San Pedro Sula East Mission
2013 - 2016

Friday, January 30, 2015

There is a God, and He Loves You . . .

There is a God, and He Loves You . . .

The first and most important message we take to all the world is . . .

There is a God.
He is our Heavenly Father, we are his children.
He has a body of flesh and bone, much like ours, only perfected.
He loves us. Each one of us . . . his children.
He weeps with us when we suffer, and rejoices with us when do things that are right.

He desires to hear from his children . . . through prayer.
He has prepared this earthly experience for us so we can learn and grow.
And through our earthly trials, challenges and experiences, become as He is.

He sent his son Jesus Christ to save us from physical and spiritual death.
He has a plan for us, here in this earthly existence.

From the beginning of time . . .

From the beginnings of all time man has asked the same question, is there a God?  Does he know me?  To seek such answers is the pursuit of religion.  By definition, religion is a belief or worship of a Being higher than our humanness, that has a controlling power.  The very definition implies that knowledge of such a Power comes through belief, or strong belief, which is equivalent to faith.  A belief or faith is also by definition a spiritual comprehension as opposed to knowledge based on proof.

Therefore if we seek for answers of a religious nature, having to do with a higher power or being greater than ourselves, our knowledge must include strengthening our beliefs, through strengthening our faith, rather than from knowledge only based upon proof.

The Foundation of all Righteousness

In an ever more confused and increasingly turbulent world . . . it will be essential to increase our capacity to seek learning by faith.  A quest if you will to seek and obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.  Faith is the first principle in revealed religion and the foundation of all righteousness.  A belief, strong belief, the equivalent of faith requires action on our part.  It is not a passive.  It requires that we participate and actively pursue.

Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shares, "Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception." "Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon?

In an ever more confused and increasingly turbulent world . . . the world will surely come to us, with the teachings of men, mingled with their interpretation of scripture, or guidance from a higher power as is convenient to the current moral and political trends of the day.  We cannot wait to be "acted upon" by the world but must be anxiously engaged in asking, seeking and knocking (see 3 Nephi 14:7).

The Loud Voice of the Adversary - 

In recent years, with the rise of increasing use of the Internet, the loud voice of the adversary, in direct opposition to people of faith would proclaim that there is no evidence that God exists.  Evidence is the body of facts or information provided with the purpose to convince that a belief is true or valid.  It is meant to convince another of truth.  Even in a court of law the evidence is often contradictory, even one eyewitness can contradict another.  Scientific evidence is subject to many different interpretations, or may be unreliable due to errors in collection and analysis.

Therefore in a quest for reliable spiritual, religious, faith based knowledge, physical evidence only or the lack thereof cannot be deemed genuine, sound or true.  In people of faith, and particularly to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have experienced miracles and personal tender mercies of a spiritual nature, the evidence comes in the form of their own personal experience.

The Evidence of God's Existence - 

Try convincing the many that have been healed by God's priesthood power that evidence of God doesn't exist.  Try convincing those who entered the waters of baptism spiritually ill and burdened with a lifetime of sin that evidence of God's healing power doesn't exist.  The multitude of these seemingly insignificant in a great universe, acts of physical Godly power multiplied by the millions upon millions through thousands of years . . . and you begin to get a sense of the cumulative total of the evidence not just of God's existence but of His active intervention in human lives.

Ultimately the knowledge of God's existence and power can only be spiritually discerned.  But until the Spirit of the Holy Ghost which witnesses to the heart of man the truth of all things . . . that heart will remain without the evidence it seeks, and the natural man will continue to be "acted upon" by the world all around.

How do we Receive a Spiritual Witness?

But how does the Holy Ghost testify of truth and witness unto us?  Yes, through our feelings or senses, but much more than just a feeling . . . if you have ever felt a witness of the Holy Spirit then you know it's not just following your own subjective feelings.  It is something very different.  If you don't believe you have experienced a witness from the Holy Spirit it can be difficult to fully explain.

Some scripture examples might be helpful:

 Acts 2:37, 38  Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men andbrethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Luke 24:32  And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 
Matthew 16:15-17  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 
John 14:26  But the Comforterwhich is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
John 15:26  But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 

Mere Words Cannot Express . . .

It is fundamentally difficult to understand another's own personal manifestation of the Spirit due to the limited vocabulary of mankind.  We don't have the correct words to describe the significant experience that takes place through the senses to describe a spiritual witness of the Holy Spirit.   Because few have the poetic mind and descriptions necessary, we are left to try our best to convey what we've experienced, and it can be different for everyone.

Why Believe?

Why is a belief, strong belief, the equivalent of faith in God important in your life?  Sooner, or later, all of us will need our Heavenly Father and the Light of His Son, Jesus Christ in our life.  Sooner or later we will all need the Savior.  We all make mistakes we cannot fix, experience losses we cannot recover, and face pains, persecution, tragedies, burdens, and disappointments we cannot handle alone.

The good news is that we don't have to handle them alone.

When we stumble and fall, the adversary, even the devil, Satan, wants us to think we're not good enough to get up and get back on the right path.  When we face serious challenges, sometimes we find it difficult to trust in the Lord.  But trusting in Him brings us the hope we need in order to face our challenges.  If you've ever faced a natural disaster, been the subject of cruel gossip, experienced a life-changing challenge, had a falling-out with a friend, or stood up for what's right . . . you know you need the Lord's peace.

Comfort . . . Peace through the Atonement - 

The Savior is important to us because through his Atonement, teachings, hope, peace and example, He helps us change our lives, face our trials, and move forward with faith.

You can find the Savior's words of eternal life in the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets, and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.  They offer a foundation for happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.

We turn to our Heavenly Father and the Savior by:

  • Praying to Heavenly Father for the Spirit to be with us.
  • Reading the Lord's words in the scriptures and as revealed by living prophets.
  • Attending the temple.
  • Studying the Savior's life.
  • Applying his Atonement by repenting of our sins.

When we feel the Savior's peace, our hearts need not be troubled or afraid. (John 14:26-27)

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

God lives
And he does love you

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Hope They call me on a Mission

A familiar refrain . . .

I hope they call me on a mission . . .

(Most photos are from our recent Zone Conferences, Leadership Training or recent transfer day)

A favorite line from a favorite song that inspires excitement even amongst the smallest of primary children.  And truly for many LDS youth missionary preparation begins from the earliest years spent in the Primary organization of the Church.

But what happens when everything you ever learned in Primary, the Young Mens organization, Young Women's, and Sunday School isn't everything one needs to be ready to serve?

President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized the importance of having good mental and physical health while serving a full-time mission.

"This work is rigorous . . . it demands strength and vitality.  It demands mental sharpness and capacity" . . .

President Hinckley certainly knew what he was talking about.

Physical and Emotional Preparation

Missionary work is a call extended by the President of the Church to those who are worthy AND able to accomplish it . . .

Good physical and mental health are essential.

Not all missions in the world are created equal.  In some ways . . . you could say - it's the missionaries against the elements.

The heat, cold, sun, rain, sleet, hail, rocky roads, insects, dirty water, no water, no electricity, hills, rivers, streams, mountains, rain forests, snakes, ants . . . each part of the world presents it's own particular challenge.

Here, as in most locations in Central America missionaries do not have the use of cars or bikes . . . an additional burden or challenge to be on their feet, walking and carrying their back or shoulder packs throughout the long days . . . day after day . . .

The effort required is actually much more than one would ever imagine.

Heavenly Father Blesses his Missionaries

Without a doubt, Heavenly Father blesses his missionaries!  Clearly, he desires to bless each of them so they can do their best to teach and testify of the Savior and his gospel.  But each missionary has a part to play as well in maintaining both physical and emotional readiness and good health.

It seems to be that whatever ailment or physical or mental challenge that a missionary brings into the mission field only becomes more aggravated, more challenging and more difficult under the physical challenge of a difficult and arduous work.

Therefore it is super important to enter the mission field with as much physical and emotional strength as possible.

"There should be an eagerness and a desire to serve the Lord as His ambassadors to the world.  And there must be health and strength, both physical and mental, for the work is demanding, the hours are long, and the stress can be heavy" ("Missionary Service," First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan 2003)

The Lord has asked us to serve with "all your heart, might, mind and strength" (D&C 4:2).  Young men and woman planning a mission need to be sure to take good physical care of both their bodies and minds.   The opportunity to serve challenges many young people to seek and maintain both physical and emotional strength throughout their teenage years.  Avoiding risky behavior that may threaten life or limb, avoiding unhealthy eating habits  . . . while working to promote healthy sleep and work patterns, good personal hygiene, exercise habits and a healthy diet lead to the likelihood of adapting well to missionary service.

The Real Purpose of Missionary Work

We would do well to focus on the real purpose of missionary work and the need for a healthy mind and body in order to accomplish that purpose.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the importance of daily care for our bodies both before the mission and during missionary service.

"Many people . . . have difficulty finding the time for sufficient rest, exercise, and relaxation.  We must schedule time in our daily calendars for these activities if we are to enjoy a healthy and balanced life.  Good physical appearance enhances our dignity and self-respect"

(Just lucky this year . . . everyone is getting flu shots for Christmas along with their
ice cream sundaes! Yippee) 

"We are not asking for perfection . . . the work of the Lord is done by ordinary people who work in extraordinary ways . . ."  Yet every person can change and improve.  If you're planning missionary service . . . now is the time to begin healthy habits in preparation.  Begin now to implement healthy habits into your daily activities!

Understand that a mission will likely include many of the same challenges we face in regular life . . . but even more so!  Finding time to exercise, preparing and including healthy foods into a busy schedule . . .

Prepare and Counsel Early with Bishops and Stake Presidents

If a young person has challenges with an emotional illness such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive behavior . . . now is the time to seek professional treatment and counseling before considering missionary service.  It's important to enter the mission field completely stabilized for a period of time, and functioning independently of parents or medical guidance.  Such guidance will likely not be available once you enter the mission field and are involved in the rigors of full-time service.  Our Heavenly Father gives each of his sons and daughters particular challenges that we may grow my conquering and overpowering them.  Use that determination to increase self worth and work towards service of our Heavenly Father, either as a full-time missionary or through the many other avenues available to give back to those around us.

Counseling early with your bishop and Stake President is an important part of your missionary service preparation.

There may be individuals who are honorably excused from full-time missionary service.  There are many ways to render meaningful service compatible with any physical or emotional challenges you are working to overcome.  Family history centers, temples, welfare projects, or service in local hospitals, care centers, shelters or other places are valuable and much needed.

The Work isn't Over until it's Over . . .

Missionary service doesn't end when the mission ends . . . one must continue to maintain good health and emotional habits to enable them to continue serving throughout their lifetime.  Each member will have many opportunities wherever they may find themselves to share a message of the Restored Gospel, to lead, to teach, to reach out to another . . . and lift them up . . .

Helping another to find the light of the Savior is frequently the best medicine, physical therapy or counseling one can provide for another and in turn increasing one's own health and well-being.  Sharing the gospel brings joy no matter which part of the world, far or near, at home or abroad, it's the best spiritual therapy for the soul, as we lose ourselves in the service of the Lord, we find ourselves on the receiving end of more blessings than we can imagine.

The message is the same for all . . . wherever we may find ourselves called to serve . . .

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.  (D&C 4:2)

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