Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm a Mormon.

I'm a Mormon.

I love being a Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church. Its teachings bring me so much happiness! I love learning of what Christ has done for me, for us! He truly loves us. Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to return to live with Him again. We are truly children of God. We are here to learn how to be like Him and His Son. I am continually working to maintain a relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. As I do, life becomes just a little bit easier. I still have my personal challenges, but it helps me to gain an eternal perspective. I begin to see that these trials are here to build me up and make me the person I want to be.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


One of my favorite General Conference talks this past conference was given by President Monson. He talked about different packages he had received from people all over the world. One that really touch me was a jar full of "warm fuzzies" that represented little acts of service by primary classes. (Click here to read his talk)
Since then, I've been trying to think of ways to reach out to my community and do something special. One idea was to try to get a group of people together and make blankets for a local hospital or possibly find a charity to donate to. Today I received an email with the idea to put together gift baskets and take them to a local nursing home. Kemp and I had the opportunity to visit a nursing home this past Mother's Day and give 10 women a special gift. It was an amazing experience for both of us. So as of today...I plan on getting together gift baskets to donate to an entire nursing home rather than to only 10 people. We will be doing this for Christmas!

If you are interested in donating, each gift set will be $20. Each set will have a Mary Kay Satin Hands Cream and Mint Bliss Energizing Feet and Leg Treatment (includes tax, gift wrapping, and delivery). Great for both men and women! Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

Also, if you are interested in doing this in your area, please let me know and I can help you put together your gift sets and ship them to you directly.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Summer of Miracles

I have been away from regular internet access for months now. Thus, an absence of blogging. I traveled all over the country to do EFY, the Church's youth program. I worked a week in Denton, two in San Antonio, one in Kentucky, and two in Nauvoo, IL. I had about 60 young men who I worked with between 14 to 18 years old. Some were just starting high school, while at least one may have a mission call by now.

There were several things that stood out all summer. One was that high school (already a dark and depressing place when I was there) has gotten far worse. Another was that these youth are remarkable. Their desire to do good when many around them mock is impressive. And they have a spiritual power that I didn't at their age.

My favorite experience was working for two weeks in Nauvoo. That is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Not just for the temple (which is the most perfect building I have ever seen), but for the Spirit that radiates there.

We walked down Parley Street where the Saints left warm homes in the dead of winter to head west to the mountains. We visited the Old Nauvoo Cemetery where many children of those same families were buried in unmarked graves waiting for the Resurrection Day. We performed baptisms for the dead in the Nauvoo Temple. We visited Carthage Jail where Joseph and Hyrum gave their lives to seal their testimonies with their blood.

EFY gave me a taste of heaven. It is what Zion must feel like. It is hard working with teenagers, but there were so many miracles all summer long. The most amazing part was to see the Spirit work through me. I already enjoy teaching the gospel, but all summer I felt such direct guidance in what and how to teach.

At the end of each week, they talk to the youth one more time about taking the gospel home with them. They had remarkable spiritual experiences all week. But if they only feel those things one week a year, EFY has failed. The purpose of the whole program is to give them tools to feel it all the time.

I will take home a knowledge that God will speak to me. I have never had so many experiences where I knew I was saying exactly what God wanted me to. But for that to happen, I have to be engaged in His work.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Faith and Dating

This comes from notes I took at a College Station Institute of Religion class on November 11, 2008. The insights from class discussion are after the quoted scripture.
Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof (Alma 32:39).
Relationships need to be nurtured just like faith. When seeds don't grow, it is not always because the fruit would not have been desirable. Someone's ground was barren and they were unwilling to nourish it.

Temple Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is more than just getting married. It is creating an eternal relationship. The testimony of a relationship grows just like a testimony of the Church.
Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge (Alma 32:26).
Some people want to have a perfect knowledge at the beginning.
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words (Alma 32:27).
Experiment on a relationship; exercise a particle of faith; believe it is possible that a relationship can develop. It is easy to get cynical after being burned a couple of times. Believe anyway.
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me (Alma 32:28).
You can judge a relationship on these criteria:
  • The relationship enlarges your soul. This means you look to serve others. I can't find the source, but a quote was shared in class that says, "when you truly love someone, your true obsession is to help them reach the Celestial Kingdom."
  • The relationship enlightens your understanding, which is related to repentance. Repentance really means "a fresh view." You see the world with a renewed eye of faith.
  • The relationship begins to be delicious.
Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge (Alma 32:29).
Even with all these good things, you don't have a perfect knowledge yet.
And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit (Alma 32:37).
When you nourish it with great care, a relationship will grow. What is the fertilizer? Charity, the pure love of Christ. And how do you get Charity? You pray for it - it is a gift of the Spirit. Having the Holy Ghost makes it possible (see Moroni 7:47-48).

As a warning against breaking the law of chastity, the Institute instructor pointed out that sometimes people do things offensive to the Spirit when they are interested in someone. Without the Spirit, relationships suffer.
But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out (Alma 32:38).
Neglect will kill the roots. Then the heat of the sun - trials - cause you to cast it out.
But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life (Alma 32:41).
Nourish the relationship with faith, diligence, and patience. Then you will have the fruit that is promised. Then you will have an eternal marriage.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Faith, Hope, Love, and Creation

The Prophet Joseph Smith said,
It is by words … [that] every being works when he works by faith. God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. … All this was done by faith. … Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed.
This can have direct and powerful application within any relationship.

There are times in life when we want to love someone, but just don't feel it. How often do we hear about married couples who "fall out of love"? There is one cure. It is to say, "I love you." To say it and mean it, even when you don't necessarily feel it is an act of faith. It is also a way of creating the world you hope to live in, but can't currently see (see Alma 32:21).

In creating the future, saying "I love you" does not change those around you. But that's fine, it isn't supposed to. To use such powerful words as a way to control someone else is the opposite of love. A parent can't say "I love you," then become manipulative and still be believed by their children. Love can only be used "by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned" (D&C 121:41-42). Using love as a weapon fails every time.

Saying "I love you" is really an act of self-creation. It makes you the person you should be. Those words have the power to create a better world. It makes your future bright. And as President Monson recently said, "The future is only as bright as your faith."

Boyd K. Packer taught:
A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man,” is as the scripture says, indeed “is the candle of the Lord” (Prov. 20:27).
To create that feeling of love within your own heart, you have to take the same leap of faith.

Love grows just like testimony. Alma 32 talks about how the word of God is like a seed. Comparing love to a seed provides just as many insights (actually that is good for another blog post).

So if you face a difficult circumstance in life where you know you should love someone and don't, tell them you love them. That will simultaneously be an act of faith, hope, love, and creation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Easter Talk

I am in a new ward since December and had the opportunity to speak for Easter. Here is my prepared remarks:

A week ago was Palm Sunday, the day the Savior entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph. “But eagerness to continue walking with Him would quickly begin to wane.” That entry into Jerusalem was followed by teaching in the temple, “Passover Thursday with its Paschal Lamb, atoning Friday with its cross, [and] Resurrection Sunday with its empty tomb” (Holland). Those events, commemorated this week, give meaning to everything we do in life.

The Book of Mormon described a little of how the Atonement of Jesus Christ impacts our lives:
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:11-12)

Jesus Christ experienced all these things that he may know how to reach each one of us. Brigham Young said it this way: Jesus the Christ descended below all things literally – according to the flesh – so that no case in human history, no person, no life, however tragic or sin-stained, would fall outside of His compassion or His power.

In Gethsemane, Jesus “[Fell] on His face in prayer, “sorrowful . . . unto death,” the record says, His sweat came as great drops of blood as He pled with the Father to let this crushing, brutal cup pass from Him. But, of course, it could not pass.”

Elder Holland continues: “Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].” (None Were with Him – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)

Without the Atonement, joy and sorrow, health and sickness, work and play, loneliness and family, time and eternity, loyalty and betrayal, and comfort and pain have no meaning.

Without the Atonement, there is no need for Joseph Smith to restore the gospel; there is no Book of Mormon; there is no temple.

But there is an Atonement and we all have access to it. As President Uchtdorf said, “The first step on the path of discipleship begins… in the exact place where we stand!” (The Way of the Disciple).


Almost three years ago, the impact of the resurrection sank in like never before. I was sharing a few impromptu thoughts at a graveside service for my grandma. Grandpa Brown was in the Army during WWII and died when I was seven. Grannie was buried with him after twenty years of separation.

That military cemetery in San Antonio stretches forever. I was impressed with the image of all those graves – row after row marked with a white headstone – turning lose of their dead.

Because of Christ, you and I and all those soldiers in that cemetery will be resurrected.

Judgment: We get what we want

The Final Judgment is something that we probably fear too much. A verse in Alma gives us an interesting clue:
I know that [God] granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. (Alma 29:4)
In other words, when it comes to the judgment, we get exactly what we want. What could be more just?

President Monson spoke at a fireside and said that the number one predictor of a person’s deciding to go on a mission or get married in the temple is if their friends go on missions and get married in the temple. Those we admire reveal – in a measure – our character and desires.

If we do not currently desire to do the things which lead us back to God, we need to educate our desires. Alma cites desire as the fertilizer to the seed of faith (see Alma 32:27). Those little things the prophets remind us of over and over – personal prayer, scripture study, service, and temple attendance – are crucial to get faith to take root within our hearts. If you want to change your desires, you start and end with those little things.

Judgment: Becoming

But judgment is not some balance between the good and evil we do over the course of our lives. Dallin H. Oaks spoke of something deeper:
The Master’s reward in the Final Judgment will not be based on how long we have labored in the vineyard. We do not obtain our heavenly reward by punching a time clock. What is essential is that our labors in the workplace of the Lord have caused us to become something. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32–34
The Children’s Hymn, “I Am a Child of God,” was originally written with the words “teach me all that I must know.” Spencer W. Kimball had it changed to “teach me all that I must do.” Elder Oaks makes me think it would be better as “teach me all that I must be.”

I said a moment ago that in judgment you get exactly what you want. I am serious about that. If you want the Celestial Kingdom, it is yours. But sometimes we aren’t sure what we want in life. In discerning what you really want, here are a few questions that can help you:
  • Do you love reading the word of God?
  • Do you love hearing the prophets testify of Jesus Christ?
  • Do you consistently pray? And mean it?
  • Do you avoid pornographic websites, movies, pictures, and songs?
  • Are you worthy of and do you hold a current temple recommend?
Judgment: You get what you give

In judgment, you also get what you give.

I learned this principle as a missionary. We had a man named Dan who we were teaching. Dan was brilliant and had worked as a translator for the Navy. He had also had a feud with his dad and hadn’t spoken to him for years. As we introduced Dan to the Book of Mormon, he found a passage that says if you can’t forgive your neighbor, you can’t be forgiven yourself (see Mosiah 26:31).

From that he decided to forgive his dad without dredging up what the offense was. He renewed his relationship with his dad after that.

Jesus taught the parable of the unmerciful servant (see Matthew 18:23-35). One servant was forgiven a great debt, but exacted a tiny debt on one of his fellow servants. This caused the original debt to be restored to the first servant until he could pay it back.

Joseph Smith said two things that apply directly:
If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another. (TPJS 241)
Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive our brother on the first intimations of repentance, and asking forgiveness; and should we even forgive our brother, or even our enemy, before he repent or ask forgiveness, our heavenly Father would be equally as merciful unto us. (TPJS 155)

Judgment: We Worry About the Wrong One

In judgment, we often worry about the wrong things.

Paul wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Shame is fear of the judgment of men. Any time we are scared to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of what others may think, that is shame. Instead, we should worry about how God’s judgment will affect us and those around us. Then love and concern will make it easy to share with those around us.

The Final Judgment is sometimes called a great and dreadful day. It is the same day for everyone. Whether it is great or dreadful depends on the state of our souls when that day comes.


Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of God, said last week, “The future is as bright as your faith.” That statement struck me as one of the most profound statements I have ever heard on faith in the future. Think of the implications. No matter the trials we face right now, if we have faith, we can count on joy in the future. We can count on joy in this life and in the life to come.

Paul said, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus endured the cross because of the joy on the other side. He knew his joy and our joy depended on Him enduring. That faith He had in the future was powerful enough to get him through the pain and irony of the crucifixion.

Jesus Christ set the example. His perfect faith carried him through the dark hours of Gethsemane and Golgotha. As our faith slowly becomes more like His, we, too, can have the strength to stay strong through tough times. He will strengthen us, if we will let Him, so that our faith can be as bright as the sun.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ guarantees that every person born – no matter how long they lived, where they lived, when they lived, or if they have even heard His Saving Name – will rise from the dead. Because His power reaches both sides of the grave, all who will accept Him will have immortality. Each of us, if we will come to Christ, will live with Him and our Heavenly Father again.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nehemiah vs. Lehonti

While watching the Priesthood Session of General Conference yesterday, I noticed a contrast between the story President Uchtdorf was relating and a story in the book of Mormon.

Nehemiah served the king, Artaxerxes, and the king asked him, "Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick?" (Nehemiah 2:2). Nehemiah responded, "why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?" (Nehemiah 2:3). Nehemiah wanted to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and the king actually gave him authority to go and do it.

When Nehemiah first revealed his plan, "Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian... laughed us to scorn, and despised us" (Nehemiah 2:19). Nehemiah, being brave and strong said, "The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build" (Nehemiah 2:20).

As the Jews began construction on the walls around Jerusalem, they carried their tools in one hand, and " with the other hand held a weapon" (Nehemiah 4:17). Despite the constant oppostion he faced, Nehemiah responded with faith saying "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?"(Nehemiah 6:3).

As President Uchtdorf related that story, the story of Lehonti came to my mind. Moroni had just whipped the Lamanites (see Alma 44) and they were afraid to fight the Nephites again (see Alma 47:2). One group was especially afraid to fight the Nephites and they sought refuge on top of a mount. They and their leader, Lehonti, were "fixed in their mids with a determined resolution that they would not be subjected to go against the Nephites" (Alma 47:6).

The Nephite dissenter, Amalikiah, is sent to force Lehonti's group to join the battle against the Nephites, or to slay them (see Alma 47:3). Amalikiah sent secret messages to Lehonti on the mount to come down to talk three different times. But Lehonti would not come down (Alma 47:12). Finally, Amalikiah offered to meet Lehonti near his camp, and used treachery to put Lehonti at the head of all the armies. Lehonti was then "poison[ed] by degrees" (Alma 47:18).

Lehonti was safe as long as he stayed at the top of the mount, but as soon as he compromised with evil a little bit and met Amalikiah just a little way down the mountain, he was doomed. The contrast with Nehemiah could not be more stark. Nehemiah knew he was doing a great work and never came down. Lehonti was tricked into coming down by an appeal to his pride.