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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Overcoming the Struggles of Life

No person can go through life without having difficult times. Even the happiest, most successful people have struggles and times of hardship, often called "trials". Though a normal part of life, these events and problems can strongly influence our lives and choices and should not be discounted as unimportant. Every time we encounter a time of trouble, we are given a choice. Most of the time, we have little to no control over these trials occurring. But, we have the ability to choose our reaction and attitude towards such tribulation.

In the Book of Mormon, the sons of the people of Ammon, often called the "stripling warriors," were a group of young men who devoted their lives to the service of God and defense of the liberty of their people. They fought valiantly and courageously against the Lamanites, their former brethren, who in many cases were much stronger, larger in numbers, and more skilled in battle strategy than the young men. They did not wish to kill their former brothers, but being continually provoked by the constant threat of the Lamanite efforts to destroy their liberty and freedom, they defended the inherent rights of the Nephites. This struggle would be not only physically, but mentally and emotionally taxing. However, instead of blaming or complaining, the warriors went forth in faith. They "did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their own lives" (Alma 56:47). These young men, only teenagers and young adults, were firm, undaunted, and "put their trust in God continually" (Alma 57:27).

Not only did the stripling warriors have faith, they acted on it. These young men risked their lives for the cause of truth and righteousness. At the same time, Moroni was still leading his force to fight against the Lamanites in other places. His army was experiencing a lack of provisions and a time of struggle. But, when they heard about their brothers' success in fighting in other lands, these men "rejoiced because of their welfare" (Alma 59:1). Thus, as my professor says, in times of trial we can either become better or bitter. There is never a neutral time of stagnancy in our character and righteousness; either we are improving and working harder to become more like Christ, or we are slipping, no matter how slightly, and falling towards evil. It is vital that in times of troubles, we remember the eternal perspective of our existence. Jesus Christ atoned for our sins so that we could improve, repent, and become more like Him. We are provided with struggles in life as a test, and can either learn from them, or become resentful and angry because of them. As always, the choice rests in our hands.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Finding Strength Within (Alma 43-56)

In these chapters, the people of God, the Nephites, are provoked to war against the wicked Lamanites. Though they did not desire to spill the blood of their former brethren, the Nephites fought for "their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church" (Alma 43: 45). They were willing to go to war in defense of their freedoms, families, and religion, similar to how 18th century revolutionaries fought in America for their liberty. 

Appointed to lead the armies of the Nephites was Captain Moroni, "and he was only twenty and five years old when he was appointed chief captain" (Alma 43: 17). Though he was very young, Moroni led his people with courage and utmost righteousness. He fought for the cause of freedom from bondage and from tyrannical usurpation of unjust leaders. Times were not always easy for the Nephites, but they always pressed on in their faith in Jesus Christ and followed His commandments regardless of the tumult that surrounded them. In Moroni's military strategy, a method for increasing our defenses against wickedness and temptation can be found. Initially, Moroni strengthened the individuals of his army with armor, thick clothing, and shields. The Lamanites soon caught on to this and armored themselves as well. Then, the Nephites built great fortifications for their cities to protect the people collectively in the city. Moroni and his people then build new cities altogether, on top of fortifying their other ones and armoring their individuals. Finally, they fortify the very line that separates them from the Lamanites. In a symbolic sense, we can apply these fortifications to our own lives. In order to be protected from sin and temptation, we must first strengthen our own inner faith and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then, we can help build up those around us, until we are strengthening everyone we come in contact with. Satan only has power over the external influences of our lives; he cannot affect our internal strength unless we give him the power to do so. Therefore, if we have internal strength in our faith and turn to the Lord, external problems will not be able to touch us. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Alma 37-42

In these chapters of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma gives counsel to his three sons, Helaman, Corianton, and Shiblon concerning righteousness and the plan of our Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.
Satan would have us selfishly serve our own desires and, in a sense, make our whims a god over our lives. His sole purpose is to frustrate the plan of salvation, causing others the same condemnation that he must face. Satan will never have a body and will never enjoy the blessings of being exalted in heaven with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and he wants to do all he can to drag others down with him. Our actions in this earthly state matter because of the Law of Restoration, which states that "that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all" (Alma 41:15). Good is restored to good, and evil to evil in the Resurrection. As Alma points out, "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10). You simply cannot act immorally and wickedly and find true, lasting happiness.
Jesus Christ, on the other hand, has a much different plan for us. There is a Plan of Salvation in which mankind is created, fallen, redeemed through the Crucifixion, and then resurrected and can be exalted to eternity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Under the gospel of Jesus Christ, people must first obtain faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They must repent of their sins and receive a remission of their sins through baptism by immersion. Finally, people must live righteously, following God's commandments and enduring to the end. The gospel of Christ is simple to understand. The difficulty comes in implementing it in our lives and staying faithful to it. Thankfully, we are able to repent of our inevitable mistakes and can strive to be a little better each day. This plan of happiness is the only "way or means whereby man can be saved" (Alma 38:9). In this earthly life, we are given agency and free will to choose how we will conduct our lives. Life is a "time granted unto men to repent...a probationary repent and serve God" (Alma 42:4). Let us all try in our lives to be diligent in following the commandments of the Lord, and be accountable and repentant for our sins.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Really great devotional for young adults last night! It was given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the Second Counselor to the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Faith in God

In my reading this week, two main ideas stuck out to me. First, is the idea that "all things denote there is a God" (Alma 30:44). As Korihor the Antichrist desires a sign of God's existence from the prophet Alma, Alma instead counters with his testimony. He points out that the testimonies of the prophets of old, the scriptures, the earth, all that is on it, the planets and their orbital motion -- in essence, everything -- shows that there must be a Supreme Creator and that we are not just on this earth by chance. Beautiful nature and creations that are around me, with complexities and intricate processes, denote the existence of God. The human body itself, with such harmonious systems and magnificent abilities, shows to me that we have a purpose on Earth. As Alma later states in Chapter 34:32, "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" and become closer to a perfected state through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The nature of faith and how to obtain it is also very important. "Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true" (Alma 32:21). Waiting to see physical and absolute proof is not having faith in something or someone. If we could know everything, there would be no reason to believe or hope for things. But of course, humans do not have the ability to know all. If we base our lives around Jesus Christ, we cultivate hope. If we have hope, we have a future and can learn from the mistakes of our past. Satan's plan is to start by knocking down the first domino -- belief and faith in Jesus Christ. Once he has accomplished this, hope falls away, and soon after we have no future. Faith in Jesus Christ is a choice, either you have it or you don't. But, it can be strengthened with time, experiences, and effort. Just like a tree must be constantly nourished or else it will die, so must faith in God and Jesus Christ be maintained. Once faith is acquired, it still must be nourished through prayer, study, and repentance. If we want happiness, faith is the first step towards it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

As I prepare to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beginning this year, I have increased in my study and focus on the Book of Mormon and God's plan for all of mankind. As part of my Book of Mormon course at Brigham Young University, I am encouraged and inspired to share the insights that I discover with others. The most effective way to me to do this is through this blog, where I will post weekly reflections on my thoughts, impressions, and learning as I prayerfully study the Lord's word in the Book of Mormon. It is my hope that these posts will be of some inspiration, enlightenment, or benefit to you who read and follow them. I want to share the knowledge and hope in Christ that I have and will continue to gain with all those who are willing to hear it. :)