Self-Reflection and Its Uses

As I mentioned in a past post, I like to daydream and wonder about the universe and all the crazy stuff that’s in it. This often leads to thinking about something very important: Me! I really enjoy a good session of introspection and self-reflecting, especially at the end of the day when I am getting ready for bed. I talk to myself in the mirror, asking myself how my day went and what I could have done better. Usually this casual dialogue with my inner self becomes very serious and soul-searching. I think about my likes and dislikes, what kind of personality I have, and whether I am doing my best to improve myself as a person. I make plans to better myself, some of which I actually go through with. At the end of a session, I always feel better about myself, more satisfied with who I am and what it actually means to be me.

This might sound really goofy and weird, but I am a firm believer that a good bout of self-reflection can work wonders on the soul. I personally use self-reflection as a way to decompress, especially if I have been dissatisfied with life lately. It helps me to address the reasons for the issue and not just the issue itself. Does that make any sense? I guess another way to put it is that you need to get to the root of a problem, especially if you find that the problem stems from you! Sometimes self-reflection can lead you to places in your soul that you don’t really want to examine closely, but facing those dark thoughts and shadowy recesses can lead to a better sense of self-worth and allows us to address issues within ourselves that we might have never realized were there.

Now, why is self-reflection important from a Gospel perspective? Well, if we aren’t aware of ourselves and our own strengths and weaknesses, there is no way that we will be able to align our will to God’s and strive to follow his commandments. We have to be aware of the reasons behind our actions, whether they are because of something within ourselves or because of an outward stimulus. We can then change ourselves, or hopefully our surroundings, to alter what our actions are.

The other day, I heard someone talking about how they were easily angered and that they “just couldn’t help it.” I have a strong belief that anyone can change and that someone’s personality can be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. God, as our loving Heavenly Father, wants us to become better people. This can only take place through change and change can only occur in our soul if we allow the Atonement of Christ to work through us. My invitation for everybody today is to do a little soul-searching and find something you can work on to turn your heart towards God and allow yourself to be changed a little by the Atonement. Become a better person by striving to change some part of yourself today! Pray to have opportunities to change and God will provide them.

Day of Worship

Today is the first post I have been able to make on Sunday (I wrote it ahead of time :D), so I want to talk about today being a day of worship. In the Mormon Church, we hold the Sabbath in very high esteem, often going out of our way to avoid working on Sundays and spending three whole hours at church. Why do we do this? Why do we devote so much energy to church when we could be out fishing or enjoying a beautiful afternoon on the lake?

These are questions I would get a lot when I was back home, but I would often jump into some long explanation that the Sabbath has always been a day of rest and we believed that we should keep the same commandments today, etc. Sometimes I would just tell people that it was one of the Ten Commandments to keep the Sabbath day holy, but that would sometimes create an argument about what activities were deemed “acceptable” to do and how we all interpret God’s laws differently. Well, after coming on my mission, I finally figured out the correct answer to those questions, one that was a completely valid and also allowed me to express our beliefs at the same time.

The magic answer is this: Sunday (the Sabbath) is a day of worship. It is a day set aside for us to worship God and recharge our spiritual “batteries.” As Mormons, we take the council literally when we are told the Sabbath is a day to rest from our labors, and it makes a bit of sense. We are always so busy during the rest of the week, hustling and bustling about trying to fulfill commitments, that we don’t have very much time to just sit and spend an extended period of time reading scriptures and learning the Gospel. Personally, I am very thankful for an entire day to put the worries of the world on hold and get to focus completely on the Lord. One might ask, “Well, that’s jolly good and well, but why don’t you go water-skiing on Sunday either?” That would be a good question! Well, the answer lies in the scriptures. In the Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-10, it says:

9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; 
10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;

We are to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” and “pay [our] devotions unto the Most High.” If we are busy water-skiing, it is awfully difficult to keep our minds devoted to God. If we are shopping for our next pair of shoes, we are probably thinking more about paying for our favorite brand names and less about paying devotions to the Most High. Remember why we have the Sabbath and take the time to worship your Heavenly Father!

Now, that being said, the scriptures also say “…[our] vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times” (D&C 59:11). This means that just because Sunday is a special day to worship, doesn’t mean that we can go crazy the rest of the week and forget all of our obligations as Christians and disciples of Christ. We have to remember the commandments and act accordingly, but that Sunday is a day specifically to put aside our troubles and worship the Lord. My invitation today is to keep the Sabbath holy by going to church and studying the scriptures. Also, remember to take the spirit of the Sabbath with you during the rest of the week too!

The Small Things III

Good weeks are certainly something to be appreciated. After all, not every week just glides on by without any problems, but I definitely think they should be treasured when they come along. This week was pretty awesome for me, so I am going to add that to my list of Small Things that I really enjoy. Let’s see, what else was really enjoyable this week?

Small Things this week:

  • A Really Good Week
    • See above paragraph for explanation 🙂
  • Waking up and going back to sleep
    • Waking up in the middle of the night is rarely fun, but when you get up and are able to go right back to sleep, it is a pretty good feeling. This gets bonus points if you see the alarm clock and have several more hours to sleep.
  • Performing Service
    • Out of everything that gives me joy, giving service to someone is certainly one of the best. Not only does it make you feel good about yourself, but it also gives someone else a really good day. It’s pretty much a two-in-one deal!
“Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” President Gordon B. Hinckley

On Preventing Inactivity

As a missionary, especially here in Utah, I have talked to many people who have gone inactive or less-active in the church for a variety of reasons. Like President Uchtdorf recently said in the October General Conference, the reasons for leaving the church are neither general nor simple. I won’t talk much about that talk, partly because I already talked about it (see: My Favorite Conference Talk) and partly because today I want to talk about what we as members can do to prevent our own inactivity in the Gospel.

Personally, I wish it was just as easy as saying, “I am always going to stay active in the church!” I wish that outward exclamation of will would be enough to prevent a possible falling away from the Church that I love, but having seen so many other people go inactive, I know that must not be enough. Even more disturbing to me is the fact that there are missionaries who serve honorable, full-time missions only to go inactive a year or two off their missions. I admit that I have been worried quite a bit lately about that possibility with myself. I really can’t see myself doing that, but what on Earth can I do to prevent such a thing from happening?

The answer (or rather, one of them) came to me during my personal study a few days ago. I was reading the October 1996 General Conference talks when I came across one by a nearly twenty-years younger Thomas S. Monson. The talk is titled “Be Thou an Example,” and it primarily talks about how we can receive blessings from following the Lord’s commandments and that our example can change the lives of those around us. As I was reading the wonderful discourse, I came across an entire paragraph devoted to missionaries and the council that he would give them. Here are the three things that he asked his missionaries to do when he was a Mission President in Canada:

  1. “Prepare well for your vocation, profession, or trade, and be the very best you can be at what you choose to do.
  2. Quoting Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Marry the right person [at the right time], in the right place, [and] by the right authority.” Thus far, their responses were spontaneous and enthusiastic. Then I would counsel:
  3. Always be active in the Church. Some of the missionaries would look a little quizzical before responding, and I would say, “Let me put the matter another way. Three words provide the formula: Pay your tithing.” Each would affirm determination to do so. I truly believe that the payment of an honest tithing will go a long way to ensure continued activity in the Church.”

After reading the each of the first two points, I was nodding my heading and saying to myself, “Yes yes, this is very sound advice.” When I read the third point, I did a mental double-take. Was continued activity really as easy as paying tithing? I am not sure I even finished the talk at this point because I felt like I had been given a nugget of metal more precious than gold. Perhaps this was the answer I had been seeking the whole time.

Well, after thinking about it and pondering why exactly tithing would help with continued church activity, I realized that the solution was not as easy as I had first mentally exclaimed. I thought about my own struggles paying tithing over the years and how difficult it was to give up one tenth of a hard-earned paycheck. I thought about my parents who had been dirt-poor during college and the fact that they made a concentrated effort to pay their tithing every month. My mom still speaks with great reverence about the blessings they received during those years and how she attributes them to tithing. I realized that the tithing we pay blesses us more than anything else. While it is true that the Church uses tithing to fund building construction and other projects, the Church really doesn’t need the money. President Monson could tell the entire membership that there is no need to pay tithing anymore and he would be guided to some mountain to find an untapped gold vein or something in order to fund the Church. So if the Lord doesn’t need our tithing, why do we pay it? Why is it a commandment to pay one whole tenth of the money we make to a church that could get along just fine without it?

In Malachi 3:10-11 regarding the payment of tithing, it states,

“…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. 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.”

Honestly, I think the opportunity to receive a blessing “that there shall not be room enough to receive it” is a good enough reason to pay tithing, but the Lord explains even further that “[He] will rebuke the devourer for [our] sakes.” Satan himself will be rebuked and have no power over us. The “fruits of our ground” will be protected and will be given to us in the correct time. While in many cases this includes financial blessings, it often also means our spiritual fruits as well. I assume that tithing helps our church activity in this manner. If we are paying an honest tithe, we will be blessed with more spiritual sensitivity and a desire to attend church. We will be given an increased capacity to serve in the church and opportunities to grow and progress, which is the ultimate goal of this life.

My invitation to you today is to pay your tithing and see how generous God will be in blessing you. I can testify that tithing has kept my own family afloat during difficult times in our life and brought us closer together. A family that pays tithing together attends church together. If you are currently inactive in the Church, I urge you to come back and enjoy the blessings that the Lord has (and wants) for you. Our Father in Heaven wants to bless us, but we have to follow His provided commandments in order to do so.

The Great Physician – Mark Ch 2

I haven’t read the Bible in a while, so I decided to start reading it again, starting with the New Testament because I love reading about the Savior’s life. Yesterday, as I was reading in the book of Mark, I came across a wonderful nugget of wisdom. In Mark Chapter 2, verses 15-17, it says:

15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.
16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

My message today is about the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. During His time on Earth, Jesus performed many miracles, including healing the blind, curing lepers, and raising people from the dead. While these were great works, they only showed a small portion of His power and authority. His ultimate purpose for coming to Earth and living the life of a mortal man was to perform the Atonement, to suffer and die for our sins and provide a way for us to overcome our shortcomings as imperfect beings. Like the scripture in Mark states, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” As we are all imperfect, we have been called to repentance. I personally find great comfort in the fact that Jesus would sit down to eat and drink with me even though I am a sinner.

My invitation to everyone today is to read the entire chapter of Mark 2 and think about what Jesus Christ has done for you. I testify that He truly did suffer, die, and was resurrected for every one of us. He knows every one of our pains and sorrows because he experienced them. Never forget that while you are going through a difficult trial in your life, Jesus Christ understands what you are going through. Take comfort in His infinite love and know that He wants you to be happy and to be the best that you can be. His hand is always stretched out for us, all we have to do is take it.

The Small Things II

Hey everyone! I haven’t been able to post the last few days. It has been really hectic! I will probably start posting every other day or so from now on in order to keep the content fresh and as well-written as possible!

Anyway, today is Saturday, so I will take the time to write down a couple of things that I really enjoyed this week. The gears on my bike have been giving me problems lately, so I took it in for a small tune-up. I didn’t realize there were so many things that needed proper adjustment, because when I got it back, it rode like a dream! There are few things better than riding a bike that silently glides down the street, gears shifting smoothly and brakes with proper pressure. Here are a few other things that gave me joy this week!

  • Proving that you really can handle super spicy foods
    • Last night I ate a whole spoonful of deliciously spicy hot sauce without batting an eyebrow. I felt like a king when my companion attempted to do the same and started downing all the milk in the house 😉
  • Working out right after waking up in the morning
    • Nothing wakes me up better than a good set of intense exercise! It really helps me feel energized for the rest of the day.
“Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” President Gordon B. Hinckley

Take No Thought What Ye Shall Speak

 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

As missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have the enormous responsibility of testifying of the Living Christ before everyone we meet. We bear His name on our name tags and we pray to Him to guide us to those who need our message most. Sometimes we are led to people and have no idea what we are going to teach them or what their needs are. I take particular comfort in the scripture above during those situations.

I have walked into someone’s home, sat down with them, taught a lesson, and left for my next appointment without remembering exactly what I even said simply because the words I spoke were not my own. I can testify that the guidance of the Spirit is second to none. No matter how much preparation someone puts into a lesson or how many scriptures they have memorized, the Spirit will always put into their minds the exact thing they should say at the proper time. If a missionary is properly attuned to the Spirit by living the principles they teach, there is no need to fear any man, no matter the strength of his argument or stature.

Strive to keep the Spirit with you at all times, so that you will be able to speak the words of God based on His guidance. If you are worried about doing missionary work because you don’t think you have enough scriptural knowledge or just don’t know what to say, remember this scripture and strive to say what the Spirit guides. I can promise that you will be guided and speak through the Spirit of God.