Yesterday we enjoyed a visit with my parents to celebrate my mother's birthday. Three of my four children were able to join us. My brother and his wife and his two sons and a daughter-in-law were also there. My oldest daughter brought a favorite client whom we love and have adopted over the last 10 years, not legally, but in every other way. In total we had 13 plates around the table and overflowing to the kitchen counter.
Usually a crowd of this size is disquieting to my dad who suffers from Alzheimer's and gets very confused and sometimes anxious when a big crowd visits. After we ate a fine Sunday meal of pot roast with potatoes and carrots with green salad prepared by my dear wife and a wonderful lemon cake made by my brother's wife, the group retired to the family room to visit with Mom and amongst themselves.
Dad looked on for a few minutes, standing at the edge of the room, but the large group with so many voices made it impossible for him to join in. I took him to the living room not far away but just far enough. We sat on the sofa and looked out upon the field of harvested corn covered mostly by recent snow. And we talked. He is not able to express himself well anymore, but if you quietly and patiently listen, you can hear his words of love and wisdom trickling through the fragments of his speech. He asked what I would do next or where I would go. I told him I would go home and work. In his way he asked about that and my family. In brief and short sentences, I told him about them and my concerns for them.
While he was unable to complete each of his thoughts filled with bits of wisdom and encouragement, but I found myself understanding more and more of what he was trying to say, sometimes finishing his thought for him to which he would then agree. I felt his spirit communicating with me in only a way that a loving father can. I was comforted and leaned my head on his shoulder and gradually fell asleep. He sat quietly there as I slept for about half an hour. Perhaps he slept as well. I'm told my children were checking on me as they made plans to leave and, finding me still asleep, they would return to the other room to chat more with my mom and their cousins.
I am deeply grateful for such wonderful rest and the blessings of my dad's wisdom and love which still has the power to transcend the disease which robs him of his memories and his normal cognitive abilities. His spirit is strong and while I will celebrate the day that he is released from his mortal tabernacle to go and serve the Lord on the other side of the veil, I will suffer the deepest sadness for myself and others who now benefit from his enduring spirit of love and wisdom here in mortality.
We are agents to ourselves, free to act and choose our actions, thoughts and words. This gift is inherent in us and we bristle when others try to take it from us. Even when our cognitive faculties abandon us, we often work hard to maintain our independence and ability to choose for ourselves.
An ancient prophet in America wrote the following.
2 Nephi 10 (Book of Mormon)
23 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.
24 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.
God will never force us to choose Him. But if we reconcile our own will to His and choose to follow Him, accepting His Son Jesus Christ and the atoning sacrifice He made, we can be made whole from our sins through His grace and be saved in God's kingdom.
In 2 Nephi 9:51, Jacob teaches the people of Nephi, "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy."
I am pondering this today. What do I spend money on that is of no worth? My mental list is already growing. On what do I spend my labor? What does satisfy? These are perhaps the harder questions.
Why do you suppose Jacob taught this? Is there greater wisdom in these few words than first meets the eye? What is the result of following this advice?
I turned next to my somewhat random reading through the Gospels of the New Testament, today in John 6 (KJV) and this whole chapter seems to be an answer to some of the questions I posed. These verses stood out to me especially:
26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
As you work your way through life, what serves as your boot, heel and stirrup to keep you balanced and in the saddle? What tools do you use to do your job?
Life can be a bit rough and tumble. It can throw us on the ground, flat on our back, but if we get up and move forward, dust ourselves off and climb back in the saddle, put out boots in the stirrups and kick our heels in just a little, the horse we're on will get us through the day.
Do you struggle with a bad habit? Do you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again? Do you feel inadequate to the challenges you face? Are you worried that your best won't be good enough?
You're not alone. A prophet in ancient America named Moroni had some of these same concerns. In reply to his worries, the Lord told him this:
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." ~Ether 12:27
If we humble ourselves before the Lord and put our faith in him, he will strengthen us and we will be able to overcome our weaknesses. Through his grace we are made strong.
To the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., the Lord revealed, "Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will." ~Doctrine and Covenants 19:23-24.
Let us heed these words. Let us learn of Christ and do our best to be like him.
Be strong in your faith. Be humble. Overcome.
(Image credit: Light of the World, by Brent Borup)
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the virgins who await the bridegroom. The foolish virgins had no oil and asked at the very last moment to borrow some from those who had prepared in advance for the coming of the Lord. The foolish were shut out and the Lord declared that he did not know them.
Let us prepare our lamp this year with the oil of the gospel of Jesus Christ, building our testimony and spiritual strength in preparation for whatever may come. While we can be inspired by others who are wise, their wisdom cannot be transferred to us unless we do the work to become wise, to learn of Christ and fill our own vessels with the oil of truth and faith.
"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 25:13 KJV)
We do not ever know when we will find ourselves in need of the strength we might gain by being wise and preparing now. That strength will assure that no matter what comes, the Lord will be with us as we go through the coming trials of life. Let us go forth into 2019 and prepare well.
In a recent talk given at the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Michelle D. Craig, First Counselor in the church's Young Women General Presidency, said this:
"The world often uses a feeling of discontent as an excuse for self-absorption, for turning our thoughts inward and backward and dwelling individually on who I am, who I am not, and what I want. Divine discontent motivates us to follow the example of the Savior, “who went about doing good.” As we walk the path of discipleship, we will receive spiritual nudges to reach out to others."
She was commenting on an article written by Elder Meal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, just over 22 years before in which he said, "It is left to each of us to balance contentment regarding what God has allotted to us in life with some divine discontent resulting from what we are in comparison to what we have the power to become. Discipleship creates this balance on the straight and narrow path."
Let us seek to follow the example of the Savior. Let us strive to become what we have the power to become in and only through Jesus Christ. God will answer our prayers and teach us how to use that divine spark of discontent to do whatever he asks in his service, finding the one he has sent us to rescue.
As we travel through life, we find many opportunities to step off of the path upon which we ought to stay in order to return to our Heavenly Father. His only begotten son Jesus Christ has shown us the way.
He has said:
Matthew 7:14 (KJV) "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
3 Nephi 15:9 (Book of Mormon) "Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life."
I took this photo last summer and every time I look at it, I see the end of the road far in the distance and think to myself that if I stay on the path, I will eventually reach my destination. I am eternally grateful for the scriptures and prophets and apostles who stand on either side of the path. If we rely in them daily, we will not loose our way as we journey toward the end of our mortal probation.
May we all stay on the path and do as Jesus has commanded. Look to him. Endure. And live!
And if we endure our tribulation, God shall wipe away all our tears.
Revelation 7 (KJV)
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.