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!

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.

Given to Wonder

If asked what my favorite hobby was, I would say daydreaming. I love to think about far-off places and run through fantastic scenarios normally found in some kind of blockbuster film. It is a pretty great way to kill time when you are bored or to help you fall asleep quickly. Occasionally, this tendency to allow my mind wander leads to the biggest questions of life, such as “What is the point of life?” and “Did I leave the iron on?” Okay, not so much the second question (I am very good about unplugging the iron when I am done!), but questions like the first one have plagued mankind for centuries, especially today. Life is pretty insane when you think about it, especially when you consider that you are only one of billions of people who live on the Earth today. It is no surprise that there are many people who wander about life without a particular direction, changing their heading wherever the wind blows them. What do they daydream about?

I don’t know the answer to that question, not exactly, but I do know that having some kind of anchor in life really helps put stuff into perspective. My own personal anchor is the best one, in my opinion. I choose to anchor my life around the teachings of Jesus Christ and what the LDS church teaches, namely that we are here to improve ourselves and that every single trial we go through, every pain we feel, is merely educational. It is really, really hard to see this during that particular trial, but we can always (but may not choose to) see how some tribulation helped us and made us better. I think that may be where the saying, “hindsight is 20/20” came from.

My invitation today is to get a little introspective. Think for a couple minutes about the hardest trial you have ever gone through and figure out how that trial made you a better person. What did you learn? How did your perspective on life change? My goal is for everyone to say, “Wow that really sucked, but at least I learned something from it.”

If you are curious as to how this perspective helped me through some crazy stuff in my life, check out my profile on mormon.org. Click the word “profile” or the white box with an orange border in the corner of my page. My story is near the bottom of the page 🙂 I will probably make a post about what I learned from that experience in the future, but there is the story.

Children of God

Well, my blog has already failed to live up to its name, Sunday and Monday were crazy and I didn’t get a chance to post anything. Sorry!

Here in Utah, I work with people from all walks of life. I don’t have a good story to go along with this post unfortunately, but I just want to point out something that I wish more people would realize: we are all part of the Human Condition, which also means that we are God’s children. We have all been placed on Earth, eternal beings going through a mortal experience, to learn and grow. Our Heavenly Father has a plan for us in this life, wanting us to experience everything life has to offer in order to prepare us for our future in His kingdom.

We are all God’s children. Think about that phrase for a second. If we are children to a Heavenly Father, by extension we are all brothers and sisters going through the same experiences with the same worries, joys, troubles, and feelings. Whenever we (missionaries) teach someone, we spend a few minutes learning about the person, getting to know them a little better. We find out what they are stressed about and what their beliefs are. We ask them what they like to do in their free time and what they feel about God. Most of all, we ask them what we can do to help them and what they want to know about God and our beliefs surrounding Him. Just by spending a couple minutes with someone and doing nothing but focusing on them and their needs, an entire life story unfolds. Instead of just a random Hispanic man who decided to let us into his house, he becomes Antonio Silva, a single man from Bolivia who has five kids (all girls), works from 7 am to 8 pm at a construction site, really likes the Lakers (he has three signed jerseys), and is struggling to help his girls have everything he never had growing up. He cares so much about his family, but doesn’t know what he can do to help them, especially since his wife died two years ago in a car accident. Antonio Silva may or may not exist, but there is somewhere out there who is in his situation. How would we possibly know the facts about his life, his own reasons for living, without even asking him about his day?

My invitation to everyone today is to talk to someone you don’t know and ask them how their day is going. Ask them about their family and where they work. Share about yourself, your interests, and your own family. It doesn’t have to be someone you don’t know, just someone you don’t know as well as you could. You have the chance to make someone’s day and make a friend at the same time, all you have to do is talk. If there is one thing that I wish I could go back and change before my mission, it would be to talk to all of the people that I sat next to on the bus without exchanging one word, every person who sat alone in the back of a lecture hall, and the neighbor across the street whose house I saw every day when I woke up in the morning. I almost can’t believe that I missed so many opportunities to learn about someone else and maybe help them out with their troubles. Talking to complete strangers isn’t easy, but it is worth it. You never know when a kind word or sincere interest in someone’s life can make all the difference.

Talk to someone. We are all brothers and sisters, shouldn’t we treat each other that way?