Friday, November 29, 2013

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is The Only Way

The title of today's post summarizes the opening of the Christmas season. Today the true gospel of Jesus Christ is juxtaposed against the world's opening for the season with what has come to be known as "Black Friday". And let me assure you all, "Black Friday" is NOT the way, the path or the course our Father in Heaven would have us pursue for happiness here and eternal life later on.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life," our Lord proclaimed. He is the Way in that it is in and through him that salvation comes; "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," he said. (John 14:6.) He is the Truth because he is the embodiment and personification of that holy attribute. (Alma 5:48.) And he is the Life because in him the light of life centers; except for him and his power there would be no existence; should he withdraw the light of life, death would gain an immediate victory; and without him there would be neither immortal life, nor eternal life, which is life in unending glory. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 832, emphasis mine).

The Book of Mormon has a subtitle on the front cover: "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". Nephi concludes his teachings this way: "And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way, and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God." (2 Nephi 31:21, emphasis mine).

Unbelievably, despite this declaration, there are some people (a thankfully shrinking number, I hope) who contend the Mormons are not Christians. Joseph Smith in several revelations was told we could find the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in The Book of Mormon. Why wouldn't the whole world flock to embrace the fulness, when it is so obvious most Christians have at best only fragments of truth? Here are some examples of this declaration:

After it was truly manifested unto this first elder [Joseph Smith] that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world;
But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel [Moroni], whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;
And gave unto him commandments which inspired him;
And gave him power from on high, by the means ]Urim and Thummim] which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;
Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also;
Which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them —
Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;
Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Amen. (D&C 20:5-12).

In a revelation giving instruction about what elements to use in the sacrament, the Savior Jesus Christ, declared:

Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim. (D&C 27:5).

The Savior gave instructions about what the missionaries were to teach:

Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.
And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel. (D&C 42:11-12, emphasis mine).

Following the martyrdom, John Taylor summed up the work of the Prophet:

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated! (D&C 135:3).

There are three specific passages from The Book of Mormon describing a complete definition of "the fulness of the gospel". They are 2 Nephi 31:2-21, 3 Nephi 11:31-39, and 3 Nephi 27:13-21. Jacob's teachings in 2 Nephi 9 mirror the same principles and ordinances, a reflection of his own witness he derived from the visions of Lehi and Nephi. Harold B. Lee referred to that one chapter of scripture as his favorite on many occasions, as witnessed by the frequency from which he drew his sermons from its themes.

There are useful synonyms defined by scripture describing the fulness of the gospel. These synonyms include the way, along with the gospel, the [his] word, the [his, my] doctrine.

Here's a wonderful verse from 2 Nephi 9:41 to illustrate:

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (Emphasis mine).

The elements of the fulness of the gospel are almost always grouped together in scriptures like the ones cited. They include faith, repentance, baptism by immersion, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end of our mortal lives, and eternal life. In shorthand, John summarized that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). 

I am indebted to Noel B. Reynolds, an emeritus professor at BYU, for a list I saw today (Religious Educator, Volume 14 No. 2 - 2013,  82) that summarizes these six distinct elements in the three passages cited above:

Element - Occurences
Faith - 13
Repentance - 18
Baptism by water - 22
Baptism of the Holy Ghost -13
Enduring to the end - 12
Eternal life - 18

Whenever I see that kind of repetition in scripture I have come to understand that we are being given divine definitions of terms. If we want to find truth, be saved through Christ's atonement from sin and death and inherit eternal life, we would expect a loving Heavenly Father to tell us how more than once, and certainly in more than one place.

In addition, Reynolds points out that plural and singular uses of "the word" occurs in 962 places in The Book of Mormon. I'll leave the accuracy of the counting to him - I wouldn't doubt it for a minute. 

Here are useful verses to underscore the symmetry of "my gospel" and "the word":

Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you — that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil —
And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words. (3 Nephi 27:13-18, emphasis mine).

John first asserted Christ was THE WORD, and he was right as far as that statement takes us. (John 1:1). However, The Book of Mormon gives us the fulness of the word, the gospel, the way, the truth, and the life with interchangeable meaning.

Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life is far in excess from anything Black Friday has to offer.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"I Am So Grateful. . ."

We have returned home from our trip to Washington D.C. where we picked up Sister Merilee Goates. She was released into our care and keeping a week ago on Thursday morning at the final transfer meeting. I take today's title for this post from Sister Goates.

If there were one phrase I heard repeatedly more than any other from our daughter, it was this one - "I am so grateful for. . ." and then she would cite a specific blessing she had received. The list included her testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as she witnessed the dramatic changes that had come into people's lives whom she had taught.

She referred again and again to members of the Church with whom she had labored to teach their friends, many of whom eventually joined the Church.

I heard her express gratitude for ALL the people who had changed her life for the better, including her mission president, Matthew Riggs, and his wife and their children, the senior missionary couples who had influenced her, her companions, and all the leaders of the Church she had met, including President Brian Swinton of the Washington D.C. Temple. We had a chance to renew our boyhood ties as we concluded an endowment session last Saturday morning. She mentioned several occasions where he had given sound counsel to missionaries and members.

There was a stranger she met on the Metro as we rode back from the city that day, an engaging black lady who was a grandmother and lifelong government employee who was full of light. After their brief encounter, Sister Goates expressed gratitude for putting that wonderful woman in her path that day so she could invite her to join our Church. She was a Southern Baptist, who knew much about the Mormons and had visited the Washington D.C. Temple in times past.

Gratitude was on her lips for a pair of shoes someone had sent to her on her mission, and for a sweater an investigator had given her when she needed warmth during her first bitter cold winter in Virginia. I also heard gratitude expressed for Honeycrisp apples to which she was introduced. She was never without one thereafter, so grateful for the discovery.

The weather was also on the list. We were at Mount Vernon on a November day basking in 70 degrees when she said it. She also spoke of green trees, so dense that in summer it was impossible to navigate because of the canopy of leaves on all those trees. And then her gratitude was for the fall colors of the leaves that were still clinging to their branches. And then it was for barren trees that made it possible to discern our surroundings more clearly.

Her citizenship in the United States also made the list of things for which she is most grateful. Living in that history-rich environment had heightened her awareness of all our blessings as free people, and the incredible price for freedom that has been paid by so many hundreds of thousands for that precious gift. It is hard to visit those stirring memorials on the National Mall and not be moved. The inspired quotations chiseled in granite, marble and other stones remind everyone of the cost to overthrow tyranny. The World War II Memorial honors over 400,000 lost in the global conflict. The price of freedom is always eternal vigilance. May we never forget the sacrifices of so many! The Vietnam War Memorial inscribed with all the names of the dead in that conflict designed to stop the march of communism was yet another reminder.

On a gorgeous fall morning in November, she shed some tears as we stood inside the Lincoln Memorial and I recounted my love for that iconic American leader who presided during a very divisive time in our history. Emotions were also close to the surface as we stood at the base of the statue of Thomas Jefferson at the other end of the Tidal Basin. Reading their words in those sacred precincts is inspiring. Later we watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and soberly pondered how many there must be like that one in our perpetual struggle to remain free. As we visited JFK's grave site overlooking the capital city and stood before the eternal flame burning there, hope of our perpetual freedom in America was rekindled and sunk deep within our hearts. We were there only hours before the commemoration of Kennedy's death fifty years ago. Oh, what memories it conjured up within me!

Iwo Jima Memorial
She admitted her favorite monument was the Iwo Jima statue, since it was not far from her apartment in Arlington and she was able to visit frequently during her stay there. She was so grateful for those sacred times of somber reflection.

Perhaps most impressive was her introduction to us of a young refugee from Egypt, Yousef, a Coptic Christian who was forced to flee to America when the violence against Christians in Egypt seemed to accelerate a couple of years ago. Yousef is on date for baptism into the Church in December. We had a chance to read several scriptures with him, to testify, and to re-commit him to his baptism date. That's really what we spent most of our time doing in D.C. - retracing her steps with people she had met, loved, served and taught.

As we spoke with Yousef he told us how excited he was about the prospects that soon all minority groups, including the Mormons, would be recognized in two months when the new Constitution for Egypt becomes ratified. His desktop background has pictures of Mormon temples that dot the globe now. He loves the thought that someday there will be temple in Cairo. I told him I felt impressed he would be in the vanguard of early pioneer saints in Egypt, all in fulfillment of the prophecy of Elder Bruce R. McConkie in 1980. Yousef, thrilled at the prospect when I explained he would someday be a pioneer for Mormonism in his beloved Egypt, exulted, "Soon everyone on earth will know about the Mormons!" I felt impressed to tell him I believed as part of Elder McConkie's prophecy there would someday be a temple in Cairo, and he would live to see the day come to pass if he remained faithful to his testimony.

As we left his apartment with water bottles he had graciously given to us out of the little he had to give, Sister Goates once again said, "Meeting Yousef has helped me to appreciate so much my citizenship in America. I had always taken so much for granted. He is here to escape death in his own country, where he told me Christians were being slaughtered in the streets. How grateful I am for freedom to worship God!"

Tears silently fell as the aerial view of Washington D.C. faded into the distance on the horizon. Her face now turned West to resume her life again. She will look back with fondness on her missionary experience, but she will also begin a new chapter now with a renewed sense of gratitude, cultivated from her last eighteen months in Virginia. She will never again be the same person she was.

So we are grateful this week before Thanksgiving for all our blessings as a family. As we recount them all, our list like Merilee's grows longer and longer. This year they include being reunited with Merilee, and yesterday we met our first grandson at the airport, Elder Izach Jach, who returned home from the Iowa Des Moines Mission, taller, broader, and a pillar of power after a mission experience filled with happiness and success.

Our cup is running over, and I am so grateful. . .

Monday, November 11, 2013

Leaving the Beautiful Virginia

As many close to our family will know, our youngest (and last of eight full-time missionaries) is wrapping up her mission in the Washington D. C. South Mission this week. We depart on Wednesday to meet her back there and bring her home next week after spending some time meeting the people with whom she has labored. Her final testimony is worth sharing with everyone:

Sister Woodbury (l), Sister Goates (r)
Oh my goodness! I can't believe today is here.  My last Preparation Day as a missionary. What an incredible 18 months it has been! It truly has been the best of my life. I have been refined and molded. I am so grateful for the experiences and the miracles the Lord has blessed me to witness for the past year and a half.

I know God truly is our loving Heavenly Father and He truly does know each of us personally and perfectly. I know He ALWAYS has our best interest in mind. He wants us to be happy. We are His children and He has sent us here to be happy and find joy, but also to have trials and to be tested so we can become more like Him and learn more about His attributes so we can gain them as well.

I am so grateful for the perspective a mission has given me for my life. I have learned so much. I am grateful for the weaknesses the Lord has revealed to me so I can work on them and He can refine me and help me become stronger.

This past week has been bitter-sweet. Mostly, it still hasn't hit me that I'm really leaving and that this is the end of my mission. Nonetheless, it has still been a very special week. I was able to go to the temple with the other departing missionaries, and what a sacred experience that was. I am so grateful for the temple and I'm grateful for the knowledge of the significance of the temple in my life and the blessings that come as we keep the covenants we make there and as we become a "Temple Going and Covenant Keeping" people. I know the temple truly is the House of the Lord. I know it is there our families truly are sealed together for time and all eternity. There is NOTHING greater in this life than that knowledge right there. There is NOTHING that brings greater joy or peace in this life, than the knowledge of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There really isn't.

It is because of the events Joseph Smith had in his life that we have the gospel today. How grateful I am for his sacrifice and for his humility in offering that sincere and humble prayer that day in the Sacred Grove. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he truly did have that experience. I know through that experience we truly do have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With that knowledge, we have been promised never again will we be in darkness and never again will we not have a prophet on the Earth. What an incredible promise!

I know President Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet today. I know it is through him we have all of the Preisthood Keys so we can partake in ALL the ordinances needed to return to live with our Heavenly Father and with our families again.

We had an INCREDIBLY powerful stake conference this past weekend. We had Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy come and it truly was a spiritual feast! Also, apparently he knows the Goates family well. [Editor's note: His mother and mine served in the Federal Heights Ward Relief Society Presidency, then later as members of the Relief Society General Board under Sister Barbara Smith.] He is part of the Missionary Department and it was a powerful weekend here in the Oakton Stake. We were told we have some of the finest leaders in the Church in this stake and it was encouraging to hear we have such great potential in performing so many incredible miracles with a combined effort. It was inspiring and I felt the Spirit so strongly.

It made my heart hurt a little when I realized with all this fire the members have now that I won't be able to help keep that fire ignited and continue to encourage them much longer as a missionary, but I know I still can as a member missionary.

I received very specific and wonderful revelation for what I can do to continue to be a missionary. It was wonderful. It was humbling to be called before the stake to share my testimony my last Sunday as a missionary. It was an incredible opportunity and I was so grateful for it.

I know this work is real. I also know it is truly hastening. I have felt that for a long time, but the urgency was so apparent this weekend as we listened to Elder Evans and President Monson, a prophet, seer, and revelator, talk about it in our conference. It is happening, the signs of the times are here and we don't have much time. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to be more engaged than ever. It is my prayer each of us will be, and continue in our missionary efforts until our Lord and Savior returns.

I love you all. I thank you for your constant love and support for me. I can't express and thank you enough for the help to get me on a mission, whether it has been contributing money, your time, or the experiences we've had together. Each of you has been a support to me and has helped bless my life so much in helping me be in a position where I could have this incredible experience. I am so grateful to my loving Heavenly Father for the invaluable experiences He has given me and lessons He has been able to teach me during this sacred time in my life. Thank you for all you've done to help in any part or form in that.

I love you all. I love my Savior and I love His work.

All my love and gratitude,

Sister Merilee Goates

Update from the Utah Obamacare Exchange

Jon Goates
My brother, Jon, is in the trenches on Obamacare. He might even be considered the "canary in the mine shaft" as my early-warning device to monitor the impacts on small medical practices like the one he manages in Davis County (small town) Utah. In his latest installment he documents what is happening to his personal plan with his insurance carrier and what the implementation of Obamacare means to his business. Based upon reports that are now surfacing all across America, his story about Utah's health care exchange can be considered more typical than extraordinary.

* * *

Just a quick note to demonstrate why you don’t ever want to allow Washington to mandate your medical insurance coverage. Amid other considerations, the 1,500 new regulations I have to implement over the next 18 months will most assuredly result in an audit and fines for not doing it just the right way for the subjective enforcement according to the personal whims of the auditor. 

Last week I met with our insurance broker. He explained that because the insurance plan I pay for through the practice falls under Obama’s Federal mandate for “affordable” care, my personal premium (for one child, spouse and me) will go from $956 per month to $1,495.75 – a 55% increase! I already have a $2,500 individual and $3,750 family deductible and a qualified HSA card. I feel so good about BHO's assurances that “You can keep your current insurance if you want to.” This massive increase is what it takes the commercial insurance carriers to include the regulated Obamacare items into my coverage.

This is ludicrous. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her side-kick “the-buck-stops-with-me-Barack” are healthcare idiots who are both dumbfounded as to why it is so hard to attract the American public to the insurance plans they have so generously provided. Have you seen what their brand of “affordable care” is for the public? Sure, you can go shopping on the insurance exchanges for low monthly premiums for families of about $300-$450, but those same plans sport $7,500 to $9,000 annual deductibles. So if families were uninsured prior to BarackHealth, how will the same families ever begin to whittle down these massive deductibles before their co-insurance ever kicks in? Simply, they cannot afford to do so. Conundrum.

The result is that the same doctor’s office or Emergency Department will have to carry the same if not more debt from these now "insured" families as we were carrying before BarackHealth went into effect. The biggest difference will be that prior to BarackHealth’s mandated deductibles local medical clinics could openly discount the care to our patients by 20-30% as they paid cash for each visit, which was our own way of creating an "affordable care" solution for the uninsured. Did we get any credit for doing so? Nope. Now and going forward we cannot discount someone’s annual deductible, since every dollar they spend will “benefit them” at meeting their minimum coinsurance thresholds. 

The Utah insurance exchange has 5,000 visitors to the website each day. Only 1% actually sign-up for an insurance plan. And you wonder. . . why?

Jon Goates
Chief Executive,
Davis Family Physicians, PC

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Be of Good Cheer"

The Apostle Paul has always been one of my scripture heroes. Once in a group of young married couples gathered for game night, the question was asked, "Who is your favorite author?" My reply, "Paul." Everyone demanded to know, "Paul who?" My answer: "Paul the Apostle." "Oh," was the predictable response. I was admitting my lack of literary awareness in their eyes.

But I stand by the answer. Paul was once in bondage among his accusers, the Jews. It seems they were divided as Sadducees and Pharisees, and offended by his doctrine of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul, notwithstanding his eyewitness testimony of the events on the road to Damascus, was vilified and discredited among his peers. Here's one example from his life:

And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. (Acts 23:9-13, emphasis mine).

The Lord said to Paul, who was in chains, "Be of good cheer." That's optimism from the Lord to one faced with certain death. In essence, "You've been incarcerated for my name's sake in Jerusalem, but they won't kill you yet, because you're still going to Rome to testify of me." What Paul couldn't know after he miraculously escaped that conspiracy at Jerusalem was that things would really get dicey in Rome.

Perhaps it was the resurrected Lord quoting the condemned mortal Jesus. Facing the cruel agony He alone knew He would face in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, the Savior said to his baffled disciples:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.
At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.
Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:20-33, emphasis mine).

How could the Savior possibly say, "Be of good cheer" under such adverse conditions? And how audacious to think He had "overcome the world" when the world was about to crucify Him in the fashion of cruel Roman justice to pacify the Jewish co-conspirators!

I thought of the Savior's encounter with stormy seas in the wake of the devastation we have witnessed this past week in what has been dubbed "the worst storm ever" in the Philippines. These images are sobering as we think of the suffering of the families of those estimated 10,000 who perished. The actual number may never be known, the proportions of destruction now being described as "Biblical."

Earlier during His mortal ministry, after learning that day John the Baptist had been beheaded, the Savior spoke to and fed a large multitude. He sent His Apostles into a ship and went alone into a mountain where He observed them toiling all night in a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee. Late that night, just before dawn, in the "fourth watch" between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., He appeared on the stormy waters before them. Then we have this account, once again an indication of His optimism in the face of imminent disaster:

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain, apart, to pray.
And when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with the waves; for the wind was contrary.
And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. (JST John 14:19-23, emphasis mine).

He tried their faith until the uttermost extremity in the early morning hours. And so it is with us sometimes. And after the winds and the waves have sufficiently beaten us down to a point where there is little left to hope for, He appears and reminds us there is nothing to fear after all. He brings "cheer" to comfort us.

We have other examples from scripture. On the night before the Babe of Bethlehem was born, the true believers on the American continent half a world away were faced with certain death at the hands of the unbelievers, who threatened to put them to death unless they disavowed their faith in the Promised Messiah:

Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.
Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.
And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son — of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given. (3 Nephi 1:9-14, emphasis mine).

In our day as early as 1831 in Hiram, Ohio:

Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come. (D&C 68:6, emphasis mine).

A year later, also in Hiram, Ohio:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. (D&C 78:16-19, emphasis mine).

To Thomas B. Marsh in Kirtland, Ohio, 1838:

Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted; therefore, all thy sins are forgiven thee.
Let thy heart be of good cheer before my face; and thou shalt bear record of my name, not only unto the Gentiles, but also unto the Jews; and thou shalt send forth my word unto the ends of the earth.
Contend thou, therefore, morning by morning; and day after day let thy warning voice go forth; and when the night cometh let not the inhabitants of the earth slumber, because of thy speech.
Let thy habitation be known in Zion, and remove not thy house; for I, the Lord, have a great work for thee to do, in publishing my name among the children of men.
Therefore, gird up thy loins for the work. Let thy feet be shod also, for thou art chosen, and thy path lieth among the mountains, and among many nations.
And by thy word many high ones shall be brought low, and by thy word many low ones shall be exalted.
Thy voice shall be a rebuke unto the transgressor; and at thy rebuke let the tongue of the slanderer cease its perverseness.
Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers. (D&C 112:3-10, emphasis mine).

So in the space of a week I've gone from pondering the effects of "sore trials" to the seeming irony of the Savior's injunction, "Be of good cheer."

Sometimes in life we encounter circumstances over which we have absolutely no control. We buckle under the weight of burdens we cannot possibly overcome or sustain. We are promised, however, in sacred precincts that we will be blessed to bear the weight of those burdens placed upon our shoulders. I am grateful for an optimistic God. I am grateful for His optimistic prophets, who seem to have no fear in the face of seemingly impossible odds stacked against them to move the kingdom of God forward in the earth in these last days.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
I was reminded this week of something Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote:

"Gospel gladness is possible even in the midst of affliction, because of the reassuring realities that pertain to our mortal circumstance. The everlastingness of certain things puts the temporariness of other things in perspective. God's promises to us are so rich that even difficult tactical circumstances cannot conceal our causes for genuine cheerfulness: God is in charge; God's plan of happiness is underway; momentary tribulation does not set aside the universal resurrection, which is a reality; individual identity and personality are thereby assured; death has been defeated by Christ's atonement; and Satan and his misery-causing minions will finally be defeated. Each of these (and many more) form the litany of reassuring reality.

"Thus we should not let the gray mists of the moment obscure the bright promises and prospects of eternity. Gospel gladness is a precious, precious perspective — essential to have, if one is to keep his attitudinal balance while traveling the straight and narrow way. The way is often no more than a path. It inclines sharply, and it is strewn with loose rocks. Indeed, there are points along the way to be traversed only on one's hands and knees." (Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am, 98).

Elder Maxwell concluded this chapter in his book with a marvelous metaphor:

"If in all of this there is some understandable trembling, the adrenalin of affliction can help to ensure that our pace will be brisk rather than casual. His grace will cover us like a cloak — enough to provide for survival but too thin to keep out all the cold. The seeming cold is there to keep us from drowsiness, and gospel gladness warms us enough to keep us going." (ibid., 109, emphasis mine).

President Harold B. Lee
I also stumbled over a poem (source unknown) that President Harold B. Lee cited in his last First Presidency Message (Ensign, August 1974):

May You Have. . .

Enough happiness to keep you sweet,
Enough trials to keep you strong,
Enough sorrow to keep you human,
Enough failure to keep you humble,
Enough success to keep you eager,
Enough friends to give you comfort,
Enough wealth to meet your needs,
Enough enthusiasm to look forward,
Enough faith to banish depression,
Enough determination to make each day better than yesterday.

I believe we have "enough and to spare" when it comes to our hope in Christ's atonement. He did overcome the world - that means the effects of sin and death - all of which is only temporary based upon our miscalculations about their importance in mortality. I conclude with Jacob, the brother of Nephi:

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves — to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen. (2 Nephi 10:23-25, emphasis mine).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When Sore Trials Come Upon You

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we sing a familiar hymn, "Did You Think To Pray?"

Click the link and listen to the combined BYU choirs sing a Mack Wilberg arrangement. The words of the last verse have been playing again and again in my mind this weekend. I hope you will enjoy the spirit of the video as much as I have for the comfort it has given me:

Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor,
As a shield today?


Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day;
So when life seems dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.

When you met with great temptation,
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit,
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?

When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

During our mortal lives sore trials may come upon us in an instant. Most often these trials come as unwelcome guests and they appear in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is the death of a loved one. Often relationships once filled with promise and hope sour and become bitter. Divorce in marriages can result when spouses grow apart and the once raging bonfires of love and devotion to one another dissolve into smoldering embers and turn stone cold.

The vicissitudes of life are seemingly countless. When employment disappears overnight in a downsizing, and loyalty and hard work seemingly mean nothing to an employer you once loved and admired, bitterness sometimes results. One wonders if the universe has singled them out for particularly harsh treatment, because no one could have been dealt with as harshly as they were.

Health, once taken for granted and never second guessed, can suddenly evaporate with a cancer diagnosis. The worldwide financial meltdown of 2008 wipes out life savings. A well-planned retirement suddenly evaporates overnight. 

There seems to be no end to the possible scenarios, does there? 

Our family was struck with this reality of a "sore trial" this weekend. A routine intrauterine ultrasound diagnosis revealed one of our little granddaughters has a birth defect known as anencephaly. Her parents were in shock. When they informed us, our hearts were burdened with sorrow over the diagnosis, knowing all too well the feelings of having to bury a little one when our youngest daughter Adrienne died unexpectedly of SIDS at seven weeks of age. This year marked the twenty-first anniversary of her birth and death. Perhaps the only thing worse than having to live through these traumatizing experiences yourself, is to have to live them vicariously, knowing so well what our children are now facing. In seeking to produce a posterity of our own, it should not be surprising when we are called to pass through Abrahamic tests not unlike those of our noble progenitor.

So the words of the hymn keep replaying in my mind - "When sore trials came upon you, did you think to pray? When your soul was bowed in sorrow, balm of Gilead did you borrow at the gates of day?"

We have been forced to our knees as we have fasted that they might be comforted through the weeks and months of uncertainty that lie ahead. 

Seeking to comfort our family this weekend, I sent out an e-mail:

Words are hard to come by in expressing our feelings. . . 

The hardest questions to answer in this life are all the "Why?" questions. Those will have to wait awhile as our faith is tested and galvanized in the fiery furnace of affliction here on earth. Jake quoted Nephi, in answer to the question if he (Nephi) knew what the "condescension of God" meant. Said Nephi: "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (1 Nephi 11:17). 

His love for us rarely shields us from the randomness of an imperfect and fallen world, but it is always in evidence when our hearts ache as they do today.

Because Christ descended below all things on this earth, including every conceivable human condition, He is able to succor us in our sorrow, grief, doubts, guilt, anxiety and every other human emotion we feel. Alma summarized Christ's role in our lives when tragedy strikes and "sore trials" come upon us: "And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things. . ." (Alma 7:12-13, emphasis mine). 

Allie called this morning, heartbroken over this news. She sobbed, "What can I do? I would do anything for them." The answer is the same as it has always been - love them and love one another. 

Love and blessings,

Dad & Mom

I testify from these pages that Christ is our never-failing balm of Gilead in times of traumatizing knee-buckling tragedy. He will heal us of all our infirmities as He promises, when we turn to Him for comfort. There is nothing in the human condition He does not know intimately, having suffered in Gethsemane at at Golgotha for EVERYTHING that threatens our peace and our joy. 

Wherever we are in our lives presently, no matter what fiery trials we are currently passing through, He is an ever-present and willing participant in all our outcomes. He answers with the calm assurance we need when we turn to Him in our anguish.

Prayer really can change the night to day.

We open prayer in the name of our Heavenly Father because it is He to whom we address our prayers. We thank Him for all the blessings we enjoy because we know He is our Father who loves us. We ask Him specifically for the help we need, whatever form our "sore trial" may be taking, and we close our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who makes all the answers possible because of His atonement. Prayer is available to all of us. We are all brothers and sisters, children of the same God.

We just need to remember to pray when the sore trials come. . . I pray we may always remember.

Friday, November 1, 2013


In the realm of big WHOPPERS, we may never again see the likes of Barack Hussein Obama. Not only are his lies already garnering "famous" status, at least one observer here, Jonah Goldberg, maintains his lies will achieve INFAMOUS status. If you hadn't guessed, the topic is one dear to my heart - Obamacare. It's stunning now that there is simply nowhere to run and hide from the facts as they are emerging. Of course, that assumes there's anyone left who actually cares about FACTS anymore.

This POTUS may become a lame duck quicker than any two-term president in history.