Thursday, August 2, 2012

For why not speak of the Atonement of Christ

I just started reading in the book of Jacob, a prophet who wrote in the Book of Mormon. Wow! While reading it, you can't help but feel that he was writing directly to us. He addresses so many problems rampant today. He begins a sermon denouncing the raging infidelity so prevalent in his day and in our day as well. Moral virtue is scoffed today. The rule seems to be, "if s/he doesn't know, there isn't any problem." He also addresses people who get so caught up in the race for wealth and the pride that chases amassed wealth. He mentions that seeking wealth isn't bad, if we have already sought out a testimony of the Savior and if we use the wealth to help others. Pretty solid wisdom, especially considering today's theme seems to be make money and sex! If you're not doing that then you're weird. Followers of Christ choose a different path.

That, however, wasn't the point I wanted to make. I wanted to address the 4th chapter. What first caught my attention was Jacob describing the difficulty it took to record those words. They were etching on metal plates, which was probably pretty hard. This is coming from a guy who thinks writing on paper is too hard. Shoot, I even get tired just typing this blog. But, Jacob and the others before and after went through so much to etch words onto metal sheets! How did he feel about all that trouble? And why go through all that trouble? They rejoiced in that labor!! They were happy to do it! They got some sort of weird joy from doing this (vs 4). So, why all the weird joy? They got this joy out of etching these teachings because they wanted their children and grandchildren and even you and me today to be able to know about Christ and to receive the same joy and blessings they received from following Him (vs 3-4). They wanted us to learn with joy the words that they etched with joy (vs 3).

So, let me ask you: do you get joy out of reading the scriptures? I wish it were that easy. I wish that I could just put down the Bible, Book of Mormon, or other and just shout "wow!" "What a plot twist!" "I feel so SPIRITUAL!!!" Alas, that's not often the case. For some reason, reading the scriptures isn't like reading Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or any other book I love. In fact, sometimes I feel sleepy after only a few verses.

However, I find that if I approach it in the right mind set, if I make it a more proactive experience, I get more out of it. I've seen that these past few days. I have been trying to be an active reader. I have been going through every chapter, writing what I thought some of the key points were. I have noticed that I am more actively looking for themes, teachings, and by extension, spiritual experiences. And I have had them. I feel good after reading them. I feel joy, like I didn't think was before possible from just reading words. It isn't a joy that watching Modern Family will give me, nor is it the same joy that I get from being with my girlfriend. Nonetheless, it is joy. Pure joy, sent from a caring Father in Heaven.

The sixth verse concludes this point. We are taught that if we study the scriptures then we will receive revelations (guidance from God through the Holy Spirit). This revelation provides us with both hope and faith. Hope is an assurance that good will come from doing what we are supposed to. I have hope that God really will reward us when we do what he says. Faith is a belief in things that we can't see. I have faith that our Lord really does exist and really does care about us. Then, he teaches us that this faith and hope leads to us being able to receive miracles in our lives. And, let's be honest, miracles make us happy!

To recap: scripture study-->revelation-->faith and hope-->miracles=joy!

So, it really is possible to have joy when you're reading the scriptures. YES!!! You just need to approach it in the right way. Verse 7 talks about being humble after receiving those blessings and that joy. Remember, God gives them and we should pass off what we can to others who are less fortunate.

He finishes off the chapter by explaining how we should "reconcile" ourselves to God--how we should make ourselves square with God if you catch my drift. This is only possible through the Atonement, His sacrifice (vs 11). He finishes the chapter by expressing his love for the Atonement and its simplicity. I too will end by sharing my gratitude for the Atonement of our Savior and for the simple joy that we receive from reading about His Atonement!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I am alive!

I still am kind of embarrassed that I have a blog. I guess it is the fact that I am living alone in a city unlike any city I have lived in before that led me to return to this. This is the first time that I have been alone: truly, unequivocally, absolutely alone. Whereas, in college there was always a roommate, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, someone in whom I could find refuge. Now, I am alone. I have no friends here. I have no family here. I have no roommates. I may as well have no neighbors. And at the moment, to make this solitude even more profound, I have no books. My books have always been a source of comfort, an escape from the overly pressing demands of reality and adulthood. Yet, I find myself alone. So, I have had a lot more time to reflect, and to watch old episodes of "How I Met Your Mother."

Most important to me, and most cherished, is the time I have been able to devote to what I view as the most important thing to me: my testimony of Jesus Christ. I recognize now that I am alone, I need this testimony more than ever. I have no one to pressure me into going to church. I have no one to sit over my shoulder and chide me when I am doing something wrong. And what's more, my co-workers, while I adore many of them, do not share the same values as me. So I am striving to maintain a firm grasp on this belief, this hope, this elusive and often fleeting concept of a testimony.

I have been reading in the Book of Mormon these past few weeks. You know, I have been saying my whole life that I believe this book to be true. I have read it well over a dozen times. I even spent two years of my life and money testifying to people that this book, in conjunction with the Bible, contains a roadmap to happiness in this life, and eternal life with God and our families in the next. Notwithstanding all this, I think I may actually be coming to understand for myself the true weight of these implications and what they really mean. Throughout the previous months, I have found myself calling into question what I believe. I mean, let's be honest, the idea of some "god" who sits and watches us and cares enough to intervene here and there is kind of a ludicrous idea. I am a news junkie and I love watching how nations interact and see events unfold and how all these events influence my life and the course of my country and others like us. To think that there is some grand mastermind, some Oz behind the curtain, who also exercises power and influence, kind of seems almost childish at times. Especially when I am one of the only ones around who may still hold onto these convictions, and try to follow them.

In spite of those doubts and in spite of my colleagues' doubts, I simply cannot deny that there is a God: a real, tangible, loving, caring, and very interested God who watches over us and answers prayers. How can I make such bold claims? How can I make you understand why I feel why I do? I cannot. I can only live my life according to what I have experienced and my life is replete with evidences to His presence and concern for me. If you allow me to strike a personal tone, recently I had an experience that confirmed this to me. I just moved to the East coast from Utah. I left my girlfriend, my family, my friends, and the life I have known for the past 4 years behind. I moved to an apartment that I had not before seen in a neighborhood that I had never visited to take a job in which I had no idea what I would be doing, all the while, spending money I do not have. I do not need to explain the lack of friends, I already belabored that point. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive. On the night before my first job, as nervous as could be, I thought that I should turn to the Lord in hope for some whisper of comfort. I opened up to a random section in The Doctrine and Covenants that I had bookmarked for some reason weeks prior. It was section 100. The fourth verse read, "Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place." I know you cannot understand the relief and confidence that swept over me upon reading those words, but for this was an answer to my prayers. I need comfort and consolation that what I had done was in fact what He wanted done. He let me stumble upon a verse where He was giving someone else that exact same comforting message. Well, the fourth verse I read gave me that comfort. I have not always received such quick and straightforward answers to my prayers (in fact it is much the opposite), but this was one of those moments I will always treasure.

So all that being said, this post and the next few are not intended to make you (assuming someone actually will read this again, it's been well over a year) believe like I do. In fact, with all due respect, these are not even really intended for you at all--they are for me! These next posts are attempts for me to put what I am feeling and learning into words so that I can better digest these teachings. I have made so many mistakes in my life, and I am trying to apply what I read in this book, in the Bible, and in other script both modern and ancient to repair my life-to repent and improve. If you feel inclined, I invite you to do the same.