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Thursday, April 18, 2013

And by their fruits... Fruit? I hope it's tasty.

Periodically over my life people tell me I'm a fruit, I'm sure they mean it as a complement. If I was a fruit I think I'd be a pineapple, rough and tough on the outside, lovely and luscious on the inside. But matter of fact, we are all fruits, well, we all bare fruit at least. Whether we do it intentionally or not, every action, every choice, every decision we make has an influence on who we become and, more generally than not, on who others become. If you want good fruit to take root, you plant it in good soil. If you want it to grow, you nourish it with vital nutrients and minerals. If you want it to bear fruit, you give it the light of the sun. Now we could easily go into a discussion on comparing people to plants and fruit; if we want our souls to take root we plant it in the soil of the gospel, if we want it to grow we nourish it with the vital nutrients of the scriptures and prayer, and if we want it to bear fruit we give it the light of the Son, the Son of God, our Living Waters. But we won't go into anymore detail on that for now. If you do want to hear an apostle go into that though, click here! 
That's what I do want to talk about though, the claim of prophets and apostles on the Earth today! Colossians 1:18 tells us that "[Christ] is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead..." Ephesians 2:19-20 affirms the importance of Christ in the church AND of the men He called to establish the foundation of the church: " are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone." Without the foundation of a building, the structure cannot stand and crumbles, likewise the church (household of God) crumbles without the foundation established by Jesus Christ. Now there are different interpretations within the Christian world as to whether that foundation was meant to be just the words of Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles until they were finished and revelation was ceased completely, or if that foundation was to be a continuing line of revelation through Jesus Christ as he calls new prophets and apostles. Well, what I think.... that doesn't matter. Let's see what Jesus has to say about it. 
Let's jump to Matthew 7, the concluding remarks of the greatest sermon ever given, the Sermon on the Mount. In verses 15-20 the Savior said:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolvesYe shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
By their fruits ye shall know them. Jesus is not teaching that there will be no more prophets.  If there were no more He would have said so, but if anything, He is teaching us the exact opposite. There will be more prophets, there will be more sent by Him, and He is giving us the Spiritual 'litmus-test' to distinguish a man called of God and a man called of men. So now about these fruits... 
What a splendid banana? Looks delicious right (assuming you like bananas)?

Let's open it up and see...

Holy guacamole Batman! I just saw my 'knife' flash before my eyes!... Ok, obviously it's staged, you probably won't ever find an actual knife inside of a real banana (if you do please let me and your lawyer know), but hey, we are using an analogy here, so anything goes. It came to me in banana's clothing, but inward was a ravening knife.
So how did the Savior warn us about that?
John 7:24 "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
He also warns us that "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matt. 7:21-23
So there's our basis for judging the fruits of men. When judging their fruits, we cannot simply look at the appearance or maybe the stigma or reputation that surrounds something to judge it, for there will be many that appear to do "wonderful works", but the Lord has looked beyond the appearance and He knows what is truly inside them, they are even "workers of iniquity."
Which brings me to my final point, the fruits of God. We know the Holy Bible to be the word of God (as represented by this apple). It is the tangible "fruit" that we have to be able to read, ponder, pray about, and ultimately to be able to know about our Savior's divinity and truthfulness. God has given us addition fruit, as a testament that He has still called men to His work in these days as in days of old. The fruit that He has given us to examine is called The Book of Mormon (as represented by this banana). Just as the Bible is a testament of the prophets in Jerusalem and the dealing of Christ with the people there, the Book of Mormon is a testament of the prophets in the ancient Americas and the dealings of Christ with them there and His ministry among them after His resurrection.
God has brought forth another volume of scripture! It's beautiful. It's breathtaking. It teaches us the gospel of Jesus Christ so plainly that we cannot misunderstand. It testifies of His teachings in the Bible, and ultimately of His calling of prophets and apostles in these latter-days. All we have to do is examine this fruit. We can open it, we can look at it. Many will judge by the appearance though or what they have heard and "set it as a thing of naught." Oh what they are missing! In the end, the greatest way we can know is through this promise from God, 
"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." God as always invited us to 'seek and we shall find, ask and we shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto us'.
Listen to the words of an ancient American prophet, "For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" 

In other words, how knoweth a man the fruit that he has not opened? How knoweth a man a book by it's cover? How knoweth a man his brother by his appearance? (the Lord warned about this anciently in the Old Testament as well to the prophet Samuel.)

I testify to you that the Book of Mormon is good fruit. I have opened it. I have read it. I have pondered about it. I have prayed and asked God, and He has given me an answer. It is true! It has swelled my being, it has enlarged my soul, it has enlightened my understanding, and it is delicious to me. It has brought the fruits of the Spirit into my life, even "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness" and" temperance"(Galatians 5:22). Someday we will meet at the pleasing judgment bar of the Great Jehovah. I hope, that because of righteous choices, to us it will be pleasing. I also hope that you will have been able to partake of this fruit and know for yourself as I do. I testify of these things in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What To Do When Your Relationship With Jesus Is 'In The Toilet'

Today I had an interesting experience. I discovered that my relationship with Jesus was in the toilet.
Yes... yes. That is a picture of Jesus coming out of the tomb, and it fell into the commode. Now before you condemn me for allowing that to happen, hear me out, it was an accident, but I thought I shouldn't let this opportunity to learn pass me by and go down the drain. Get it.. down the drain? Bathroom humor...
Here's how it all began. My afternoon went along smoothly. Had a great meeting in Cookeville with other missionaries, a delicious lunch consisting of meat and barbecue sauce, and a pleasant drive back to Tompkinsville. When I got home I went into the bathroom and decided to admire our new addition to our apartment. See below.

Isn't it beautiful?  It's only 2 dollars at Wal-Mart. What a steal! A house isn't a home in Kentucky until you have a UK toilet seat cover. And you can quote me on that. Well, as I had leaned over to admire this bathroom decoration I foolishly lifted up the toilet seat to try to wipe off some debris that had fallen on the cover. Soon I discovered two very minor but very important details. 1- Gravity is present everywhere on Earth, especially in bathrooms. 2- The shirt I was wearing had a pocket in it, in which I was storing some pictures of Jesus and other items. 
Any guesses what happened? No, a spider did not crawl out and make me scream like a girl and make me slip on wet tile and the pictures flew everywhere and one landed in the toilet. That hasn't happened since I was 6, give me a break already! Well, ok, I'll tell you what happened... Are you ready? Gravity was applied to all the contents of my shirt pocket and a plopping noise was soon heard coming from within the toilet bowl. I grimaced as I knew what had just happened without having to look. I quickly grabbed all the items out of the toilet bowl, except for that one picture of Jesus, and decided to grab my camera and seize the moment. I ran and put everything in front of one of the heaters in our apartment and they are drying at this very moment.
So... what does Elder Huffaker being a cluts have to do with anything spiritual? Good question... I'm still working on that, but let's see if this works for now:

I would like to compare myself, and all of us, to a man in the Book of Mormon by the name of Amulek. When Amulek first appears on the seen he gives a brief background of himself to the wicked people of Ammonihah. Amulek says:  I am "a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry. Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people. Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart..." (Alma 10:4-6). He's sort of a big deal. People know him. (Anchorman anyone?)

My situation in the bathroom could be comparable to Amulek. I had become so distracted by the UK toilet seat cover, that I was ignorant of the things I was carrying in my pocket. Amulek had received and seen many things, even 'much mysteries and marvelous power' he tells us, and he was 'called many times' but would not hear. He was a man, like all of us, that was too distracted by the things of the world to give heed to the more important spiritual things in his life. The Lord reveals in modern-revelation to a prophet named Joseph Smith that "...there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men..." (Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-35).
What are the desires of our hearts? Do we desire to revel in our wealth, friendship, kinship, and the distractions of the world more than to serve God and to love Him and our fellow-man as we are commanded too? What if we are the Amuleks, or the card-into-toilet-dropping-Elder-Huffakers of this world and we want to change? Luckily for us, there is a happy ending for Amulek and there can be for us as well. As Amulek continues with his story he informs us how an angel appeared to him and told him to return to his home for he is to feed a prophet of God that has fasted many days because of the iniquity of the people. Amulek returns, meets Alma (the prophet the angel spoke of), his house is blessed, they study for many days together and then declare repentance unto the wicked people of Ammonihah. They contend with some lawyers, teach about Jesus Christ, are thrown into prison and beaten and starved for a while... you know, really minor day-to-day stuff that prophets and their companions do.... In the end though, the Lord delivers them from prison, the walls shake, collapse, and kill all the wicked men inside of them. Alma and Amulek come forth unharmed and continue to preach (see Alma chapters 10-15) . From what we hear of Amulek in the rest of the Book of Mormon he lives the rest of his life as one of the greatest missionaries in the Book of Mormon and a devoted follower of our Savior Jesus Christ.
How can we have such a change of heart and return to our Lord when we may feel we have dropped the ball and made our relationship with Jesus spiritually 'in the toilet'? Here's a few steps I would suggest:

1. Recognition- obviously you need to recognize there is a problem before you can change it. Recognition is the ignition that brings change to fruition. Catchy isn't it?  
2. Prayer - we need to in some way acknowledge to the Lord our desire to change and ask for His help and forgiveness.
3. Scripture Study - before Amulek went to preach to the people we read that he spent many days in preparation studying with Alma, this most likely included a lot of studying the scriptures.
4. Church Attendance - if we want to devote ourselves to the Lord one of the best places to begin is by showing our Savior our gratitude for the gift of His Atonement (His suffering for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, His death, and His glorious resurrection). We show this gratitude by preparing ourselves to worthily partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Him.
5. Give Thanks - When we have strayed and are distracted by the world the Lord gives us this warning:
"And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21). Amulek even confessed that the Lord had bless him much in his life and had given him many opportunities, but he had refused to hearken to the Lord. Luckily he changed though. We all have so many blessings in our lives that the Lord has given us, some we easily recognize, but others we will find as we look. As we thank the Lord for what we have we will be prepared for Him to bless us even more.

Our Heavenly Father loves us as does His Son Jesus Christ. They want to bless us so much and to develop a loving relationship with us. They have extended the invitation and provided the way, and it is up to us to choose to leave our relationship in the toilet or to heed the call and 'clean up our act' (pun intended). 

Will you begin by looking for the many little blessings you have been given in your life?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spiritual Laundry, part 3

 Continued from part 2!

Sometimes through the week we may fall, we may stain our clothes with a little dirt as we make mistakes. We can use some stain remover when we spill ketchup all over our clothes, or wash a dirt stain out in the sink. At the end of the week though, we still wash those clothes in the laundry to wash away whatever underlying dirt or smell we may have overlooked by ourselves. We can have our clothes cleaned and purified all the way through!
 When we sin, or fall, make mistakes, during the week, we can still pray for forgiveness for those sins and have them forgiven right then. But, as we partake of the sacrament each week and renew our promises with our Heavenly Father, we can have ourselves cleaned and purified all the way through to wash away those underlying things we may have overlooked during the week. We can all have the cleansing effect that comes because of our Savior Jesus Christ and his Atonement for us. I am so thankful for Him and the sacrifice that He made for me so that I can be cleansed and feel the warmth of His love all the time! I know He loves each and every one of us and invites us all to come to Him!

John 13:4-9
He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
 8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

Will you set the time aside each week to let your Savior Jesus Christ wash you and cleanse you of your sins?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Spiritual Laundry, Part 2

Continued from Part 1!

As we discussed, doing laundry is not just a one time thing! Neither are the covenants we make at baptism. Each week on Sunday when I attend church I renew the process. I don't get baptized again, but as I partake of the sacrament (the bread and water in remembrance of Jesus Christ, (3 Nephi 18:1-12), I again promise (or covenant) to take upon me the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep his commandments (for addition things we desire to do click here). In return the Lord promises to wash away, or forgives my sins, and allow me to have the Holy Ghost (also called Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, Spirit of the Lord, etc.) to be with me as long as I keep these promises. This is called the gift of the Holy Ghost, where we can have the Holy Ghost to be with us at all times if we are keeping our promises to God. When we do not have the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, but we do not yet qualify for his constant companionship.

Warm toasty and fuzzy!

I know some people who throw their towel in the dryer, go take a shower, and then grab the towel when they are done so it is nice and warm. This warmness fades though as the coldness of the world outside the dryer slowly cools down the towel. Before baptism, we can still feel the Holy Ghost and the warmth and comfort he can bring into our lives at times, but after baptism when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost we can have that warmth and comfort to be with us always. Our garments having been washed white through the blood of the Lamb of God (3 Nephi 27:19) can always remain warm and comforting as we follow Christ and keep the coldness of the world away! I know our Savior loves us and always wants us to know that and be able to feel that love, so come unto Him! His arms are outstretched towards us continually. Let His warmth and love embrace you!

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spiritual Laundry, Part 1

So I'm trying something new or once! I'm going to break up the topic I want to write on over a series of a few blog-posts. I want to talk about everyone's favorite thing... doing the laundry! Ok, so not everyone's favorite, but we can all relate. Each week you have to take all your old, dirty, smelly clothes, take the time to sort them. Then you have to start the wash, come back in 40 minutes to an hour, load them up in the dryer, and then come back in another 40 minutes to an hour and get your fresh, warm clothes!
"Boy... you stanky"

 If you really want to put the extra effort into it you can buy certain laundry supplies to make your clothes smell like evergreens or flowers or the ocean or cotton-candy... Well, I'm not sure if they have cotton-candy scent yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did. Regardless, doing the laundry is something we do each week (at least I hope) so we can stay clean, fresh, and still be able to be around people without driving them away due to our odor! Through a combination of water and heat our clothes are made brand new!

The scriptures teach of a good parallel for the purifying power of water and heat!

When I was eight I did something, and still do, similar to doing the laundry. I was baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost! My father, holding Priesthood authority , took me into the water and as I was immersed and came forth (symbolic of the death/resurrection of Christ, also called baptism by water), my sins, like dirt and odor in laundry, were washed away through Jesus Christ (Alma 7:14).
Afterwards I received the gift of the Holy Ghost (called baptism by fire in the scriptures, see 3 Nephi 12:1-2). The Holy Ghost, can guide us and direct us. Like laundry after it has been in the dryer, the Holy Ghost can also give us feelings of comfort, peace, and warmth (Luke 24:32 and 3 Nephi 11:3).
I know that through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ we can be cleansed from our sins, those mistakes dirty our soul and create a rank smell of remorse and distaste in our mouths. As we are made clean we can be able to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven. No one wants to be in our presence when we have gross, smelly, mouldy clothes, and likewise, we cannot remain in our Heavenly Father's presence when we allow ourselves to be covered in gross, smelly, and mouldy sin, for "no unclean thing can dwell" in the presence of God (1 Nephi 10:21). We can be made clean and pure though, and I am so thankful to our Savior Jesus Christ for this!

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Fourth of July

 Thou shall thank the Lord thy God in all things... And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments ( Doctrine and Covenants section 59: 7, 21 )

Today I wanted to depart from my usual comparison and analogies of everyday things with Spiritual matters, to give thanks to the Lord for the blessings He has given, specifically in reference to the Fourth of July. I want to share some quotes concerning the hand of God in bringing us these blessings, our freedom of liberty, speech, religion, and many others that we enjoy!

First, the discovery of the Americas. Christopher Columbus shares his testimony about his epic voyage, recorded in a letter to the Spanish hierarchy and reads as follows: "Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my enterprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?"

Concerning the Revolutionary War, George Washington said: "The success which has hitherto attended our united efforts, we owe to the gracious interposition of heaven, and to that interposition let us gratefully ascribe the praise of victory and the blessings of peace."

The convictions of two delegates at the Constitutional Convention, Charles Pinckney: "When the great work was done and published, I was struck with amazement. Nothing less than the superintending hand of Providence that so miraculously carried us through the war . . . could have brought it about so complete upon the whole." Here is another testimony, this from James Madison, sometimes referred to as the "Father of the Constitution": "It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution."

And lastly, the words of Benjamin Franklin: "I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this. And I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little, partial, local interest. Our projects will be confounded, and we, ourselves, shall become a reproach and a byword to future ages; and what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
I therefore make the move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business and that one or more of the clergy in this city be requested to officiate in that service."

In the Book of Mormon we read of a general named Moroni, he is a man who did not delight in bloodshed, but delighted in the freedom and liberty of his people. At one point in the history of his people, a man desires to rise up and become king in order to subject the people in bondage. Moroni rallies his forces in defense of his nation. He tears his coat, taking a piece of it and writes :" In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children" ( Alma 46:12 )
Moroni then takes this piece and fastens it to a pole, riding from town to town gathering the people in defense of these freedoms. Moroni was willing to keep the commandments and to fight for his right's to worship his God. The Lord revealed to a prophet named Nephi: "And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper", and if we do not keep God's commandments we will not nor cannot prosper!

Thanks be to God for His continual blessing of us for following Him and keeping His commandments, and for the freedoms and liberties He has given us, to be able to worship as we please without fear of punishment! Like Moroni, let us always be willing to stand up for our God and do what is right. I know as we do the Lord will strengthen us. Let us remember the words of our Founding Fathers and always acknowledge the hand of God in our lives and the blessings we enjoy now today because of Him.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Lord's Chips

Nacho Libre
Set in a small Mexican town, Nacho Libre is the story of a young cook for a monastery trying to do his best to feed all the orphans a decent meal on a limited budget. This cook, Ignacio, always dreamed of becoming a luchador, but wrestling was forbidden by the monastery. One day while picking up the food for the monastery Ignacio is attacked by a thief who steals the chips. Later Ignacio, under a secret-identity known as "Nacho", teams up with this tortilla thief in order to enter a local wrestling competition to make money to buy enough food to feed the orphans.

At one point in the story we learn an important gospel truth. After being humiliated by the tortilla theif and losing the chips, Ignacio shamefully returns to the monastery empty-handed. One of the monks, in a thick accent, asks:

"Did you not tell him they were the Lord's cheeps?"

In the Old Testament through the prophet Malachi, the Lord chastises his people for continually straying away from Him. In chapter 3 the Lord asks the people to return to Him and gives this scripture through his prophet:

8   Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 
9   Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robebd me, even this whole nation.
10   Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing. that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11   And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.

The Lord has revealed more scriptures in these Latter-Days, through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord stated:

"And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his 
hand in all things, and obey not his commandments."

These scriptrues apply not only to tithing of materials the Lord has given us on Earth, but also of the gifts and abilities the Lord has given us! What gifts and abilities, or "chips", has the Lord given us that we can use for the benefit of others? Let's acknowledge and thank the Lord for the gifts he's given us! These abilities did not come from ourselves, but they are "the Lord's cheeps". By acknowleding the Lord and giving thanks to Him for the blessings He has already given us in our lives opens the windows of Heaven to receive even more from Him!

Here's a challenge for you.

Think of a gift or talent you have
that you can use to help others this upcoming week. 
Then DO IT.