Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Book of the Mormons

My heart is full and I feel constrained that the topic in which I would like to write on tonight will benefit someone who reads my blog. This post, like all of my posts, is meant for everyone to read but I feel impressed upon by the spirit that it will help someone. Whoever you are, I hope that this message will help fill your soul with peace. I'd ask, like always, that respect fill your minds as you read this, knowing that I'd respect you for your thoughts and feelings.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have the opportunity to listen to the prophets and the apostles of God speak in a general conference. Every six months members of my faith gather in large groups down in Salt Lake, in small groups in individual homes, and in medium-sized groups at chapels. This takes place all of the world, the conference being translated into over 100 different languages. This is done so that the members who don't speak English may hear the messages given in their own tongues. A few years ago, one of the prophets spoke specifically about a book that the LDS church uses in their studies. This book, as the prophet declared, is the keystone to our religion. It's the center block that holds the archway together. He stated that without this book we would never fully understand the mysteries of God and Jesus Christ. If we wanted to have a personal testimony of The Savior and the church which he restored through his chosen prophet Joseph Smith, we needed to study from this book every single day. This prophet also declared that every member should fill their homes with quotes from this book, it should be talked about in every discussion, it should be shared with friends and family, both member and non-member. Today, I want to share this marvelous book with you, and how it has changed my life forever.

The Book is titled "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ". In the book there are several shorter books, each having various amounts of chapters spread throughout several pages. Each book contains the stories of an ancient people who lived and died in early America. It talks about how these ancient people arrived in the Americas. It talks about wars and contentions. It talks about the importance of families. It shows us the bond that people have one with another. It teaches us how to prosper and thrive. It provides an account of the monetary system used by this people. It's detailed, often going into great lengths concerning battles, with losses and victories both recorded. It also speaks plainly. It provides principals for morality. It speaks of our day and the prophets.

The Book of Mormon isn't just a fun story that you read to the kids before bed. In essence, it's a giant journal, written by several individuals who dedicated their lives to serving God. It speaks of those who gave their lives because they wouldn't deny their faith. It teaches us to repent and be baptized. It gives instruction on how to prevent pride from swallowing us whole. It counsels us to pray to our Father in Heaven and helps us understand our divine potential. But above all, the most important thing it teaches us about is Christ. His name echoes through almost every page of the book. His power is shown and felt in miraculous ways. His presence is noted as we read about the blood shed and the violence. The account of His victory over death is recorded in full, teaching the world that The Savior had gained power over death and salvation to his soul. This book teaches us that we can be together forever as families. It helps us understand our divine potential. It teaches us the words of Christ and how they can help us have eternal life. I echo the words of the prophet of which I spoke earlier by saying, if we read The Book of Mormon, we will gain an understanding of Jesus Christ as our Savior, redeemer, and friend better than we ever thought we would.

This is not to say that the bible is not important to our salvation. In the bible, we learn at length, the mysteries of God. In the bible we learn that God speaks through his chosen prophets. We are taught the law of tithing and that if we truly love God then we need to love our neighbor. In Mathew it teaches us not to judge, stating, "Judge not, that ye be not judged"-Matt. 7:1. It speaks of Christ's life and death. We learn in the bible about Christ's divine ministry. We also learn that it is through two or three witnesses we may know the truth of all things. The Bible teaches a great deal of God, our Heavenly father, and Jesus Christ, his son. The Book of Mormon is a second witness of them. The Book of Mormon echoes the Bible but also provides further revelation and inspiration that we can know for our day.

When I was 18 years old I was encouraged by my bishop to read and study the Book of Mormon. He instructed me that if I wanted to be fully prepared to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ on my mission then I first needed to gain a testimony of it. As I read the book, the spirit whispered to me sweet truths that I had never before noticed in my reading. When I neared the completion of my task I received a sure knowledge that the book that I was reading was true and that it indeed came from God. I was reading in Moroni when the Spirit of the Lord came down and rested upon my soul. It felt like a thick blanket had wrapped itself around my heart, speaking a simple truth that I was sure had just been lost along my life's journey. I started weeping, contemplating the scripture that had ushered in this tremendous feeling. In Moroni 7:12 we read that all things which are good come from God and all things that are evil come from the devil. As I read this, the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that The Book of Mormon was a good book. It did speak good things. It taught men to repent and come unto Christ. How could a book that just wanted me to believe in Christ be bad? According to this scripture, it couldn't, and it isn't. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. It was on that night as I read that verse, that my testimony of this sacred book was sealed in my mind and heart forever. After I had finished The Book of Mormon, I knelt in prayer, thanking my God for the opportunity to read and study such an amazing book. I asked, as Moroni instructs, if the book was true. The Spirit once again bore testimony to me of it's divine nature and truthfulness. I asked if Joseph Smith was, and still is, a prophet of God. I received a sacred testimony of prophets that day and their role in fulfilling God's plan.

I know that The Book of Mormon is true. It's not a fairy-tale or a myth. It is a book given to us from God. If we read and study it's pages we will gain the power we need to overcome temptations of every kind. We can feel the spirit of God manifesting to us sacred and humble truths. As we read, we can feel the peace that it provides to our souls. This book is true. I cannot deny it nor have I ever been able to since the night I gained my firm testimony of it. I invite everyone to read it, even if you've read it before, and to ponder its words and your feelings as you read them. I encourage all of you to read it, study it, and believe. In the words of an Ancient Book of Mormon Prophet, "Doubt not, but be believing".


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is it an opinion or just reflection? opinion day. If you know me than you know that I have a lot of opinions and I'm always willing to share them with someone. There's something that's been pressing upon my mind as of late, and it's something that I'm going to use as the focus of my post today. You've heard me talk about it before in some form or another, but today, I feel like it needs to be addressed again.

When I was in High School I learned that not everything was okay in my head. I'd often feel hopeless and lost. I didn't have a purpose and didn't really care to find any direction. I found that through writing I was able to harness these self-deprecating feelings and corral them into a single focus. It was at this point that writing became an important part of my life. It helped me cope with all of the things that I had to do throughout the day. It helped me see that I could get up and do homework, hang out with friends, be social, and everything else that a teenager is meant to do. I was able to find an outlet and threw my mental illness plug into it. However, the power to the outlet would sometimes go out and I was left feeling empty and alone. I'd fall into a dark place and never thought I'd be able to leave it. It was when I felt like I had broken past my "breaking point" that the plug would start working again and I'd be able to function as a normal moody teenager.

This has been the case since High School. There are moments when I'll feel like I'm on top of the world. I feel like everything is in it's place and I can perform miraculous feats. Then, out of the blue, the mental illness unplugs itself from the outlet and I'm left feeling like a dried up husk. This feeling of emptiness lasts for a few weeks. It's at this point that I am able to plug back in and move on with my life. I'm convinced that this is something that I'll deal with until I'm perfected.Throughout the last few years I've discovered just how much it affects me and the people around me. I'm learning, what I call, the "personality" of my mental illness, and how I can work with it to help myself when I'm feeling like the world is coming to an end.

I've been faced with one of these bouts of depression for the last few weeks. I woke up about two weeks ago and felt like all of the energy that I had so graciously been given the previous day had all soaked into the pillow I was resting on. I didn't want to get up and I definitely did not want to go to work. But, I was able to pry myself away from my bed and go about my business. As the days progressed the pillow slowly sucked away more of my energy until all of the good thoughts that I had managed to muster up had all been replaced with thoughts of pure darkness. I had a rain cloud hovering over my head, the storm soaking my body with a mixture of resentment towards everyone saying "good morning" or making sure that I smiled and hollowness in my chest. Yesterday, I felt so down that I didn't want to do anything. I was completely drained and slept most of the day. I stayed in bed and only left for work and making dinner for my kids. When I woke this morning, I was sure that I'd feel worse than yesterday but somehow, the pillow, instead of seeping my energy, gave it back to me. I woke up happy and energetic. I was able to greet the day with a better outlook. Today was a good day.

I bring all of this up for one reason. As I was going through this depressive episode, something that's going to happen again in a few weeks, I was the only one that knew what was going on. I didn't inform anyone that the dark clouds of depression had harbored in my mind. I didn't allow anyone past the walls that I had put up in order to protect others from the downpour that I wrestled with inside. There were people who knew I wasn't feeling well, which is where I left it. I didn't feel well, but it wasn't anything physical. I was battling something inside my head that, for the last two weeks, had left me battered and bleeding. There wasn't anyone who knew what I was struggling with, and that's my point. We are so quick to judge someone for how they act and do things that we forget how much they could be struggling. I normally put on a mask to cope with my crippling depression. This masks helps others around me to feel comfortable. They see me as a sarcastic dick who doesn't mean anything that he says. I make them laugh and that's good enough for them.

There are people all around us who are struggling with one thing or another. It could be physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. There is someone close to me right now who is struggling with the life-changing effects of cancer. She spoke to me of how she was walking somewhere today thinking to herself, "there is something inside of me that shouldn't be there. I have cancer. There is cancer inside of me". Her cancer isn't visible. You can't see it and don't even know about it unless she tells you. She's struggling though, hurting at times, and knows that this is only the beginning of a fight with pain. But, she still smiles and tries to have a good outlook on life. You would never know that she is suffering because she doesn't let anyone know.

We need to start living in a world where we can all be kind to each other. We might not always agree with the choices that someone is making, but we can still be kind. You might live or work with someone who keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. You might want to strangle them at times, wondering why they can't seem to get things right, but you can still be kind. You don't know what that person is going through and you might never find out. I am definitely guilty at jumping to a quick conclusion about who a person is based on the things that they do/don't do. I'm not saying these things, standing on the sidelines, thinking that I never falsely accuse someone of something. I tend to be in the thick of the ridicule, standing by the side of the accuser, feeling slighted by the accused in some way or another. But, that is one thing that I am working my hardest at changing. Just like no one can see the battle raging inside of me, I can't see the one blazing in them.

It might take all of the energy that we can find, we might have to squeeze it out of our pillows every morning, but we can be kind. We can focus on the good. We can be the person that others want to emulate because we are kind. We can choose to be kind. Someone once said, "In a world where you can be anything, be kind".

It is my hope that I can truly start being kind to everyone. If I have been uncaring and insensitive towards you in any way, please allow me to say sorry. I can be a jerk at times but I am learning to change that about myself.