Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Truth

It is way past time for me to be completely honest about something in my life that defines me, who I am, what I am, and why I am. It is so precious to me that I sometimes do not speak about it as strongly as I should, for fear that I will not do it justice. But I cannot be afraid anymore. I refuse to be afraid anymore.
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been from the very beginning and while I did start off on this path because my family put me on it, as I have grown and matured and developed I decided it was time to know for myself. This was in high school, when so many are trying to figure out who they are. I had never felt a desire to leave the church, or to question anything I had been taught because it had all felt so right. But I knew I could not testify of the truth if I did not know it for myself. I couldn’t rely on the faith and testimony of others any longer. So I followed the example of the prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith. As a young boy, he wanted to know which church he should join. But he did more than wonder. He took his questions to the scriptures and searched for answers. He read in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” This prompted the 14 year old boy to go out into the woods behind his home and pray, trusting in the promise of the Bible that he would receive an answer. He did receive it, as the Father and the Son appeared to him and told him not to join any of them. What would follow through this faithful young man was a work that changed the world, and continues to change it to this day. Because of him, we have the Book of Mormon, an ancient record of followers of Jesus Christ on the American Continent. Joseph Smith translated the words of prophets in those ancient times, and we now have their testimonies today. They testify of the divinity of the Savior, of His life and His mission and the great mercy and miracle of His infinite atonement. A scripture in the Book of Mormon, given by its final author, a prophet named Moroni, says this: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” That was my signal that it was long past time for me to show the same faith that Joseph Smith did, and ask God if what I had learned, and what I had hoped to be true, really was true.
I did not have an angel visit me. The Father and the Son certainly did not appear to me as they did to Joseph Smith. Lightning did not strike, music did not play, and there was no neon sign flashing the answer at me. But what I did receive is a feeling of warmth and comfort, peace in my mind and in my heart, and I knew—I KNEW!—that it was true. I did not need anyone to prove anything to me. I had asked God, and He had seen fit to reveal it to me. It is true. And that knowledge changed my life.
Because I know it is true, I live my life differently. Instead of viewing my religion as a responsibility or a sign to wear around my neck, it has become a part of me. I don’t just do “Mormon things” because I am supposed to. I AM a Mormon. There is a difference. Knowing what is expected of me is one thing; knowing why it is expected and what I can become because of those expectations is much better. I try to live my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. This means that I hold myself to a higher standard. Yes, my church has high standards. Some might say we are old fashioned, and I’m proud of that. In the world we live in today, who wants to be on the forefront of the tide of liberality that takes away every moral guideline that was ever in place? What will be gained if we give up our souls?
The high standards of my religion are in place for protection. My high standards for myself are in place because I belong to the Savior and Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ. He has ransomed me through His atonement, and my weaknesses and sins and mistakes, my hurts and my longings, my grief and my loss, are swallowed up by that. He has paid the price for me, so that even with my shocking amount of failings, I can be made clean and whole. I can live forever with Him and our Father in Heaven after this life, if I am worthy. I have devoted my life to Him, to His work, and to His children. Am I perfect? Of course not. I am far, far from it. If I had to spend a minute on my knees in prayer for every sin and weakness that I commit in a day, I would be kneeling until the end of time. But He takes my efforts and puts them on His mighty shoulders and carries me. He knows my heart. He knows that just because I mess up does not mean I am a bad person or lost or weak – though I might argue with Him on my weakness. He sees my heart. He knows that I am trying. And that means something to Him.
I love Him with all of my heart and all that I am. I will never be able to comprehend His suffering, or His goodness, nor will I ever be able to express gratitude enough for a fragment of what He has done for us. I am eternally indebted to Him, and that is why I have given myself to Him.
We are all children of a loving Father in Heaven, who laid out a plan for His children so that we might learn and gain experience through mortality. He knew we would mess up, which is why He sent our brother, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has a plan set for each of us. Every trial, every hardship, every good thing is in place in our life perfectly so that we can become the people He wants us to be, the people He needs us to be, so that His work can go forward. He wants nothing more than for us to return to Him. He loves us beyond our comprehension, and He will never leave us to face this world alone. Never!
There are so many questions in this life. Confusion and turmoil run rampant and it is only getting worse. But I can testify, with every fiber of my being, that we are not alone. That the answers are here. That peace and understanding and guidance are found here. Honestly and earnestly seeking for answers will result in revelation of truth. In a time when we do not know where to turn, I know where to turn for my solace and consolation. I know where to go for my answers and problems. I am not a great person, I have no power or influence. But I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is my Savior. He is the Master and Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. He is the Messiah, prophesied of for generations before. He is the source of peace and goodness and life. I know that God, our loving and eternal Heavenly Father lives and loves us. I know that He sent Jesus Christ to the earth to save us, to help us back to His presence. I know that families can be bound together for eternity, not just until death to you part, but for eternity. Love and families are eternal, they were meant to be eternal. Heavenly Father wants us to be together forever. He has a plan for that. He has a plan for everything. And His plan is perfect.
I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. I know that we have the fullness of His everlasting gospel. I do not say this because I am the #1 fan of my church, although I might be. I say this because I have studied scripture, I have searched for truth, I have asked, and I have received. What I know I know. Anyone can know with surety for themselves if they will follow the example of prophets and apostles before: search for truth and pray for answers. If you ask with faith, if your heart is in the right place, if you yearn to know so that you can do God’s will, YOU WILL KNOW. I know this is true with all of my heart. I know we have a prophet on the earth today. His name is Thomas S. Monson, and he has been called of God in this day to lead us and guide us in the paths of the Lord. He is just as much of a prophet as those found in the Bible. He is the purest example of Christlike love, because he knows the Master. He strives daily to be more like Him, to see all as He sees them.
I hope one day to be able to say the same about myself. But for now, I am trying.
I know this has been really preachy, and not at all like my usual humorous posts. But this is important to me, and I do not and will never take it lightly. There is much trouble in the world. But there is also SO MUCH GOOD. There are so many good people who are trying to be like Jesus, who want to do what is right, and who serve their fellow man with grace and charity and love. There is hope in the world, and there is hope in His gospel.
So come into the fold. Bring the goodness that you have found in your life and see if more can be found here with us. And together, we can build the kingdom of the Lord. We can walk in the Savior’s footsteps together. We can help each other on our journey through life. And when our mortality is through, we can rejoice together in the kingdom of our Father, where peace and hope are eternal and love never ends.

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God bless.