Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ

So back in Rexburg I had to write several papers on the doctrine of the atonement, the Fall, all that and I mean I‘m not going to lie the thought did cross my mind to just read one of those instead of writing another talk, but then I though eh better not, at 9am might put a couple people to sleep considering I fell asleep many times writing them. So I actually wrote a different talk, which I’m sorry to say does not have a lot of scripture or doctrine, but its what I know and believe in my heart to be true.

At the beginning of the month the bishop spoke about thunderstorms and trials that would soon come upon us, and maybe they have already or maybe we are enduring them right now, I’m not sure. But a couple days after this happened I was watching BBC “Call the Midwife” and I mean its pretty crazy the things one can get from BBC, but the scene was this. It was a stormy looking day in London and the nurse walks into the apartment with all the doors open, she starts to examining the patient which is an elderly man. Throughout the episode you learn that the nurse and the patient had both been Prisoners of War in WWII. The nurse was just a child when it happened but he was a solider. Long story short he had let go of the experience and took it as something he could better himself by living through, and she couldn’t let go of what people had done to her. So in the scene it starts raining and she runs to close all the doors but he stops her saying, “my mom always told me, when there is a thunderstorm open the front door but also the back, never let the storm find a home in you.”

Even though most times through minor trials we can find Christ through the atonement and be able to let go of what holds that “storm” so to speak, in with us.

Elder Scott said, “When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?

During my stay in Rexburg my Stake President spoke at a fireside a lot about trials, and what has a hold on our hearts. We went over the story of Christ and the rich man, who came to him having lived a life in complete worthiness and asked our Lord, “What lack I yet?” Christ replied in Matthew 19: 21, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” My old stake president then went on to say the only thing keeping that man from true happiness was his pride in wealth. That is his ultimate stumbling block. He then went on to challenge us to go home and sincerely pray to God asking him “What lack I yet?” Ask in your heart what your stumbling block is  towards living harmoniously with Christ.

It was after that I was able to pray realize what was holding me back from my potential utter happiness was myself, my pride, my stubbornness towards a lot of problems I was holding on to. Shortly after this challenge was given I broke my leg skiing. It was the middle of winter, which meant it was blizzarding at about -10 all the time, midsemester, with crutches; I just really did not have the time for it. And it was the first time I can genuinely remember asking the Lord “why?” A couple days went by and finally my roommates brought to my attention that I should receive a Priesthood blessing. I was so stubborn that I said no for a while thinking it would just be a petty thing that really wouldn’t do much. Obviously my faith lacked enormously in the power of the Priesthood. Finally after a week of swelling and pain I decided I’d had enough and asked to bring my home teachers for a blessing. It just happens that we couldn’t get a hold of them so I asked so me dear family friends of mine to come over and they were happy to do so. Once they came in I sat down on a chair and they started to give me a blessing. Aside from my patriarchal blessing it was the single most powerful blessing I’d ever been given. The spirit was so strong it burned in my heart, what had been said without a doubt only could have come from our eternal Heavenly Father.
That blessing started a fire that would eventually consume my heart until I had no other choice than to serve a mission, nothing else could fill this emptiness that I knew was my path. And when you feel that burning given by the Holy Ghost there is no possible way to ever deny it. As Joseph Smith said, “When the Lord commands, do it” The Lord has given me a command and I will go and serve.
It testified to me of the Priesthood and its power to change lives. It was this simple decision to get a blessing that changed my heart towards Christ, so I can follow him, I still ask myself “what lack I yet” but now I understand even more of the power of Christ and his gospel.
Recently one of the men who gave me this blessing came to me and said, “I want to thank you sincerely for allowing us to give you that blessing. It was that night that I realized I needed to serve a mission, and started my papers as soon as I could.” Jordan you were right, sometimes all someone needs is a powerful example to change his or her heart.

I pray that through the next 18 months this decision to serve will help me understand the trial it is for investigators to “come and follow Christ” to give up everything to follow Him. I challenge you to go home and pray to God asking “what lack I yet” and to come unto Christ and follow him.
To find yourself the savior taught, you must loose yourself.

“The Purpose of our witness is to invite people to come unto him”

My mission president invited me to their facebook page where they post any story or picture of missionaries that send them in. One of the posts read this, I quote

“I said a prayer and asked that "Heavenly Father show me why we were here". I had this prayer in my heart when we stepped onto the very crowded metro and I immediately made eye contact with a woman. She looked at me and then at my badge. I looked at her and smiled and she smiled back. I saw so much suffering in her face. My heart broke. I looked over at her again and I saw she was crying. We decided to get off with this woman and stop her. So we did.
My heart was racing and I braced myself and stopped her. I introduced myself and she immediately rejected me and began walking away saying she wasn't interested. I followed her and stopped her again and looked her right in the eyes and with all my heart told her I was here to share a message of peace and joy with people. But she walked away. I wanted to share this message of peace and joy.
As she walked away, we walked back to the metro and my heart was filled with such perfect empathy that I began to cry. I cried because I felt the burden this woman was carrying. A total stranger! But I will never forget her face. It changed me forever. I tasted what the Savior felt as He suffered for all of us in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just a small taste. And I felt a portion of His love for her. There are no words to describe the way this changed me.”

Missionaries have the unique power of understanding Christ’s gift to the world. They are able to see others the way only our father in heaven can see them. That is through the atonement. With this power missionaries can help others come closer to Christ, even if its just a quick glace at a sorrowful face. That missionary understood the power of atonement, and its blessings.

Elder Bruce R McConkie has given some of my favorite talks and recently I read some titled Christ and the Creation, and The Purifying Power of Gethsemane.

I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.
Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.
And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory.”

The first thing that came to my mind after reading that was “Awesome” through Christ I can have eternal life, with my family, friends and I can become as God himself. The atonement is the most powerful gift that has been given to us, and using it correctly will give us blessings beyond imagine for an eternity. The promise is simple, but first we must endure to the end.

Now, at my time in BYUI my professors taught a lot about Christ as you can imagine. One of the most important things I learned is that I know nothing. After graduating high school I felt like a hotshot crusin’ my way through campus. Then second semester came around with my physiology class. It was the hardest class I have ever taken in my life. Which probably is not that impressive to most of you, but just bear with me. I remember the days that I would come home and sink my head into my pillow because I just could not grasp the concepts that he was teaching. It just was not coming to me and I was so frustrated. Our professor counseled us to pray before we studied, so finally I did. I prayed that the spirit may guide my learning and that I would be able to grasp the concepts of what he was teaching us. From that moment I remember I would never study again without prayer. It was an extreme humbling experience. My mind was more clear, and my focusing sharper. On the final exam in my biology class I was able to remember all of what I needed and get an A. I know if it were not for the Holy Ghosts guidance and constant help I would not have been able to get through that course, or any others for that matter. But my religion teacher always said as we were leaving, “Now remember you’re the smartest students in the world because you have the spirit, and He’s the best teacher.”

We need to always remember the spirit and our Savior even when it is just “math.” He is in everything, and thus enduring to the end we can only achieve through Him. Remembering him everyday in all things can help us on our journey in enduring to the end. Sometimes the trials that we are going through can seem like too much, that we aren’t ready for them, and quickly without realizing it we can be loosing sight of the bigger picture. As the poem “The Road is too Rough” by Olga Weiss goes:

The road is rough, I said,
There are stones that hurt me so
And He said, dear child, I understand
I walked it long ago.

But there is a cool green path, I said
Let me walk there for a time.
No child, he gently answered me
The green path does not climb

My burden, I said, is far too great
How can I bear it so?
My child, he said, I remember its weight
I carried my cross you know

But I said, I wish there were friends with me
Who would make their path my own
Oh yes, he said
Gethsemane was so hard to bear alone.

And so I climbed my stony path
Content at least to know
That where my master had not gone
I would not need to go.

And strangely then I found new friends
My burden grew less sore
And I remember- long ago
He went that way before.

Sometimes it feels like we are so alone in our trials, or that we are not strong enough to handle them. But that is when we need to remember he has been there, Christ can help, there is never a situation which if your heart is towards Christ there is no hope. A general authority once said, “when you are involved in the work of the lord the power behind you is always greater then he obstacle before you.” When we are trying our hardest to serve him, we will be blessed.

Elder McConkie goes on to declare the importance of speaking about the Creation and the Fall as well as the Saviors atonement, they are all uniquely intertwined and you cannot speak about one without knowledge of the others.

“These three are the very pillars of eternity itself. They are the most important events that ever have or will occur in all eternity. They are the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement. No one of them stands alone; each of them ties into the other two; and without a knowledge of all of them, it is not possible to know the truth about any one of them. The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion. It ransoms men from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the Fall of Adam. All men will be resurrected because our blessed Lord himself died and rose again, becoming thus the first fruits of them that slept. And further: Christ died to save sinners. He took upon himself the sins of all men on conditions of repentance. Eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God, is available because of what Christ did in Gethsemane and at Golgotha. He is both the resurrection and the life. Immortality and eternal life are the children of the Atonement. There is no language or power of expression given to man which can set forth the glory and wonder and infinite import of the ransoming power of the great Redeemer. But, be it remembered, the Atonement came because of the Fall. Christ paid the ransom for Adam’s transgression. If there had been no Fall, there would be no Atonement with its consequent immortality and eternal life. Thus, just as surely as salvation comes because of the Atonement, so also salvation comes because of the Fall.”

When I first read this it kind of threw me for a loop. I recommend reading the entire talk it is absolutely outstanding. But, It was not until I read this that I genuinely started to understand the true meaning of the Fall, Atonement, and Creation. I had written many papers on the topic, but there was a point in my study of the three when it finally clicked, and it was like the puzzle pieces all fit together and your heart understands this amazing gift called the atonement.

 Though I want to focus of Christ’s life and teaching, I want to emphasize the importance of also talking briefly of the creation and fall. Elder McConkie continues:

“As Adam brought death, so Christ brought life; as Adam is the father of mortality, so Christ is the father of immortality.
And without both, mortality and immortality, man cannot work out his salvation and ascend to those heights beyond the skies where gods and angels dwell forever in eternal glory.”

Everything was given a purpose. It is literally one eternal round. You cannot have just one without the others.

God created this world so it could fall. So we could change. I believe this story from elder oaks fits nicely:

 While visiting the British Museum in London one day, I read a most unusual book. It is not scripture. It is an English translation of an ancient Egyptian manuscript. From it, I quote a dialogue between the Father and the Son. Referring to His Father, Jehovah—the premortal Lord—says: “He took the clay from the hand of the angel, and made Adam according to Our image and likeness, and He left him lying for forty days and forty nights without putting breath into him. And He heaved sighs over him daily, saying, ‘If I put breath into this [man], he must suffer many pains.’ And I said unto My Father, ‘Put breath into him; I will be an advocate for him.’ And My Father said unto Me, ‘If I put breath into him, My beloved Son, Thou wilt be obliged to go down into the world, and to suffer many pains for him before Thou shalt have redeemed him, and made him to come back to his primal state.’ And I said unto My Father, ‘Put breath into him; I will be His advocate, and I will go down into the world, and will fulfil Thy command.”

Christ is our ultimate advocate. He knew long before we were created of his obligatory sacrifice. Though we were created to fall, so we could use the atonement to have everlasting life with our Father.

The fall was Adams gift to mankind, and the atonement of Christ was our Fathers gift unto us all.

“Behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken whereby man can be saved.”

And as we ponder upon the wonder of it all, our gaze and thoughts dwell upon the beatific face and we feel the beckoning power of the outstretched arms. And the marvel in marble seems to breathe the breath of life and say: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6.) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28.) Come unto me and ye shall be saved. Come, inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world for all who accept me as the Creator and Redeemer. Come, be one with me; I am thy God."

I have the blessed calling of being his representative, as Elder McConkie stated for all missionaries: “I am called of God, my authority is above that of the Kings of this earth. By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of The Lord Jesus Christ. He is my master and he has chosen me to represent him, to stand in his place, to say what he himself would say and do if he personally were ministering to the very people to whom he has sent me. My voice is his voice, and my acts are his acts; my words are his words and my doctrine is his doctrine. My commission is to do what he wants done, to say what he wants said, to be a living modern witness in word and deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous latter-day work. How great is my calling!

Brothers and Sisters this is an extreme blessing that I have been given. I hope to live up to this potential in all that I do. I know my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has prepared me for this mission. To preach unto those who are ready to follow him. It is the greatest blessing to watch someone find the truth, to find Christ. He is the pillar of all revealed religion. He is the reason why we are here and why so many youth are going into this world to teach this glorious gospel. My testimony was a long time growing, and strengthened by trials and faith. I know this is the truth, and it makes my heart burn with happiness knowing I will share it with others seeking His guidance. It is my prayer that I will be able to see my brothers and sisters through the eyes of our Heavenly Father. To be able to understand their sufferings and joys. So I may help them the way Christ  would. I know this is the only way to salvation, and there is no better way than through our loving saviors arms. He is my light and our ultimate example in every way of life. I’m so thankful for a loving ward whose has taught me all these truths. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.