices as well as good choices. In other words, a lot of the suffering and bad things that occur in our lives happen because of our poor choices. In some cases, not all, we are the ones who â€śallowâ€ť bad things to happen.
Sometimes the bad things that happen are a result of evil choices by others that cause suffering to the innocent. An excellent example of this is found in the Book of Mormon in the book of Alma. While two great men, Alma and Amulek, were preaching to the ancient people of Ammonihah, they were thrown into prison. They were forced to watch as the believers, including women and children, were thrown into a fire and burned along with the scriptures. Distressed, Amulek asked if they could call upon Godâ€™s power to stop it. But the Spirit told Alma that â€śthe Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against themâ€ť (Alma 14:11). The good news is that those who are innocent will be received by the Lord in glory, and those who have injured the innocent will be judged by the Lord.
The book of Job in the Old Testament also addresses this issue. God had allowed Satan to do everything he wanted to Job except kill him. Job responded to this by saying, "Naked came I out of my motherâ€™s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). Throughout all of his trials, afflictions, and adversities, Job continued to testify of his confidence and trust in the Lord and said, "Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand? Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him" (Job 13:14-16). Job did not understand why God had allowed the things He did, but he knew God loved him and so in spite of his situation and circumstances he "sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (Job 1:22). Ultimately, in our times of trials and adversity, instead of doubting God's goodness, we should learn to "Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart; and lean not unto [our] own understanding. In all [our] ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct [our] paths" (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
In other cases, accidents take place where fault or choice is not an issue. In those cases, the Lord has promised us the strength to cope with the things we must live with. Often people who are injured permanently will tell you that they have learned many great things and have become better people even though they may wish that their accident had never occurred. Doctrine and Covenants 58:2â€“5 reminds us:
For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand. Remember this, which I tell you before, that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow.
And so, that is why I propose that the better question to ask is "Why do good things happen to bad people?" In Romans 5:8 we are taught, â€śBut God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Despite the evil, wicked, sinful nature of the people of this world, God still loves us. He loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to be the propitiation for all of our sins - past, present, and future. Truly He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, for He who knew no sin became the sacrificial lamb. He willingly gave His life to pay a debt that He did not owe, and one that none of us could have ever paid on our own. Because of His atoning sacrifice a way has been made possible for each of us, both good people, as well as bad people through the process of repentance, to one day return home to live eternally with our Heavenly Father.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. However, regardless of our situations or circumstances in life we must remember that God is good, just, loving, kind, and merciful. The Lord is aware of us all. He has shown us the way to return to Him. But, we have the choice whether to remain faithful or turn away from Him. The Lord can make weak things become strong, including our faith. We will be blessed exceedingly through the eternities if we will have faith and put our trust in Him and endure to the end!
Tags: Life Tests Trials Adversity Faith Endurance
It is of a certainty that this life is a continual test. There always seems to be something happening to try our patience and attempt to shake our faith. Just when we think that we have all the little fires in life under control, the alarm is sounded once again as we are called to fight yet another fire that is raging out of control. No doubt there are times in all of our lives when we get to the point where we feel that we have fought enough fires and we cannot handle having to respond to the alarm once again. We grow tired of breathing in the smoke from the ashes and rubbles of the pressures, stress, anguish, worries, and cares of day-to-day problems, and would just like a chance to breathe in some clean fresh air. We often find that it does not have to be big things that tend to get us down, but oftentimes it can also be small and insignificant things that can cause undue stress, worry, and anxiety.
Let me share two recent examples from my personal life to illustrate what I am talking about. I received a telephone call about three weeks ago from the rental office of my apartment complex informing me that my toilet was leaking down into the apartment below mine. The lady from the rental office started the conversation by trying to make it seem that I had full knowledge of the problem and that we had discussed it previously, but in reality this was the first time that I had heard of the problem. During the course of the conversation she asked if I would be willing to move to another apartment. Now, keep in mind that I had already paid all of the bills for the month including the rent and so my immediate thoughts were, â€śThere is no way that I can afford to pack up an entire apartment and move on a moments notice. Besides that, I am also under doctorâ€™s order not to do any excessive bending, straining, pulling, or lifting of anything over 10 pounds due to the fact that it could cause the pressures in my eyes to go up. Not to mention the fact that I would have to reestablish all services such as electric, cable, internet, and wireless network.â€ť I politely told her that moving was not an option and that they needed to come up with another viable option which she did not seem too happy about. I was taken aback by all of this and my mind began racing about what I was going to do. In my moments of frustration, a voice came to me asking, â€śDid you think to pray?â€ť After I settled down I prayed and asked Heavenly Father what I should do. I was given the answer to not worry about it, but to let Him handle everything. I had received the calm assurance that I was not going to have to move, but He had a different plan that would be worked out in my favor. I was both satisfied and relieved. I heard nothing more from the rental office concerning the matter.
A few days ago, on 29 September 2011, I was faced with another issue. When I went to my mailbox to get my mail there was a letter from the housing office. Again, even before opening the envelope, my mind and heart began racing and my first thoughts were â€śNow what?â€ť The envelope was postmarked 28 September 2011, and the address on the envelope was the address of the rental office which is about a 5 to 7 minute walk from my apartment building. However, when I opened the envelope the letter inside was dated 1 September 2011. The letter addressed the fact that the housing office had not heard from me concerning the renewal of my lease making it sound as if they had contacted me previously about the matter, which in reality they had not. The letter went on to say that they valued me as one of their tenants and wanted to renew my lease at an increase in price of 25 percent. I immediately walked to the rental office to find out what this letter I had just received was all about and to explain that there was no way that I could afford a 25 percent increase in rent. I also asked for an explanation as to why I was receiving a letter dated 1 September 2011 on 29 September 2011, 2 days before the rent was due and before the lease had to be renewed. The lady in the office said that she would make a telephone call the next day to the property owner, who was conveniently on vacation at the time, to see what could be negotiated. In my haste and frustration concerning the matter, I told her that I would settle for no more than a 10 percent increase in rent and even that was more than I had experienced in previous years.
I walked back to my apartment angry and frustrated. Once again a voice came to me asking the same question that I had been asked before, â€śDid you think to pray?â€ť Once I calmed down I began to call on my Heavenly Father and again asked Him what I should do. And again I was given the calm assurance to not worry about it, but to leave it in His hands. He let me know that everything was going to be alright.
On Friday afternoon, 1 October 2011, I met with the lady in the rental office to discuss the renewal of my lease after she had made a telephone call to the property manager. She began the conversation by saying that the property manager had said that she had sent me a previous letter, but I assured her that I never received that letter. She then went on to remind me that we had previously discussed a settlement of a 10 percent increase in rent, and then she asked me, â€śHow does a 5 percent increase sound instead?â€ť Heavenly Father was true to his Word and had worked it all out.
While I was there she also brought up the issue of my toilet leaking into the apartment below mine and told me that they were making final preparations to get the repairs done. Then she said that they are going to have me stay in the guest suite for 5 days while the repairs are being made. In addition to the repairs being made, they are also going to do some remodeling in my bathroom. Again, true to His Word, Heavenly Father had worked out all the details.
We all at times have a tendency to want to take matters into our own hands and attempt to solve problems our own way without ever talking to our Heavenly Father about any of it. Prayer is our life line between us and Him. There is no prayer that is too large or too small for Him to handle. He is always there - ready to answer our every plea. He never turns a deaf ear to anything that we have to say. He listens and He cares.
Instead of becoming angry, irritated, frustrated, and bitter over lifeâ€™s tests and challenges, may we always remember to spend some time speaking in earnest prayer with our Heavenly Father who always has a much better plan than any plan that we could ever devise. Let us ever be mindful to follow the admonition of the scriptures where we are taught to â€śBe careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto Godâ€ť (Philippians 4:6).
Are you feeling lonely, distressed, frustrated, angry, or bitter about situations in your life? If so, did you think to pray? As someone has wisely said, â€śPrayer - It works!â€ť I leave these thoughts with you humbly in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Tags: Prayer Life Tests Trials Challenges
When most of us think of what it means to be "perfect", we normally associate perfect as being flawless or without blemish. A dictionary definition of the word "perfect" would be rendered as that which is correct to the last detail. Oftentimes we refer to things as being picture-perfect, letter-perfect, or word-perfect. For example, "That was a letter-perfect rendition of the soliloquy" or "He was word-perfect in his part." And so, in our minds, to be perfect is to be right or correct one hundred percent of the time, and especially when conforming to fact or truth. In all fairness, when we apply this definition of perfect or being perfect to our own lives, none of us can say that we are perfect. In a very literal sense we are all a continual work in progress, striving to reach perfection, but not yet having obtained it. Perhaps it is because of this interpretation of the word "perfect" in a spiritual sense, such as "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), that we may give up even before we try, realizing how far short of the perfection of the Father we fall. However, a better understanding of the word "perfect" will allow us to see that it is indeed possible to become perfect. But, how is it possible to be "perfect" when Scriptures clearly teach us that, "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10), "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)? This is a truth that we cannot deny and John is very clear on this subject when he says in 1 John 1:8-10, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." Job, a true servant of the Lord, was a man who was "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1). When Abram was ninety-nine years of age, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Genesis 17:1). "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God" (Genesis 6:9). The Psalmist David was able to declare in Psalm 18:20-23: "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity." Therefore, is being perfect, upright, and of integrity only for the Bible greats such as Job, Abraham, and Noah? Is this perfection something that we have no hope of obtaining? What does it mean to be perfect? The Greek word "perfect" as found in Matthew 5:48 is telios. According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon, it means "brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, perfect, full-grown, adult, mature." The following uses of this word in the New Testament illustrate what it means to be perfect: 1. Beyond keeping the Ten Commandments, perfection is having love and concern for the poor by giving to them. - Matthew 19:16-22. 2. Perfection is being a daily living sacrifice of service, and not being conformed to this world, but transformed by the Holy Spirit to act upon the perfect will of the Almighty. - Romans 12:1-2; I Corinthians 2:1-16. 3. The purpose of the ministry is for the perfecting of the saints, that we will be united in the one true faith, complete in the knowledge of the Messiah, a perfect man like He is perfect, no more children tossed about. - Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:27-29. 4. Those who are becoming perfect have the Creator's mind - a mind of humility and service to one another. - Philippians 2:2-5, 19, 20; Philippians 3:15. Epaphroditus, or Epaphras, is an example of perfect service to the brethren. - Philippians 2:25-30; Colossians 4:12-13. 5. Unless we have advanced beyond the basic doctrines and beyond the milk of the word, and are able to teach others, we are not mature believers. - Hebrews 5:9 to 6:6. Notice the words translated "of full age" in Hebrews 5:14. The Greek word is telios. We who have been schooled for so many years in the truth ought now to be teachers, skilled in living and practicing the Word and able to teach others. 6. Patiently overcoming trials and temptations results in perfection. - James 1:2-8,12; I Peter 5:10. 7. Perfection comes from the Father who is perfect. - James 1:17- 18. 8. The spiritual law is a perfect law of liberty. Those who obey it are perfect. - James 1:23-25, 2:22. 9. The perfect man holds his tongue. - James 1:25-27, 3:1-18. 10. We must have perfect love - the bond that makes us perfect. - I John 4:18; Colossians 3:12-17. The Almighty's love is to be perfected in us. - I John 2:3-6. How is this done? By loving the brethren. - I John 4:11-21. "Nobody is perfect" is a common expression that is used even among Christians. However, perfection is not an illusory goal; it is our daily way of life. Our every effort is directed toward becoming perfect even as He is perfect. The Savior is the captain of our salvation, made perfect through suffering and obedience. Once we take our eyes off our Savior, perfection at once seems to be out of the realm of reality. Indeed without Him, perfection is impossible, but because of Him and all that He done for us through the atonement, we can be perfected in Him. I leave these thoughts with you humbly in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Tags: Perfection Perfect Christ-Like Christ Savior
â€śThe Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.â€ť - Psalm 27:1; 37:12-15
September 11, 2001 is a day that will long be remembered in history as a somber day of remembrance. On that day, a short decade ago, many innocent men, women, and children became fallen victims due to the vicious attacks that penetrated our shores. They were husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, sons and daughters. All of whom were gone too soon as their lives were snubbed out like a candle in the wind, but none of whom would soon be forgotten.
Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on that tragic day? Do you remember your reaction as you listened to and watched the various news broadcasts?
It started out as a day like any other. People were rushing here and there to get to work and to their appointed destinations. No one would have ever imagined the horrendous chain of events that would occur starting at 8:46:30 AM in New York City when American Flight 11crashed at a speed of roughly 466 mph (790 km/h) into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99. No doubt the reaction of those who witnessed that event was one of utter shock and amazement. How was it possible that an aircraft would be flying at that low of an altitude and mange to veer that far off course and crash into a building? Or, was this some sort of deliberate act, and if so, why?
Before a definitive answer could be ascertained to the questions that were going through the minds of observers, in a matter of minutes, at approximately 9:03:02 AM Flight 175 crashed at a speed of roughly 590 mph (950 km/h) into the south face of the South Tower (2 WTC) of the World Trade Center, banked between floors 77 and 85. Now it had become immediately evident that this was neither coincidence nor accident. As unbelievable and as unfathomable as it may have seemed, America, the home of the free and the land of the brave, was under attack.
Six months prior to these events occurring, on 31 March 2001, I had retired from 20 years of active duty service in the United States Navy. In the course of my duties I had been afforded opportunities to both visit and serve in countries and lands where these sorts of events could certainly be eminent. However, I would have never imagined that anything of this magnitude would ever occur on American soil and certainly not so close to home.
At that time I was working as an Administrative Assistant for a government contractor on the United States Naval Academy, and on that particular September morning I was sitting in my office when I received communication via two-way radio from one of our field technicians that the World Trade Center had been hit. I was somewhat in disbelief and actually asked the technician to repeat. I turned on the shop radio to the local news station and listened intently to the incoming reports. Shortly thereafter, the news was broadcast that the second tower had been hit. The base immediately went into lock down and evacuation procedures of all non-essential personnel were begun. Needless to say adrenalin levels were on high charge as people began scurrying to get to their vehicles and return to their homes.
Upon arriving at home I turned on the news on television and watched in utter horror, amazement, and shock as the news reports were rapidly coming in and video of the events was being played over and over again. Perhaps the overarching question in everyoneâ€™s mind on that solemn day was how could this have happened, and why? Somehow deep within me, like perhaps many others who were watching that day, I knew that this course of events would change our world forever.
On that fatal day and in the days that followed, the air was permeated with fear and uncertainty as people began coming together to support and comfort one another as best they could. People of all different faiths and denominations joined together in unified prayer for solace and peace in a situation that was seemingly out of control. The attacks had ended, but not without the cost of the innocent lives of loved ones. Families suddenly found themselves having to make major decisions as to how to pick up the pieces and move forward. The aftershock would linger for some time to come. The events of that September morning had sent a wakeup call to people everywhere that we as a nation are not as invincible as we may think, and that the survival of the nation depends on everyone binding together and working as a whole, and not as individuals operating on a lonely island. Regardless of a personâ€™s beliefs, it was evident that someone of higher power and authority had preserved our nation on that tragic day and sustained those of us who now remain to forever remember. But, what is it exactly that we should remember?
We need to remember the cost in human lives. On that bleak and dreadful September morning, 11 September 2001, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in rural fields in Pennsylvania. The attack was the most devastating ever to happen on American soil; costing more lives than even the attack on Pearl Harbor which claimed the lives of 2,500 Americans. We must not forget the lives that were lost on that dreadful day, and the lives of those who have been forever changed. We must not forget the widows who are raising their children alone, or the parents who will never hold their children again.
We also need to remember the heroism shown by ordinary people who rose to the occasion in extraordinary ways. The reactions to the crisis brought forth both the best and the worse in people. Yes, there have been some unfortunate occurrences such as the Pakistani woman who was purposefully run down while crossing a super-market lot with groceries simply because she wore the traditional dress of her homeland. But unnumbered heroic acts were also called forth, some recorded and many that were not. There were many beacons of light that shined in the darkness. The firefighters, policemen, and rescue workers who risked their lives and especially those who gave their lives to save others were the true heroes of the day.
Perhaps most distressing of all is what this crisis revealed about our countryâ€™s relationship with God. Immediately after the attacks, church attendance spiked for several weeks, rising in some places to as much as half again as much as the regular adult attendance. That attendance surge was short-lived however, for levels were back to normal by November.
If the events of that September morning has taught us nothing else, one lesson that we should have all learned is that we never know how much time we have, or how much time those around us have, therefore there arises an urgent need for all Christians everywhere to be the warning voice to their neighbors by spreading the Good News of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone they can. In such times of peril and distress, the question need not be, "What would Jesus do?", but rather, "What would Jesus have me do?"
The September 2002 issue of "Focus on the Family Magazine" recalls the story of Al Braca. Al worked on the 105th floor of Tower One. When he realized that they were trapped in the building and would be unable to escape, Al shared the Gospel with 50 of his co-workers and led them in prayer. Some of those same individuals had in the past mocked him for his faith. By following the model of Christ - ordinary Christians like you. me, and Al Braca can also be heroes.
And so, we also need to remember from where our help and strength comes. In Psalm 46 we read:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
When David said, â€śGod is our refugeâ€ť what he meant was that our sense of security is not derived from our nationâ€™s defenses but that it rests in our faith in God. God and God alone is our refuge in times such as these. Our feelings of security must go beyond the measures of Home Land Security, metal detectors, security checks, military power, political alliances or the strength of our economy. Our hope must be built on nothing less than Jesusâ€™ sacrifice and His righteousness. It is upon Christ, the Solid Rock that we must stand, for all other ground is sinking sand. David further reminds us that God is not only our refuge but He is also our â€śstrength.â€ť Strength is the ability to rise above tragedy even with tears in our eyes and go forward. God is not just some far off source from whom we can seek advice but He is â€śa very present help in trouble.â€ť
God was not surprised by the tragic events that occurred on 11 September 2001. He did not cause those events to happen, but He granted mankind its agency and men brought this all to happen. He does; however, comfort those who were affected by those events. He may or may not prevent future acts of terrorism such as these, but He will provide peace in the hearts of all those who turn to Him.
Tags: Hope Faith Trials Endurance
This talk was given on Saturday, September 03, 2011, on the occasion of the baptism of Andrew Jerry Calabrese.
John 3:5 â€śJesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.â€ť
The fourth Article of Faith states: â€śWe believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.â€ť
The Savior revealed the true method of baptism to the Prophet Joseph Smith, making clear that the ordinance must be performed by one having priesthood authority and that it must be done by immersion. We are taught in Doctrine and Covenants 20:73-74:
The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
The act of immersing a person in water is symbolic of that personâ€™s sinful life being buried and they being reborn or receiving a new life â€“ a spiritual life â€“ a life that is dedicated to serving God and others. Immersion is also symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christ was our perfect exemplar in fulfilling this sacred ordinance of baptism. Nephi, as recorded in 2 Nephi 31:4-9 tells us why Christ was baptized:
4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
In verses 10-18 of that same chapter Nephi teaches us that men must follow Christâ€™s example, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end to be saved. He also teaches us that repentance and baptism is the gate to the straight and narrow path. We read these words:
10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptismâ€”yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the the htongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
When we are baptized we enter into a covenant with God to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to keep His commandments, and to serve Him to the end (See Mosiah 18:8-10; D&C 20:37). Each time that we partake of the Sacrament we renew the covenants that we made at the time of our baptism (See D&C 20:77-79).
Jerry, a little over 13 years ago in the far away land of Iceland, where I was stationed in the Navy at the time, I made the decision to be baptized. That decision started me in a whole new direction in my life. I am convinced that had the Lord not taken me out of the main stream of things and sent me to a place as far away as Iceland, I probably would not be standing here speaking to this audience this morning. My plans, goals and priorities for my life where definitely a lot different than what the Lord had in mind. After being baptized and becoming more learned of the Gospel, and because of my willingness to take upon me His name, to follow His example, and to be obedient to His commands, I have seen and continue to see blessing after blessing in my life. Many doors that I once thought would never be opened to me are now beginning to open and I have been blessed in so many ways with new opportunities to help me grow and mature in the Gospel.
I believe that the words of President Joseph F. Smith best describe how I felt after being baptized. He said:
When I [was] baptized for the remission of my sins, the feeling that came upon me was that of pure peace, of love and of light. I felt in my soul that if I had sinned â€“ and surely I was not without sin â€“ that it had been forgiven me; that I was indeed cleansed from my sin; my heart was touched, and I felt that I would not injure the smallest insect beneath my feet. I felt as if I wanted to do good everywhere to everybody and to everything. I felt a newness of life, a newness of desire to do that which was right. There was not one particle of desire for evil left in my soul . . . this was the influence that came upon me, and I know that it was from God, and was and ever has been a living witness to me of my acceptance of the Lord (CR, April 1898, p.66).
I will conclude my remarks by returning to the words of Nephi as recorded in 2 Nephi 31:19-20:
19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are the Word of God. I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. I know that Joseph Smith was and is a Prophet of the Lord. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lordâ€™s true Church upon the earth today and that His Church is being led by a Living Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. Of these things I do so testify and bear solemn witness in the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Tags: Faith Repentance Baptism Jesus Christ
My father, the late John Wallace Brown, began working as a short-order cook during his High School years and continued working in that profession up until the time of his death on 20 November 2006, at 71 years of age. He would be promoted during his career to Kitchen Manager.
President Ezra Taft Benson once said, â€śA fatherâ€™s duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. He cannot do this when there is bickering, quarrelling, contention, or unrighteous behavior. The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of his children. . .Remember your sacred calling as a father in Israelâ€”your most important calling in time and eternityâ€”a calling from which you will never be released (Ensign, November 1987, pp. 50-51).
I have often found it easier to write about and speak of my beloved mother than my father. It is not because I did not love and respect my father, for I did, but for several years ours was an estranged relationship. It is partly because of that relationship that in March 1981, at the young age of 23 years, I made the decision to leave home and join the military. It would not be until the twilight years of my fatherâ€™s life that I would finally begin to have a more complete understanding of the man he really was.
The last time that I visited with my father was the weekend of my 48th birthday in October 2006. He looked aged, tired, worn out, and troubled about many things. What I saw before me was not the same person that I once knew. Seemingly gone from him was the vibrancy of living. The things that he had once found pleasure in doing had suddenly become passĂ© to him. What I saw was a man who had run his course in life, and was now ready to just sit down and rest awhile.
The rest that he so desired came on Monday, 20 November 2006, at the age of 71 years. Though saddened that he was physically gone, there was also an air of relief that he was finally at peace and no longer had to deal with the mundane things of this world.
I shall forever be grateful for the life lessons that he taught me. It has been those valuable life lessons that have helped to mode and shape me into the man and the person that I am today.
One of those valuable lessons that my father taught me was how to be resourceful. As a young boy growing up my family did not have a lot of money and so we often had to rely on the resources that we had available in order to sustain life. Instead of spending a lot of money at the grocery store for example, my father, for many years, planted his own garden and grew fresh vegetables and other things such as strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe to be used as sustenance for his family and himself. He also enjoyed planting beautiful flower gardens for my mother.
We did not have elaborate banquets to feast from, or gourmet meals to eat, but there was always enough to satisfy each hungry appetite with some left over for meals the next day. Very early in life I became acquainted with our good friend Quaker Oats as oatmeal for breakfast was a staple. Meat such as venison and rabbit were often given to my father by friends who hunted and wanted to share their bounty. The chicken that we ate often came from those who raised and bred chickens. My mother was usually the one who had the honors of killing the â€śbirdâ€ť, cleaning it, and preparing it for the family meal in addition to her delicious homemade dumplings.
My father was also resourceful in making fun things for his children to play with such as bows and arrows, and kites made from sticks and newspaper with a piece of cloth tied on the end for a tail. He even used scrap materials from old toy wagons and such to build us go-karts that my siblings and I spent hours of enjoyment playing with.
In addition to teaching me about how to be resourceful, my father also taught me how to be thrifty. He taught me that it doesnâ€™t take a lot of money to be able to survive in this world; a person just need to know how to manage the money that he has, and realize that he cannot put out more than he takes in. He also taught me that â€śrobbing Peter to pay Paulâ€ť is not a sound way of managing finances. Sooner or later you still have to pay Peter what he is owed.
When my siblings and I were in school we never owned name brand sneakers, expensive sports jackets, or designer jeans. The only name brand that we were remotely familiar with was the wonderful brand called Fruit of the Loom. Most of the shopping for our school shoes and clothes was done at stores such as Sears, JC Penny, or McCroyâ€™s. In our earlier school years, a lot of our clothing was purchased at Mr. Curleyâ€™s, a local discount clothing store. Our school supplies were purchased at Woolworth, the local dime store or some similar place where supplies could be bought at reasonable prices. We did not have fancy, expensive, designer backpacks to carry our books in; we carried them in our arms. We did have lunch boxes with a thermos inside, but very often we took our lunch in a brown paper lunch bag. We were required to cover our textbooks to help protect and preserve them for future use, and instead of buying fancy book covers we used the brown shopping bags that you get from the grocery store and cut them to fit our textbooks.
My father was a frugal man who believed that spending money unnecessarily was utter foolishness. â€śA penny saved is a penny earnedâ€ť was his philosophy. That is not to say that he was a penny pinching miser or anything of the sort for he spent money on the necessities of life, but he also strongly believed and taught his four children well that there is a vast difference between what we think we want and what we really need. He would also spend extra money to take us to fun places like Ocean City in the summer or to the fair in Harrington Delaware. He also made sure that we got a gift on our birthday, and at Christmas there were lots of presents under the tree for everyone.
Perhaps one of the reasons that my father was so careful with his spending was because he came from a humble upbringing and always worked hard all of his life to have the things that he needed and to provide for his family. And so, another important life lesson that my father taught me was the value of hard work. â€śA little hard work never killed anyoneâ€ť he would say. Throughout his life he often worked at least two jobs to make ends meet. In the latter years of his life he worked as a Preparatory Cook in a local restaurant during the day, and then would come home and go to work, often until dark, in the lawn care business which he established and became very successful in. He was definitely not a stranger to hard work. When he laid his head on his pillow at night to rest, he could do so knowing that he had put in an honest day of work.
Another life lesson that my father taught me was that we can all learn new things if we have an open mind and are willing to be taught. We often defeat ourselves in life because we refuse to be teachable and to adventure out and try new things.
For example, my father was very good with his hands and loved to build things. One of the things that he built was a work shed where he could work on his projects. It started out as a small one room work shed, but as time went on, he decided to add an addition to house all of his tools such as shovels, rakes, hoses, lawn mowers, etc. Once his lawn care business started to grow, he decided that he needed to expand even more and built another addition to house his lawn equipment and supplies. I might add that all of this was done by building from the ground up â€“ nothing was prefabricated. He also ran all of the electric himself and installed all of the lighting, light switches, and electrical outlets that were necessary. I might further add that the lawn care business that he maintained was completely established by him, and he worked diligently to obtain his customers and faithfully served them until the time of his death. He did not take any expensive courses in carpentry or electrical installation. He did not major in Business Administration at a major university. He simply used the knowledge that he had obtained by watching others and put that knowledge to practical use. He was able to accomplish many of the things that he did because he was teachable and willing to venture out and used what he had learned in order to have the things that he needed.
The acronym that I use to help me remember the life lessons that my father taught me is â€śRemember The Home Teamâ€ť (R.T.H.T.) That is, (1) resourceful â€“ learn to use the things that you already have at your disposal, (2) thrifty â€“ learn to separate your wants from your needs and be a wise steward over the funds that you have, (3) hard working â€“ be able to lay your head on your pillow at night and rest knowing that you did not waste the day that the Lord had given you, but that you were a wise steward of time, and you seized the day and did an honest day of work, and (4) teachable â€“ have an open mind and be willing to learn and try new things.
The valuable life lessons that my father taught me are not only lessons that I remember, but lessons that I will not soon forget. My father was a great teacher and mentor. I only pray that I was as good a student as I should have been to learn and apply the valuable lessons that he taught me.
Tags: Fathers Life Home Family
With Hurricane Irene now behind us, I would like to use the analogy of a ship caught in a raging storm at sea to share my personal reflections and thoughts on how we as a family and as a Church should care for and protect one another during a time of crisis.
When a ship is at sea caught in the snares of a raging storm and tempest; that is not the time for a crew member to center his attention and focus on self - being only concerned about his own safety and well-being. It is during such times that the needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few or the one. The safety of all onboard becomes paramount. One lone crew member can accomplish some things to ensure his own safety, as well as, that of his fellow shipmates, but if the ship is to weather the storm and return safely to harbor it requires all hands on deck, working diligently, side by side, to ensure that not one shipmate is lost at sea, and that all return to homeport safely.
Tags: Life Trials Storms Family