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Thursday, July 30, 2015

6 Ways to Just Keep Swimming

Latter-day Saints (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are aware that we are living in the last days before the second coming of the Lord.  With the increased level of opposition in the lives of the faithful, it can be very easy to get bored with the gospel, feel social, mental, spiritual or physical fatigue from trying so hard or even find our perspectives severely at odds with God's counsel from His prophets.  I'm been in all three spots so I can relate to any of them, although to a different degree in each.  I'm sure there are more reasons why people have a hard time continuing to endure spiritually.

When I was serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I got into a pretty deep depression.  I called my Mission President's wife, Sister Ashton, and asked her for advice.  She reminded me of the part in Finding Nemo where Dori says "just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." and told me, "Elder Pulsipher, you gotta 'just keep swimming'."  She said much more than that but she was able to help quite a bit that day.  But with so many distractions in the world today and Satan working so hard to derail disciples of Christ, how do we get back up and go with enthusiasm and zeal for the Lord's work when we feel the most stagnant?  Bear with me, this is one of my longer entries.

Below I offer 6 ways to, as Sister Ashton and Dori remind us, "Just Keep Swimming."

1. Go out of your comfort zone.

And I don't just mean something that just feels a little different or takes you out of your normal routine.  I mean do something that takes you so far out of your comfort zone it scares you!  Well, make sure the Lord would condone it first.  Maybe get some ideas here?  Either way, the only way truly soul building change and strength takes place is when we go that far out of our comfort zones.  That's where the magic happens.  So go out and don't just sit around wondering how to feel the fire of the Spirit again, go out and act!  Do something about it!

2. Pray more earnestly.

I've referenced so many of my articles, at some point, to Jack R. Christianson's "The Mortal Christ" so many times that my frequent readers are probably getting bored of it, but there is so much in it worth repeating over and over that I'm doing it again.  From his talk "Let's go to Luke 22 while we're talking about prayer. May I ask you as you study the scriptures, that you include this? But what's the first thing when spiritual malnutrition is starts to take place that is lost? What do we stop doing, the very first thing? We quit praying, generally. Wouldn't you agree? Because you don't feel worthy to pray and besides that you're embarrassed sometimes if you're sinning especially. Now, let's learn from the Mortal Christ, shall we? He's in the Garden of Gethsemane – verse 44 – “and being in agony...” how did He pray? He prayed more earnestly... when you get discouraged and say dumb things like we all say like “it's not worth it”, “I'm so sick of trying to be so good. I'll just be like everybody else”, “everyone that wicked gets rich”. Ever hear that one? “What difference does it make?” Well you need to repent, you need the atonement for that []. Now, He prayed how when He was in agony? More earnestly.

He didn't shake His fist at His Father and He didn't quit praying. What did He do? He prayed harder! He prayed more sincerely! Somewhere along the line, brothers and sisters, we gotta quit saying prayers and pray! Does that make sense? We ought to be the safest people on the planet earth! Every meeting: “Please bless when the time comes we'll travel home in safety” and that's a good prayer. And you do need to keep praying because we all need to be safe. And here's another one, “Please bless the food that it will nourish and strengthen our bodies and do us the good that we need.” We ought to NEVER be poisoned! And that's a good prayer, but it's not going to help you if you're struggling with pornography, is it? And it's not going to help you if you're struggling with chastity and virtue or personal degrading habits. We've got to learn to pray!"

Well, after that quote... 'Nuff said, right? Wrong.  What is Jack trying to get at here?  What he's telling us is the same thing that President Eyring said in 2005: "As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough."

Our prayers have got to continually become more earnest, more focused on virtuous things, more humble, more faith filled, more in depth and more honest.  Because praying just to pray is never going to put you where you want to be eternally speaking.  Our prayers have to be something that permanently change us and irreversibly improve our relationship with God.

3. Look outside of yourself.

I asked God a while ago - I think it must be close to a year ago now (this was written back in July 2015) - to make me selfless, I mean totally selfless, to use my talents and gifts with no other thought in mind than blessing my family and anyone else I could on this planet.  Wow, did He ever respond.  He's been working with me and I've seen moreso than ever before the benefits of focusing on and being happy with simply making others happy and inspiring others for the glory of our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ and for no other reason.  I've learned in this process (though I still have a ways to go, of course), from my own experience that the more you seek to do good for others with not even a shadow of seeking for something from it, people LOVE you for it!  This may seem like a bit of an irony to some, but it's true and it's a beautiful irony.  If you want to become happier look outside of yourself more.  Go serve someone, pay those last few bucks on the grocery bill for the person in front of you in line, help that guy who claims he's alright but is limping a bit toward his car, go pick up trash along the side of the road for an hour, strategically place a $10 or $20 bill on a car that looks like it's owner could use a few extra bucks or anything else that gives something significant of yourself.  Make it something you never do.  Do it often.  You'll feel better, trust me.  After all, Jesus Christ spent His life doing what?  He went about doing good everywhere He went!

4. Go back to basics.

Likely one of the biggest reasons people get caught up in trivialities and other distractions that lead them away from the Lord's church is by going out too much of doctrinal "twigs".  Going out on limbs like this on the tree of the gospel isn't always a bad thing as long as it strengthens your testimony of Jesus Christ, His atonement and His role as our Savior and Redeemer.  If it doesn't directly do that you shouldn't be going there.  The gospel of Christ is simply beautiful and beautifully simple.  The most basic simple doctrines of the kingdom are the ones that will save us.  Knowing whether or not we will eat meat in the millennium will have absolutely no effect on whether or not we will recognize the Savior when He comes again.  Neither will knowing every last detail of the life of Joseph Smith or knowing more about the Book of Mormon than every scholar alive or seeing angels or memorizing the entirety of the Doctrine and Covenants or figuring out how the Savior travels through time or having a perfect record of every financial detail of the church.  None of that is ever going to be as paramount as having solid faith in the power of the atonement.  None of it will ever be as beneficial to your soul as the process of repentance.  None of it can possibly speak to and give peace to your heart the way the Holy Ghost will when you study the standard works and general conference talks.  None of it will result in having your needs met like paying your tithing and a generous fast offer willingly.  It just won't.

If you want to have your faith renewed over and over again, have it renewed in the most important things, the basics.

Vince Lombardi's football team, when he started coaching, went from a huge loosing streak to winning the first two superbowls by going right back to the basics of "This is a football", "This is a football field".

This video is also helpful as well in illustrating this concept.

5. Follow the prophet

Did you know that, when we raise our hands to the square during General Conference to sustain our church leaders, we are actually making a full fledged, eternally binding covenant?  Well, you are.  It is just as binding of a covenant as baptism, the sacrament, or temple covenants.  We a literally covenanting with God that we will sustain the church leaders, follow their counsel even when we disagree or don't understand why they ask us to do something, for as the Lord Himself said "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

Experience of my own has taught me that the rewards of following the prophet, without seeing how close to the edge we can go before being unworthy of a temple recommend, is God's grace is upon us.  When we focus more on how good we can be instead of how good we have to be, the world around us changes, not because of anything surrounding us, but because our ability to see the world as God does has increased.  We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are.  So following the counsel of God's prophets willingly, happily and deliberately will help us see ourselves as we really are, children of God with infinite potential.  We will see that we need not seek for the world's approval, but only our Eternal Father's approval.  Besides, the things worth doing the most in this world are often those things recognized by God alone.  Following His prophets and seeking to go above and beyond in an attitude of "how good can I be?" is something you'll never regret.

6. Use sacrament meeting effectively.

A full time missionary told me (don't quote me directly on this one) that his Mission President told him that when the First Presidency was meeting to declare a theme for general church membership this year (again, 2015), they decided to make it about keeping the Sabbath Day Holy and focusing more on making it Holy, especially the sacrament.  Why?  Well I can't give any reasons as a fact because I wasn't there when they made that decision, but I do know that, when I am completely focused on my Savior and where I stand with in my spiritual progression with Him, I get the answers I always need right at the time I need them.  To those who struggle with coming to sacrament meeting at all for reasons you can help (come on now, be brutally honest with yourself), I can promise you from my own experience that as soon as you make a commitment to never miss a sacrament meeting again (unless you are dying in the hospital or something like that), your life will start to get exponentially better.  It will get even better even faster when you go far beyond just attending sacrament meeting but coming with your hand off to the top of your proverbial spiritual cup (see Psalms 23:5) and just let the Lord fill it up with what He will, regardless of whether you think you need it or not, even greater things will happen; and they will not stop happening so long as you continue that habit.

So go to sacrament meeting, go into the chapel, go straight to a seat, sit down quietly, turn off that stinking phone, iPad or other mobile device off - I mean powered off completely - put it down and open a hard copy of the scriptures or a hymn book or meditate or pray (remember above?).  Keep your thoughts focused on gratitude for and faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift He gave you to have a chance to choose, to change, to repent, to have divine strength assist you, to have immortality and eternal life.  It will be refreshing.  It will do something for your heart and soul.  It will make you a little better, or maybe even a lot better, of a person, a little more confident and peaceful about God's plan for you and what lies ahead.
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There are obviously so many other things that will help you "just keep swimming" in the gospel, but, from my experience, these are 6 of the most useful things I can think of that will help you stay zealous, happy, anxiously engaged in a good cause and peaceful about the gospel of Christ, God's plan for His children.

Sometimes it can be hard to deal with the pressures and persecution we get from the world for trying so hard.  True disciples of Christ are called every name in the book, taken advantage of, treated as deranged paranoids and more.  Elder Hales, in October 2008, recounted one member of the church asking "Why doesn’t the Church defend itself more actively when accusations are made against it?", part of his response to this question was

"More regrettable than the Church being accused of not being Christian is when Church members react to such accusations in an un-Christlike way! May our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23) ... This is especially important in our interactions with members of other Christian denominations. Surely our Heavenly Father is saddened—and the devil laughs—when we contentiously debate doctrinal differences with our Christian neighbors. This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs. We cannot change the doctrines of the restored gospel, even if teaching and obeying them makes us unpopular in the eyes of the world. Yet even as we feel to speak the word of God with boldness, we must pray to be filled with the Holy Ghost (see Acts 4:29, 31). We should never confuse boldness with Satan’s counterfeit: overbearance (see Alma 38:12). True disciples speak with quiet confidence, not boastful pride."

Christ is coming soon, very soon.  Whatever you do, whatever method you use to keep yourself not only afloat, but soaring towards celestial glory, don't stop, don't give up (except when it's appropriate to do so), don't allow yourself to get complacent.  Courageously and adamantly, but yet also meekly and kindly, act in faith and defend faith in Jesus Christ.  The rewards are there for the taking, we just have to live so that we are ready for them when they come.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It. Is. Written.



There are a select few people that I quote excessively when conversing about philosophy, life and values.  One of them is Jack R. Christianson, specifically his lecture "The Mortal Christ".

The following story he mentions from the New Testament, when Jesus was lead into the wilderness to be tempted, will lead into what I want to talk about.  From the lecture itself:

"Let's start reading. We're in Matthew 4 verse 2 “and when He had fasted forty days and forty nights He was afterward an hungered and when the tempter came to Him, he said 'if thou be the Son of God command that these stones be made bread.'"  ... We want to please our Father and we don't want to take anything from the adversary. So how do you resist all the temptation? What did the Savior do? We're now in verse 4 of Matthew 4. “And He answered and said, it is” what? Written! Oh. Well what's He referring to? Scriptures. It is written. Well I can't do that Lucifer because the scriptures taught me it is not appropriate. Oh, then in verse 6 He resists another temptation “if thou be the Son of God cast thyself down, for it is written...” Oh my goodness what does Satan do now? He quotes scripture! “Oh okay I can play that game. Well it's written that you can do this.” Oh, I love the answer. In verse 7 Jesus said to him “it is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." [or in other words,] Don't you dare misquote the scriptures to Me. I wrote them. Wow. Will Satan use scripture against you? Sure he will. Therefore, how do you know what is the true meaning of scripture? You better have apostles and prophets to declare doctrine. Well, how will you resist temptation? You need to know what is written. And how will you know what is written if you never read 'em? If you can't read and you struggle with reading disabilities, then listen to them.

There's no excuse in our world today to not have the scriptures in your life every day. Every day. It is written. It is written. It is written. It is written. It is written. Is that obnoxious enough? Let's do it one more time. It is written. I don't want you to ever forget it. How did the Savior avoid temptation? He prays and He quotes scripture. In fact, Elder Maxwell says this: “Jesus noticed the tremendous temptations that came to Him, but He did not process and reprocess them. Instead, He rejected them promptly. If we entertain temptation, soon, they begin entertaining us.”."

I love that section of his lecture.  The point I wanted to make in this entry is the thing Brother Christianson absolutely HAMMERED there. IT. IS. WRITTEN.

So by now you can probably guess my goal with this entry is to emphasize the importance of scripture study.  No, actually, let me correct that.  My goal here is to come as close as I can to to over emphasizing, without actually going too far, the importance of in depth, soul searching, humble, earnest, even righteously anxious scripture study, the kind that transforms your soul, leaves a permanent, irreversible mark of the love of God our your heart and mind.  Well, that's a part of my goal here.  The other part is to encourage the other side of the title.  The commandment to prophets to write the words of the Savior as scripture was not given to apostles and prophets alone.  In 2 Nephi 29, we are told by Christ, "For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written [italics added]."

What does that mean?  The Lord is telling us that when He speaks to us, whether it be by someone else or by the Holy Ghost, we are commanded to write it down!

There was an interesting part of a talk by John Bytheway where he talks about the war chapters in the Book of Mormon and he mentions how, during Moroni's command to Zerahemnah, Moroni refers to "the sacred word of God, to which we owe all our happiness."  Wow.  If someone asked you "To what do you owe all your happiness?"  Would you say, "My scriptures"?  Why?  Because it's the word of Christ.  Lehi, in his vision of the tree of life says that the rod of iron, which Nephi clarifies later on represents the scriptures, leads to the fruit of the tree of life, which represents the love of God.  Said Lehi of this fruit, "I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted."  What did he just say?  Not "oh, it was pretty good" or "this was some awesome fruit", but most sweet above all.

I can say from personal experience that if you want to really know and comprehend the role and love of Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven in your life, you absolutely must engross yourself in fastidious feasting on Christ's words and recorded example.  There is nothing in all the vastness of existence and reality that could ever be as sweet, unending, unwavering and triumphant as His love and counsel to the Father's children as given through scripture, confirmed to the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost.

Just a side note, because I'm a musician, did you know that that includes Latter-day Hymns as well?  President Boyd K. Packer said "...the hymns of the Restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine!"

But the point here is that, as Elder Henry B. Eyring said "As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer... won't be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture... won't be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won't be enough."  Casual scripture study.  The idea makes me cringe inside.  Feasting upon His word, marking, cross referencing, pondering, making notes, praying about what we read, writing down impressions and questions, etc. in an unbreakable daily fashion is what will get you to the level of spiritual maturity and capacity to feel and enjoy the full force of the love of our Eternal Father and our Savior.

One more point I want to make here before I wrap up.  The last thing I want to do is diminish the importance of the Bible, but in our day, we have been told by a prophet of God that the book which will get us closer to God than any other book in existence today is the Book of Mormon.  Please, study the Bible.  Feast upon it.  Pour through Ensigns and other official church publications sanctioned by the First Presidency.  But never let yourself go a day without some kind of personal increase in understanding, knowledge and comprehension of spiritual things from the Book of Mormon.  I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that it is true, that it's record of the words of Christ is factual, that it's account of Christ's life, words and example is veritable, properly and purely authoritative and unerring, that it is truth, that He is truth.

Please don't make the mistake of treating scripture study as just something to get done.  I have experienced the heart ache that comes from attitudes like that.  I have also tasted of the pure joy and personal growth that comes from making it, making Him, the center of everything we think, say and do.  We have such incomprehensible potential to become great, to become even as They are, Jesus Christ and our Eternal Father, if we would just give ourselves constant reminders, it is written.  It is written. It is written. It is written!  Oh, and remember, write what He tells you personally as well.  Take the word of God into your heart and mind every day and experience the true transforming power of and peace from the Atonement of Christ.  You'll NEVER regret it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

#IAmAPioneer

I won't go into many details here about my heritage because I have already done that in a few previous entries (here and here) but this is about, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has so helpfully suggested in their #IAmAPioneer campaign, "Discover[ing] and shar[ing my] legacy."

Since I love to use quotes and to always present my thoughts definitively, a legacy, as defined at wordnik.com, is "Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past."

My parents are awesome.  They set a great standard for my life in teaching me the gospel and plan of Jesus Christ and made every effort to assure that words of God's prophets were the foundation for our character and our very lives.  They worked tirelessly to establish our home on principles of "faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities".  They gave every effort they could muster to center our home on the atonement of Christ and always aim for higher spiritual ground.

Truly, their example was a critical foundation on which I could build my own home upon the doctrine of Christ and make it so that, as God has encouraged through His prophets, "[o]nly [our] home can compare with the temple in sacredness."  My wife and I have always had in mind a goal to make our home a safe haven from the world for anyone who enters here.  Society is in such a chaotic mess and the hearts of people, as Jesus predicted, are failing them.  We desperately want our home to be a place where the hearts of men can be restored, healed, comforted, strengthened, inspired, cleansed, and transformed for the better, where the doctrine and love of the Savior can permeate souls, expand minds, fortify faith and protect them from the fiery darts of the adversary.  One of the reasons why we work so much with missionaries is because they carry with them the Spirit of the Lord.  Missionaries who are dedicated to the Lord carry with them the Holy Ghost, which is the key to any of those goals being accomplished.

As the sign in our bathroom says:
Obedience is the price
Faith is the power
Love is the motive
The Spirit is the key
Jesus Christ is the reason.

If each person who enters here, by the time they leave, feels better, if they feel like they are more inclined to follow our loving Savior, the Son of God, if they have a greater desire to do good and be kind, if they are more sure of the role of Christ and His Atonement in their lives, if they are more confident of the love God has for them and all others, if they feel more capable of being the salt of the earth, if they have a greater desire to change and repent, if they are more committed to the Lord's church and His priesthood, if they feel a greater resolve to defend truth no matter the consequence, if their relationship with our Redeemer and our Father in Heaven is stronger, then we have succeeded.  Anything less and we have some repenting to do.

No matter our position in the church, no matter our circumstances, no matter how others see us or speak of us, our legacy must be as a light that leads to our Savior Jesus Christ, to trust in Him and obedience to His laws, to His gospel, to His plan based on faith and love.  We still make mistakes.  We mess up.  We have disputes and arguments, but as long as the Atonement changes us and our home for the better each day, mission accomplished.

Our legacy must be one that our descendants look back on with hope, with a sense of freedom, self worth and value in the eyes of God.  It must be a legacy that reflects sharing talents to brighten the lives of others, that brings us closer together as children of God, unified in our love for each other and for Him, where hard work, service, truth and quality time act as the glue that bonds us as an eternal family, in charity with an eye single to the glory of God.

As my ancestors were, #IAmAPioneer of faith, perseverance, service, self improvement, providence and love to those without the gospel.  I look back on their examples and see defense of righteousness, great personal sacrifice for a great cause and the fruits of hard labor and immeasurable rewards from such.

So when my posterity look back I want them to see that #IAmAPioneer of a new level dedication to the greater good and a home where the peace and joy of the Lord is apparent by the power of the Holy Ghost.  I want them to see a family and reputation that is conducive to wholesome fun, a self evident oneness of purpose and a palpable commitment to God, our Father in Heaven.  In my family, being raised at a time when the internet became ubiquitous as it now is around the world, #IAmAPioneer of online missionary work.  With my musical gifts from our Father in Heaven, #IAmAPioneer in my family of the power of music composition to convey the Spirit of the Lord to the hearts people everywhere.  These standards are not just something that I want for the benefit of my family and posterity.  My goal is to set a legacy for everyone I ever meet, a legacy that shows that our family is committed to everything godly, being proven, pure and sealed as a beneficiary of the Atonement of Christ, a legacy that invites and encourages them to do the same so we can all partake of the fullness of the joy of the Lord at the last day.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Don't Just Be Good. Be Good For Something.

Everyone knows that kind of person.  You know, the one in school who was friendly with everyone, involved in everything, gets good grades all the time.  That one employee at work who always has the most creative ideas, but is humble about them, always gets the promotions and recognition from the boss, but is a good team worker and encourages others all the time too. The kind of person who is really easy to love, talk to, confide in, and truly admire. I knew a few of those people in school and jobs I've had, but one thing I've also noticed about them is something that truly sets them apart from the rest on every level.  They are not just good people.  They are good for something.  They are happy with their successes and that of others, but they don't stick to just being good.  They are always shooting for more.

In Delta High School in Delta, Colorado there was as section in our yearbook - I think it was my freshman year - for quotes and one guy, David Rupp, was quoted as saying something like "the only problem with being good is you have to prove it." Although I would disagree with him regarding the world 'problem' in that quote, it's true.  If you're going to be good, prove it.  Make sure people know you as a good person.  Being a bad or mediocre person is easy and takes very little brain power and active effort.  If you're going to be good, going back to my first thought, be good for something.

From a Latter-day Saint perspective, this article quite effectively, though indirectly and likely unintentionally, carries this point further by illustrating the potential problem of being a part of the same ten, same six or same [insert number here] families.  If it's always the same families carrying the ward, occupying leadership positions, setting up and putting away chairs and tables for events, giving the insightful comments in Sunday School or Elders Quorum and Relief Society, teaching with the missionaries and/or more, those who are a little more in the background and are also active, faithful members of the Lord's church may not get a chance to stretch themselves as much spiritually by going out of their comfort zone.

I've heard my parents and priesthood leaders in different stages in my life express relief and joy when they say "I'm so glad we don't have to worry about [insert name here]'s testimony or faith in the Lord and His gospel. They're rock solid in it." or "It's nice to see [insert name here] doing so well and focused where they should be.  That's one less source of worry for us."  Some are more actively involved in serving within their ward/branch and others prefer to let those who always volunteer take the reins. Many are so set in their habits, even good habits, that they are satisfied with just being good.  Don't get me wrong.  Being good is far better than the alternative.  Most of the world doesn't even want to do that much; and those who are strong in their testimonies still need consistent, proper attention from their families and leaders, but to really break spiritual barriers we impose upon ourselves, we deserve to take things a step further.

I believe that the best way either one of those types of saints can be more and qualify to inherit the glory God has already prepared for us is to go beyond setting any proverbial ceiling of commitment and sacrifice for the greater good.  I believe it requires, as Jack R. Christianson put it, "[coming] to know [Christ]."  The full context of that statement is as follows and I include it because of it's pivotal import in God's plan: "Will you come to know Him better? I don't mean know about Him. That's so wonderful. Knowing about Him is the greatest sweetest thing in all the world, except coming to know Him."  That kind of relationship with our Savior goes quite deep into the fabric of our souls.  I can tell you loads about my wife and myself for the sake of information and knowing about us, but knowing someone goes much further than that.  I love this definitions of the word 'know': "To have a practical understanding of, as through experience."

That's huge!  I cannot fathom in my mortal condition what it would be like to truly have a practical understanding of the Son of God.  But, why would the Savior say "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent [italics added]" if it wasn't possible?  Of course, He wouldn't.  So how could we possibly come to a practical understanding of Christ through experience if we are not required to suffer what He did and live as He did perfectly?  The answer is simple enough, I think.  We do so by obeying Him more completely, loving Him more fully, serving and trusting Him more willingly and forsaking everything ungodly more deliberately, faithfully and with a brighter hope each day.  How else could I know my wife than by experiencing what she has experienced to the best of my ability or come to know the Savior of the world than by experiencing what He has, within divinely established limits of course, the best I can.  I do not know of any other way to come to know Him than by knowing, first hand, rejection, persecution, and other hardship as well as the purest joys, rewards, trust and love that can only come by living and becoming godly.  We come to know Him by living as He did and becoming as He is.

Resulting from that, I am totally confident, will be the peace of godliness, love of others and ourselves, becoming more than just good, but good for something and, in the case of living and being Christlike, good for all that is good.

So go do something that sets you apart from the crowd and makes you more unified with your Father in Heaven, make a new habit that brings out your individuality and brings others to glorify God, set a new standard for yourself by which you reflect the light of the Lord.  Really make yourself stand out from the world by developing the abilities God gave you in a way that blesses the lives of others and brings all of us closer to our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Don't just be good.  Be good for something.  Be good for "bring[ing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Oh It Is Wonderful, Wonderful to Me

"Oh it is wonderful that He should care for me enough to die for me.  Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me."

That's what the gospel of Jesus Christ is, a wonderful, joyful gospel of peace, made possible by the Man after whom it is named.

Contrast, I have said before that it is an effective teacher and a sharp reminder of the condition of our lives and the world around us. There's a crazy amount of evil and good in the world and sometimes our trials are there for us to help us appreciate what we have because, as has been said by many, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

We are encouraged in the word of God, by Paul specifically, that "...the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ..." In this entry, I mentioned how we have been given the ability by God to either allow our difficulties to make us or break us, dependent on how tightly we cling to our Savior.  The reason I bring this us again is because, despite all the garbage going on in the world today, the gospel of Christ is still meant to be, above all, a gospel of peace, wonder, protection and joy!  The Lord Himself, while teaching the Nephites, said "Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full."

I have heard a few examples, recently, of people who, for whatever reason, felt they were just too tired of trying to live the gospel as perfectly as they thought they were supposed to and left the church.  From the limited information I received in these cases, it seems to me that all of them were missing one crucial thing about the gospel that can, admittedly, be easy to forget it we are not careful. While there are many warnings and commandments spelled out the gospel, the whole point of it in the first place is to provide us with the joyful news of deliverance or protection from our burdens and/or strengthening, changing, cleansing power we receive from our loving Redeemer through His Atonement. Abinadi may have spent a few chapters teaching gloom and doom that comes naturally as a part of sin, but he spends much more energy teaching the butterflies and rainbows part of the gospel.

King Benjamin, as well, may have spent some time warning of the consequences of sin, he was sure to follow it up with "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."

These men were doing the same thing prophets today are doing.  They are encouraging us to rejoice!  They are urging us to look for the good, to allow ourselves to be filled with the everlasting gratitude and joy of the love of our Savior, manifest in His everlasting sacrifice for us. It should fill us with unspeakable happiness that He paid such a price, overcoming sin and death so He could have us back with Him and our Eternal Father and know Them as our family.  The entirety of John 17 is replete with expressions to the Father of His love for Him and for us, including this statement: "these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves."

Moroni, not wanting to just leave us at the end of the Book of Mormon with the awful scene of destruction which lay before him, started the last chapter with: "Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good".  I almost feel like it was sort of a sigh of relief for him, which is, honestly, one more thing the Jesus' gospel should mean for us, relief from the weight of our burdens, relief from the sting of death through resurrection and eternal peace in our hearts, possible through the Holy Ghost, because of Christ.

Look at what the Nephites said regarding the words spoken by the risen Lord to His Father in their presence: "And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father."

One last example. It's a quote by Elder Heber C. Kimball: "I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit." This is just one more reason why the Lord would declare "men are that they might have joy".

I am happy in the gospel of Christ.  Yes, I am aware of how terrible things are around the world.  I am aware of the corruption, lust, hate and selfishness that fills many hearts of men on earth. I understand the pivotal importance of being educated as to what is going on in the world, whether it is pleasant or not. I know that happiness is a hard thing for many to achieve, whether they have the gospel or not. But being aware of these things does not mean they need to rule our minds and hearts.  The biggest blessing of the gospel is that, because of Jesus Christ, we need not be trapped or miserable, no matter the amount of difficulty around us.  We have a constant immeasurable source of joy before us in our Redeemer, the resurrected Lord, even Jesus Christ.

*edit Feb 2017*
As Tad R. Callister said: "No matter how lost the world at large may be, no matter how depraved or degenerate it may become, there is yet a bright light of hope for those individuals who have a faith in Christ.  Those who focus on him and his atoning sacrifice, who let these glorious truths rest in their minds continually, will find that Christ's power to lift the human soul transcends even the weightiest burdens the world may thrust upon them.  There is a certain spiritual buoyancy that attends a study of, and reflection, upon, the Atonement."
-Tad R. Callister ( The Infinite Atonement pg. 209)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Day For Independence, But For Who?

June 17, 1775

A father and his son had enlisted to serve their country together.  This day they fought together among a tiny army of 13 men against a much more sizable enemy of about 3000.  Who were these men fighting and why?  They lived in Connecticut and the army they faced, the British, had threatened their right to choose and exercise, privately and publicly, their beliefs.  They recognized the pivotal importance of the moral agency, one of our most precious gifts from God.

Today, America is not the same land as it was when it was born.  It had been a the greatest nation in the world and had enjoyed religious freedom and free speech for so long, even when people disagreed with each other.  But things got ugly as soon as the minority, masquerading as the majority, those who had adopted an attitude of "choice for me but not for thee", convinced politicians that their agenda was more important personal choice, that their hurt feelings were more important than the reason America ever existed in the first place, religious freedom.  A cry for the ideology of a false utopia slowly crept into our society, an ideology where everything is controlled and no one has any choice but to do what those who whine the most consider to be "right".

There was a war in heaven before anyone was ever born on this earth.  The two sides were divided about whether or not we should have the freedom to choose, also called moral agency, or not.  Agency, given to us from God, would mean that very few of us would make it back to heaven after this life with God knowing, though, that some of us would because of our proper use of agency.  The opposing plan, authored by Satan, attempted to guarantee everyone salvation and perfection by forcing us all to make the right choices, which as ironic as it is, isn't making a choice at all.  

According to wikipedia "Choice involves mentally making a decision: judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one or more of them." One thing Satan refused to acknowledge was the truth in these verses, "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; [b]y kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile".  He refused to acknowledge that unless the right choices we made were of our own free will when presented with all options, we would never go through the transformation needed to become clean and perfected through Jesus Christ.  Being forced to make a choice by having no other option teaches us nothing. It would leave us in a state of eternal limbo, being miserable forever.

The two men at the beginning of this were my great great great great great grandfather and his father, John and David Pulsipher.  Within my veins runs the courageous blood of those two men, who continue to fight for our Eternal Father's gift to us, agency.  I am American.  I will not forsake truth. I will not stand by and watch idly as the government of the country I came to love seeks to destroy free choice, the very fabric of human progression.  Today I post this in an effort to wake up whoever I can and help them understand the value of religious freedom.

Today, I do not celebrate Independence for America as a nation, for America is no longer independent. It has been weakened so much by those who attempt to enforce Satan's plan that it can no longer stand on it's own. It's survival now depends on the pity of other nations and mercy from our enemies. It has become a haven for the selfish, the arrogant, the proud and the dishonest. It has become a den of robbery, oppression, fear, contention, murder, lust, fraud and all of the secret combinations through which Cain killed Abel, The Syrians attempted to overrun Israel, The Gadianton Robbers tried forcibly take control of a civilization (see 3 Nephi 2-4) and more.  No, I do not celebrate Independence for America as a nation today.

Instead, I celebrate something much more universal, eternally significant and beautiful, the very thing by which America was made the free, glorious, choice, independent land it used to be.

America as a nation is no longer independent, so instead, I celebrate independence for Americans who still fight for freedom of speech and religion and the right to defend it.  I celebrate independence for those who cherish those rights, be they religious or not.  I celebrate religious freedom and the divine gift of moral agency itself and, as Captain Moroni did, stand fast in the "liberty wherewith [I] have been made free".  I celebrate the remaining beauty of America that has not been polluted by political correctness or a false sense of entitlement. Today I invite the world to continue the good fight of which we were all a part before any of us were even born, the fight to remain free as children of God, to not be bound with the chains of addiction, selfishness, hate, fear, doubt, ignorance and laziness.  I extend modern prophets and apostles invitations to repent and come unto Christ and fight for the gift that He so lovingly and courageously suffered for us to keep. I invite the world to choose the love of God and His precious Son, Jesus Christ and enable ourselves, through our own free will and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to follow Him until the war is won and agency is permanently preserved as the glorious gift from God it is.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

When It's Appropriate to Give Up

NEVER GIVE UP.

This is probably one of the most repeated and well loved quotes of all time, but there's one problem with it.  It's bad advice.  I will not be surprised if I receive criticism for saying that but if you are willing to read on, I'll explain.

There are most definitely times in life where the best thing you can possibly do is give up.  Here are 9 times that I will outline where this applies and what you should be giving up.  Each is based on a Christ-like attribute listed in Preach My Gospel: faith, hope, charity and love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence and obedience.

Faith:

Our faith is strengthened through testing it.  One of the best ways to have our faith strengthened and our fears, insecurities and doubts wiped away is if we give up our desire to have all the answers.  This means giving up the need we feel to have absolute assurance of truth from some great, glorious vision or sign, simply acting in faith, not knowing for sure what will come of it.  As we give up the need we sometimes feel for great, grandiose signs from God, we will see the truth about faith.  We'll see that it is a quiet yet firm trust in good things to come that are not seen, that God's word in scripture, ancient and modern, will bring us inconceivable joy as we live by it.  As we give up our demands for all the answers to our questions when we think we need them and trust God's timing we will come to know the pure joy of unwavering faith in our Father's plan as well as a deeper sense of self mastery.

Hope:

I never understood what the difference was between faith and hope for sure until I finally understood Moroni 10:20-21. Hope is a confident expectation that following Jesus Christ will have good results, a yearning for His divine, transforming power in our lives.  It has to do with our expectations of the future and is inclusive of faith.  Hope is the expectation and confidence we have in the outcomes of living the principles in which we have based our faith.  The greater the hope we want to have, the more we must be willing to give up our desires to please everyone else first, give up any of our goals that lead us to a standard or result less valuable than what God has in store for us.

Charity and love:

These two terms, to me, are synonymous.  Charity is the pure love of Christ and, in my opinion, the only true kind of love.  The pure love of Christ is the only kind of love there is and the small bit of it we feel for others is but a foretaste of the indescribable, all consuming love He has for us.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said "In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time."  It's a funny thing, time.  So often it is easy to claim we just don't have time to do certain things. What we forget when we make this claim is that it has nothing to do with how much time we have, but everything to do with where our priorities lie.

With that in mind, one of the best ways I know to grow in charity, Christ-like love, is to change our priorities. Anything we should love needs to have more of our attention. Everything that keeps us away from our loving Redeemer and diminish our value as children of God must continually become less important to us until they mean nothing and the most important things mean everything.  To really have pure love for our Father in Heaven, His Perfect Son and His children here on earth, including ourselves, we have to be willing to give up anything takes our time and attention away from whatever does not make us like Christ.  We must be willing to give up interests that take even a second of our precious time on earth away from coming to know Him.

Virtue:

Virtue, to me, is a state of mind and heart.  There is never a time when we are truly alone and what we do when we feel like we are alone and no one is watching reflects our virtue or lack thereof.  I have highlighted this verse regarding Lehi's vision of the tree of life in my virtue colors in my Book of Mormon: "And I said unto them that the [river] which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water."  Why didn't he see it? It was because he was so focused on virtuous things that he didn't even notice.  If we want to be virtuous, we too need to give up the impulse to focus too much on things of the world, on getting attention and being recognized for everything we do by men.  We need to give up our desires for things that "moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal."[3 Nephi 13:19 and Matt 6:19]  When we give that up and replace it with desires for Godly things, behaviors, habits and beliefs that make us more like Him, more perfect, then we will come to know the true peace, joy and power of being virtuous.

Knowledge:

As God has told us through a prophet, "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance."  If the goal of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to make us like God and God is omniscient, then the only way for us to become like God is to also become omniscient, to know all things.  I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ this is possible as we seek from knowledge and understanding from the Holy Ghost.  The trick that most people notice about this is the difficulty of sifting through lies to find all those gold nuggets of truth in the world in which we live.

With so many different perspectives among mankind today, our circumstances as we learn and gain understanding can have such a great effect on how we think that we are often blinded by them; blinded to the point where we completely believe any false ideas we have had ingrained in our mind as a result of our own negative life experiences.  So how do we overcome this hurdle?  Giving up any need we feel to agree with what's popular can help.  Giving up the need to be in good standing with the assumed standards of the "knowledge" of men will go a long way as well, replacing it with a concern for maintaining a good standing with the source of all knowledge, our Father in Heaven.  Only He can give us untainted, absolute knowledge in it's purest form.

Patience:

I think it's safe to say that if you've never doubted your faith, you've never had it rigorously tested.  The classic example of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon is an effective display of the power of contrast to build our patience.  To illustrated this, notice how much easier it is to tell the difference between the colors below by looking up and down than by looking left and right.

In the same way, it's much easier to enjoy the blessings of our lives if we constantly have challenges that are poignant enough to effectively illustrate the value of our blessings.  As Kim so accurately stated in this mormon message, "the greater our sorrow is, the greater our capacity is to feel joy".  Patience, though, goes beyond simply enduring, passively or radiantly, though difficulty, but rather extends to actively going out of our way to work through them and make ourselves, through Jesus Christ, more like God.  Whether it be patience with our circumstances or with people, it also means giving up our concerns about who is right and replacing it with a concern for what is right. It means giving up any desire to please everyone and replacing it with a desire to please God, which will in turn please those who matter in our lives. It means giving up needing to know all the answers about every little (or big) thing right now.  We should be replacing that with a loving trust and gratitude for the Lord's purposes and timing with hope in the blessings and level of self control resulting from such.

Humility:

Many people reading this may be familiar with the phrase "if you know you are humble it actually means you aren't" which makes humility one of the hardest things to master.  The reason God can say He is humble is because He has mastered humility and therefore knows how be aware of His humility while still staying humble.  As weak mortals we just don't know how to do that.  It's just too far out of our reach without the full power of the Atonement perfecting us as we progress throughout eternity.  I remember seeing a something on pinterest with a picture of a flower that said something like "a flower doesn't look around comparing itself to other flowers, it just grows where it is, always simply stretching for the sun".

A truly humble person will always have the interests and well being of others at the forefront of their minds and hearts.  The rewards of this are obvious.  When any individual feels like they are the center of someone's loving attention, they feel better about themselves, grateful for that person's attention and usually a natural desire to reciprocate will follow.  So how do we reach the point where we are only concerned about other's well being?  Giving up our fears that we will go unnoticed will help.  God notices and rewards every selfless deed we do, and His attention is far better than anyone else's anyways.  Giving up our need for temporal rewards and having gratitude, instead, for the peace of simply knowing we did the right thing for someone else and their life is better because of us is always worth it.  That, in and of itself, is often a great enough reward.

Diligence:

Preach my gospel uses the following adjectives as a part of it's diligence section: steady, consistent, earnest, energetic, persistent, great effort, care, effective, efficient.  I think all these could be summed up with the scripture "Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;"  What on earth would we need to give up to incorporate this Christ-like attribute into our lives?  It seems like kind of a weird concept considering the nature of this attribute.  But, when you think about it, diligence can get tiring for some people.  So giving up on the urge to satisfy mortal desires like non-essential sleep and letting the "same ten people" at church take part in regular needs of the ward might help.  Considering the concept of "good, better, best", replacing some of the enjoyable but trivial activities in our day with something more soul building, something that does good for someone else instead and give up our desires for taking a break with something "mindless".

Obedience:

One of the biggest misconceptions about obedience to God is that it is limiting.  On the contrary, God knows so well what will make us happy and miserable that following His commandments will only ever result in our long term happiness.  It may bring social discomfort and/or pain of some kind for a time, however brief or extended, but the long term joys and love we experience from obedience to God's commands can only result in a positive outcome.  It will always make us better people, more satisfied with ourselves, happier in our relationship with our Father in Heaven and our Savior.  Sacrifice is always a part of being happy and loved and when it comes to obedience.  When we become willing to give up the taint AND the tyranny of the pseudo happiness the world offers, however enticing or great it may seem; no matter it's method of delivery, we come to know the glory of the joy and love of the Lord, which, so accurately described by Joseph Smith, "def[ies] all description" in any mortal language.  Honestly, I know from personal experience that what we gain from obedience to our Father in Heaven and our Savior is infinitely greater and more glorious than anything the world could ever offer us.

_________________________

Notice how I haven't suggested just giving up and leaving it at that.  I have also given encouragement to replace anything given up with something better.  The phrase "give up" has been given such a negative connotation that saying can seem depressing, but what I am suggesting with this post is to make it something that, of it self, is neither good nor evil, but rather something to be determined by us and God as good or evil, depending on what and when we give up.

So please, give up.  Give up anything that pulls you away from the supernal, unmatched love of God.  Give up anything that taints your perception of yourself and others as children of God with infinite potential.  Give up everything unnecessarily trivial, everything that does not create peace in your relationships, everything that drives the Holy Ghost out of your life or home to any degree, everything that discourages or distracts you from the most important things in life.  Give it all up and replace it with everything you should never give up.  As Moroni put it, "deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.  And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."

I can think of no greater joy than to give up all those things and find perfect joy and love in filling the measure of our creation, becoming clean and perfect, like our Father in Heaven.