Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Am a Child of God

Riin's Story

Many years I've had problems with self-esteem. It's been hard for me to love myself. The world hasn't been very helpful because when you see all the gorgeus girls on the pictures of the magazines and all the pretty actors in movies, it's easy to start comparing yourself with them (which is exactly what I did). I would act all happy but I was actually a depressive mess.

Once when the sisters were teaching me about loving thy neighbour, it occured to me that how can I love my neighbour if I can't even love myself. I knew that I had to figure out who I am, who I really am. I finally figured it out - I am a child of God. I'm created in His image and nurtured in His hands. He knows me and He loves me just the way I am.

I tried so hard to be normal, to be just like everyone else but I should have done the opposite. I don't have to be normal to feel good, I have to be myself. We are all special, not only few of us. We all have good sides and bad sides. No one is perfect, not yet. We were supposed to look different, act different and love different things. We are on our mission here. We can't waste any time feeling sorry for ourselves. We should appreciate the opportunity to have a body, to see the world, to live in it, to be a part of it.

My favourite scripture is 1 Samuel 16:7 - But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. I believe most of us have good hearts or something good in our hearts. The Lord sees it and knows it. He remembers it and appreciates it. He smiles every time we smile. I know that we are all children of God.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Intense Desire to Know the Truth: Science vs. The Spirit

Josh Sy's Story

Image Credit

I was born in the church to a great family and liked church as a young boy. I was also one of those odd kids who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up even while I was very young. I wanted to be an engineer or inventor, and as this was my desire later on for life I had a natural love for science and physics. I was baptized at 8 and enjoyed my time in the church, never wavering in my early youth.

At the age of 15 I knew life was presenting choices to me for the future. I had previously kept all the commandments of the church, but one was starting to seem difficult to me, I wanted to ski on Sunday. It seemed as if every Sunday the sky was clear and the snow was fresh. We would usually go to my families cabin for dinner after church and I was well aware that the ski lines at Sundance Resort were empty on Sunday.

I made up my mind to prove that God didn't exist, or that the church wasn't true using science. I started with evolution, until I read writings of several LDS authors about it and my argument was lost. I knew I had something with the Big Bang Theory until I went to my mom who smiled and said “out of everything nothing was created? Then who lit the match to start the explosion?” Once again I'd failed. I tried against the Book of Mormon but the evidence for it was overwhelming.

After my brief run trying to prove the church incorrect I was left with an intense desire to know if it was true. I always read the Book of Mormon at night and focused on Moroni's promise. Days went by with me on my knees every night, never knowing for sure. After about 2 weeks of trying I attended a baptism of a friend on a Saturday that would have been the perfect ski day. There, in the Stake Center sitting between my friends Matt and Jessica I felt the spirit really strong as a hymn was playing; in that moment I asked the Lord if that was my answer and that emotion that I'd never felt so strong before grew to a massive degree and so I asked again “Lord, does this feeling mean that Joseph Smith was your prophet of the restoration and the Book of Mormon is true?”, and as it grew again I received light and knowledge from heaven.

That was the first time in my life that knowledge was given to me like that. Everything else I'd studied was learned by study and based on theories, equations, or principals; this was so different as it stood alone as divine knowledge in my mind. I didn't head back to ski that day as I had previously thought to do, and the following day walking to church that mountain was non temptation for me.

Seventeen years later much has changed, but I still know. I've been on a mission in Italy, married a girl much better and prettier than I deserve in the temple, blessed with 3 great kids. I've watched my dad be called as a General Authority and seen the dedication, increadible sacrifice, love, and goodness of those with whom he serves. Most inspiring are the 13 sophomores who attend my seminary class each morning who are willing to wake up an hour early to read the New Testament with me.

All these blessings and the anchor of my faith was gained in a moment when I needed to know, so I asked, and He answered. I'll forever be grateful to the Lord for that witness and the blessings that have flowed from it into my life.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In the Lord's Due Time

Keith L. Brown's Story
The Vicissitudes of Life

In 1 Nephi 19:23 we learn about likening the Scriptures unto ourselves “that it might be for our profit and learning.” With that thought in mind, I would like to turn to the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, chapter 29, verses 11 through 13 and share a few thoughts with you this morning as to how the Scriptures found there apply to my own personal life and perhaps to your own lives as well.

In Jeremiah 29:11-13 we read these words, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

On March 10, just a little over a month ago, I celebrated my ten year anniversary as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I actually began investigating the Church in late 1980. I had seen several television commercials about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and each one normally ended with how one could obtain a free copy of the Book of Mormon. I have always had a love for books and was always on the watch for any new book of interest that I might be able to add to my small library of books. Having no knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and having never heard of or seen a copy of the Book of Mormon, I thought that this might be an interesting addition to my library, and besides it was at the right price, free. What I later found out is that the commercials failed to mention one minor detail. Nothing that I can recall was ever mentioned about the fact that two young men, riding bicycles, dressed in suits would personally deliver the free Book of Mormon. I later learned that these young men were missionaries for the Church.

The day the missionaries arrived at my parents’ home were I was living at the time; I invited them in and had a brief conversation with them. I found that some of what they had to say was of some interest to me and so I invited them to return again in a few days when I had more time to sit and talk with them and continue with our conversation. Time went on and after having met with the missionaries for about 5 months, I decided to leave home and join the United States Navy in March 1981. I thanked the missionaries for taking the time to visit me and teach me about what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes and teaches, and promised that I would continue to investigate the Church and its teachings at a later time. At that time I had only read a few passages from the Book of Mormon and though I had found what I read to be of great interest, I placed the book on the shelf in my library thinking that it would make a good reference book and perhaps I would return to read its pages some day.

Moving forward now in time, I found myself in San Diego California where I attended basic training, my first “A” school in electronics, and was eventually assigned to my first ship, the U.S.S. Jouett CG 29. One day while on liberty from the ship I came across a small bookstore. Being a lover of books I decided to go in and take a look around to see if I might find anything of interest. I did not realize at first that it was an LDS bookstore, but it didn’t take long to figure out. I distinctly remember on that visit I purchased several things to include another copy of the Book of Mormon and a set of conference tapes. I would love to tell you that I went back to the ship and spent time listening to the conference messages and reading the Book of Mormon, but that is not the case. In fact, I tucked the tapes and the Book of Mormon neatly away thinking that I would get back to those some day.

In addition to the conference tapes and the Book of Mormon, I bought several other books. The title of one of the books particularly caught my attention that day for whatever reason. The title of the book is “In The Lord’s Due Time”. I still have that book in my personal library. I did not at that time stop to notice who the book was written by or even what the book was about. I would later come to realize that the book was written by a Black Brother of the Church by the name of Joseph Freeman. The name Joseph Freeman is perhaps unfamiliar to most of you, but Brother Joseph Freeman was the first Black to receive the Priesthood following the 1978 Revelation. I thought that was interesting and wondered what was meant by receiving the Priesthood and what exactly a revelation is. Like the other materials that I purchased that day, I put the book away intending to further research the matter at a later time.

As years went on, I decided to begin studying for the ministry. The Baptist church that I was attending while stationed in Norfolk Virginia had its own Bible College and so I enrolled and began preparing to one day become a Baptist minister. During my course of studies I heard, read, and learned about many negative comments about the Mormon Church and why one should not join this Church. I became very well acquainted with anti-Mormon materials through media resources such as video tapes, cassette tapes, newspapers, magazines and the like. For a time, I even communicated through letters with people who had at one time been members of the Church and for one reason or another had left the Church. Though I will admit that some of the negativity sounded interesting, I could not buy into the fact that this Church was all that these folks where proclaiming it to be. I reflected upon the things that the missionaries and I had discussed in earlier years and came to the conclusion that there must be more to the story than these folks that were against the Church were telling, and that there must be some evidence of truth in what the missionaries had taught me. In short, I determined in my mind that I would seek after the truth and ignore all of the negativity.

Let us move forward in time once again. The year is now 1997 and I found myself stationed at a NATO command in Keflavik Iceland. One day as I was surfing the internet in my room, I decided to do a search on the Mormon Church out of curiosity just to see what I might find. I found a link for the Church News and decided to check it out. I later found an email address and decided to send an email to the newspaper inquiring as to the cost of sending a subscription to the newspaper to an overseas location. I received an email back from one of the editors of the newspaper at that time whose name was Doug Osborn. In his email he inquired as to what I was doing in Iceland and what my interest was in the Mormon Church. I sent an email back stating that I was serving in the United States Navy and that I was merely interested in reading about what was going on in the Mormon Church at that time. He emailed me back and said that he thought that was interesting and then he said, please do not be upset with me, and I hope you do not mind, but I have contacted the local missionaries in your area and have asked them to contact you. Partially thinking that I was on a secure NATO base and that the chances of the missionaries being able to locate me was slim to none, I wrote back stating that would be fine. A few days later my telephone rang. I answered the phone and who do you suppose was on the other end of the line? You guessed it, a missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My first question was how he obtained my telephone number. He replied that it was really quite easy, I just called the operator and she gave it to me. My thoughts were, well so much for security. I gave them my address and invited them over.

To make a long story short Brothers and Sisters, I met with several groups of missionaries over the course of about a year. We had many wonderful conversations and discussions about the Bible and the Book of Mormon. At times they were asking me where I found certain Scriptures and would make notes of them. At other times they would call me and tell me that they found another investigator that was also Baptist and asked how I would handle answering certain questions that their investigator had. It became a great teaching / learning experience for each of us.

Finally, in January 1998, I told the missionaries that I appreciated everything that they had taught me and that I would not make a final decision about being baptized until after I had read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price in their entirety. I believe that the Lord had a hand in that as well as I believe that I was inspired to develop a 40-day reading schedule to complete all of the reading. For the very first time, a little over 17 years after my initial investigation of the Church, and for 40 consecutive days prior to my baptism, I read the Book of Mormon in its entirety, followed by the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price each in their entirety. Having completed all of the reading, I returned to Moroni’s promise as recorded in the Book of Mormon in Moroni 10: 3-5 – “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. 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.” After reading those words I knelt beside my bed and asked the Lord to let me know if these things were indeed true. I received my answer, called the missionaries and on the evening of Tuesday, March 10, 1998, I was baptized and became a member of the Lord’s true Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The rest as they say is history with all things being fulfilled and accomplished according to the Lord’s plans and in His due time.

Brothers and Sisters, I may not know a whole lot, but what I know, I know of a surety. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church upon the earth today. I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are the Word of God and that both testify of a loving Savior and Redeemer. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today and I sustain him as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator as I also sustain his counselors. I also know that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ holds all of my tomorrows in the palm of His hand. He has already prepared the work that He would have me do in the days ahead, is preparing me to do that work, and will one day in His due time call me forth to accomplish that work. Whether the work will be in a section of the vineyard of this great Stake of Zion or wherever the Lord may call me to serve, I humbly pray that I, like Nephi of old will be obedient to the call and go forth and do those things which the Lord commands.

I close by reading once again the words found in Jeremiah 29:11-13 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” God our Eternal Heavenly Father lives and Jesus is the Christ. Of these things I do so testify and bear solemn witness in His Sacred Holy name. Amen.