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[Sacrament talk, Aug. 13, 2017].
I listened to the missionaries because I felt bad for them and I wanted to prove them wrong.
After a few weeks into meeting with them every day, I vividly remember coming home from work late into the night, late enough that the night life was already settling down around my apartment and becoming a strange kind of quiet. And I remember I was just standing there, looking up at the sky, and I remember thinking: Is there more than just this?! Is there more to me? Are there really answers to the most gut-wrenching questions of the soul. Are there really solid answers to the biggest questions of the universe?!
I remember life extremely well not knowing the answers I know now. I remember the anxiety that came from of not knowing. This pit that was just in your stomach every time you start to wonder the meaning, if there was one, to why we are here. And I remember extremely well the sweaty palms I got just by driving by a cemetery because of the lack of answers I had of what is going to happen to me. These anxieties are extremely common in the world. Still are.
The spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
This is the very first scripture I read in the Book of Mormon. I purposely looked it up when I was investigating the church. Because to me, if I knew that there really was an answer to the biggest question of the universe, I needed to know what it was.
“When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning.”
I watched Prophet of the Restoration in Palmyra more times than I can count. And seeing the looks exchanged between Joseph Smith and Emma as he left on a horse, both knowing that he was not coming back. And when the mob had come, while bullets were flying everywhere and as the camera panned to the window shattering from the guns, and I heard Joseph say his last words: Oh Lord, My God.
It was then that I knew He really was a prophet.
Alma 36: 15-21
Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”
It was this scripture I read that I knew the entire Plan of Salvation was real. I knew that, if Christ could heal and forgive Alma before Christ even came to earth, that meant Christ was pre-ordained to be Christ. That meant that pre-earth really existed. And that meant I existed before I came to this earth. And that meant God was real and I was His. Which meant why I am here has meaning and purpose. And me being here has direction and help and counsel and guidelines.
And that would mean— I had the answer to the question of the universe. Because it was reading this that I knew where I was to go next after this life was true. And that eternity was a reality.
It was a lot of work to bring me to that decision.
It was a lot of work to gain a testimony. It took a lot of studying every day. A ton of prayers throughout the day. It took a lot of acting. A lot of trying. A lot of fasting. A lot of guessing. A lot of un-sureties. A lot of experimenting. A lot of focus. A lot of crying. A lot of change. Really hard, completely torn down and rebuilt, kind of change. But to see what comes in return, even all that seems so…small.
There was still so much about the gospel I didn’t know when I got baptized. But the things that I did know and feel, I couldn’t push that aside. I couldn’t feel what I felt and not do anything about it.
I got the gift of the Holy Ghost, and I physically and immediately felt the contrast and difference. I felt sure. And I felt unstoppable. And I knew nothing would change me from the path I was now on.
And then I moved across the country and oh man did my heart break.
In my ignorance of being freshly introduced to this gospel, the thought never crossed my mind that there were people who had the gospel and didn’t do anything about it. I was literally and completely blindsided by such a common issue. I was so sure of this church, that I willingly gave up my family so that I can be part of it. I sacrificed my dad. I gave up my life to move into the unknown. I gave up and lost everything. Willingly. Because it was true. I had felt much too much, and changed much too much to ever question that.
And then I saw people not care about it. And my jaw and my heart dropped.
What do you mean there are people have the Book of Mormon and don’t read it? That thing saves lives!
What do you mean people don’t talk to God every day? We can talk directly to the most powerful, all-knowing being to ever exist, and people just…don’t?
What do you mean people don’t know about this or about that when it’s written in our manuals right in front of us?
All those nights I spent looking up into the stars wondering the deepest unanswered questions of the universe, that some spend their whole life seeking after and still not finding. And there were people who had these answers to the deep life mysteries of the world, and they aren’t even batting an eye toward it? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
Then let’s fast forward a little while—
Just recently I was vacuuming my living room.
And as I was vacuuming, I realized I just spent a good 5 minutes entertaining the idea of: What if this is all in our heads?
What if this isn’t’ true?
What if we made ourselves believe this because it sounds nice?
What if all my efforts within the gospel don’t matter and I really can live however I want.
What if there’s not really any way to know what comes next?
What if all of this is for nothing?
And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that those random doubts didn’t come more than that one time.
Sometimes they come from trials. Sometimes from idleness. And sometimes just randomly while cleaning the house.
It’s interesting, living in the time that we do.
Who knew how easy it would be to be influenced by the confusion and the hurt of the world. How dictating the worldly trends could be with our time. Who knew how damaging the distractions of good things are to keep us from the best things. Who knew just how easy it would be to over complicate enduring. Who knew the subtleties of the adversary could be so damaging, and yet so hard to pick up on sometimes.
In 1 Nephi 17, Nephi was building a boat, and his brothers Laman and Lemuel were making fun of him and doubting him. But not just doubting his brother, they were doubting everything. Verse 21 they say—
“Thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions. Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.”’
They were mad they had to leave their home. They were mad they couldn’t live the life they wanted to—they were mad they couldn’t live the way their friends were, enjoying their possessions. They were mad that they were living a different life than everyone else, and for what? Destruction that didn’t even happen yet?
Who knew how easy it would be to get distracted. How easy it is to lose focus. How easy it is to lose sight of those simple truths of the gospel. How easy it is to second guess. How easy it is to let passing time dim our promises and blessings. Who knew how easy it would be to relate to Laman and Lemuel. Living different from the world, and sometimes we think-for what?? Blessings that haven’t come yet?
I know it’s easy to get distracted or discouraged—
Just last week, I cried on my stairs out of exhaustion and frustration from an ongoing trial. I put a pillow over my face as I complained to Ben.
I woke up the next day with mascara on my forehead and my arms and my neck. But when I woke up that next day, things changed because I remembered something…
I remembered God. I remembered who He truly is. I remembered His purpose of existence is to help us to the best things and return to Him.
And I remembered that that it’s the adversary that makes us feel anything that is not good. I remembered that he really stinks and I don’t have to justify him being in my head. I don’t have to surrender and allow him to dictate my happiness or how I see and act. I remembered that I don’t have to wait for him to leave on his own and just accept that today is “just a bad day,” and hope for a better one tomorrow. I remembered that when Satan gets me down it’s only because I allow him to.
I remembered that we have the literal power to cast Satan out, a power he has to obey. I remembered that prayer will get rid of any unnecessary crap we don’t have to deal with. I remembered that light always overcomes dark if we make the effort to turn on the switch. I remembered that comfort and truth is always there because Christ is always there. And His promises will be fulfilled.
After Laman and Lemuel’s venting, it was only several chapters later, in the very first chapter of 2 Nephi—Jerusalem.was.destroyed. And in verse 4 they say— “had we remained in Jerusalem, we should have also perished.” Prophesy came true. Just like His promises for us, too, will come true.
So when we truly know and remember all that, even during our struggles, we can smile. And we can laugh. We can wipe off our mascara and move on. And we can keep going. And we can live a better life. And we can enjoy the unexpected.
So maybe we have these Laman and Lemuel’s moments in our life that slow us down and bring more doubt and discouragement than hope and excitement.
But these doubts, they don’t take away from the truthfulness of the gospel.
And these fleeting, yet sometimes heavy, doubts cannot take away from what I felt when I watched Joseph Smith say, Oh Lord, My God.
And they can not take away from what I felt when I stood in the sacred grove saying my first prayer ever with the missionaries.
Those fleeting doubts, no matter how crafty from the adversary, cannot take away from what I felt when I did temple work for all 4 of my grandparents. And my aunt. And my uncle. Goosebumps.
Nothing can take away from what I felt just last week here at church during someone’s testimony when they recited the first vision and said, without blinking, ‘Hear Him.’
Elder Ballard said;
“I encourage you- to stop and think carefully before giving up whatever it was that brought you to your testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the first place. Stop and think about what you have felt here and why you felt it. Think about the times when the Holy Ghost has borne witness to you of eternal truth.”
Can you think of a time where you felt the spirit? Can you think of a time where you felt hope? Peace? Love, forgiveness, happiness, laughter, comfort. Because all things that are good IS God showing Himself to us. All good things are and because of Christ. I hope that every day we take time to notice Him because He is always there and we feel Him every day more than we recognize.
So yeah, maybe we do that all too familiar dance with the adversary, but—
then we have these moments in our life…where you feel and experience…so deeply…that you have no words to describe exactly what happened or how you felt….but you just know that ELECTRIFYING feeling is from God and from this gospel….a feeling that trumps all feelings of doubt or discouragement. No doubt can hold up against those feelings.
No pathetic attempt from the adversary can take away from the reality of those times we have felt the spirit. Where we have felt Him. Where we have felt our soul dancing within us. And I can’t deny that every time I have felt those electrifying feelings—I was living the gospel. And I was seeking after Him. Because I sure as heck never felt those goosebump moments that set my soul dancing before I got baptized.
I can’t help but think of last week’s Sunday school lesson, Neil had us watch a movie that had a part where a man was leaving is very ill wife, while he-himself was very ill, to serve a mission. And he found the little bit of strength he could to stand up as they rode off to depart from his family for a few years, he yelled, “Harrah! Harrah for Israel!” Neil said he hated that part because it was corny. But then, with tears in his eyes, he said, “I hope I can have that corny passion for the gospel.”
I’ll just respond to him now and say, you do. Because I felt it. Maybe not the corny part, but definitely the passion part.
Do we realize what we’re a part of?! Do we realize this is actually real? Do we realize and remember the power we have?! Do we realize and remember that what we do now effects our forever? And are we living in a way to aligns with that? Are we treating it as we should?
And if we don’t know yet, are we doing something about it?
Yeah it takes work, but all things do.
The trick to losing weight? Work.
The trick to getting good grades? Work
The trick to getting a real testimony? Work
The trick to keeping a testimony? Work.
But can we think of anything more important than endless life and eternal bliss?!
Let’s make taking care of us and our soul a priority. Make God a priority. This gospel is not our last option, it is our only option. Because this isn’t just wishful thinking— it’s real. And once we know it, let’s do everything we can to hold on to it and stay focused.
To love it, we have to live it. We have to give this a real go at it! Every day. We have to continuously choose Him over the fleeting things of this world. We have to stay focused. Because we are meant for something so much greater than this— so much greater than the here and now, greater than the worldly “happiness” that isn’t even a sliver of the Godly and heavenly that’s available to us through the simple principals of the gospel so many so often overlook.
Let’s recommit to act. Let’s recommit to read. Let’s refocus on the principals of the gospel. Let’s recommit to study, really study. To learn. To turn to Him. To talk to Him. To preach. To participate. To always exercise our change of heart muscle. And to keep going. Let’s recommit to Him. To trusting Him, His commandments, and His path for us. Because every single bit of it is worth the sacrifice, the time, the trust, the loss… Because sacrifice, suffering, loss, etc…—all of that—doesn’t even come close to what we receive in return. Because even in our trials, when we are actively living the gospel we will feel driven to yell out in excitement, ‘Harrah!’
Because His promises are real. And He will show us. But we have to continuously put in the effort.
And If we need a reminder of our blessings, remember D&C 6, that ‘night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things’. And that He spoke ‘peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?’
And if we need a reminder of our blessings, remember that our heart is still beating.
And remember that we have the answers to the mysteries of the universe.
Remember that we are His, and that.is.everything.
He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.
“Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!”
Thanks for reading! You can read my very first Sacrament talk, HERE.
You can watch my newest YouTube video, HERE.
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See what I was doing this weekend: