Feb 25, 2011

death by tornado

My mission companions and I had a near death experience last night. As we were getting situated for bed in our top floor, hundred year old apartment, we were alerted of a tornado coming our way. Now, I have been through tornado warnings before (I do live in Tennessee after all) but this time was a bit of a different experience.

Our windows literally shook as rain and 80 mph winds rammed against them. The rain was striking the windows so forcefully that it looked like we were going through an automatic carwash, it sounded like we were in the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, and it felt like it too as the ground rumbled and the street lights outside our window flickered off and on.

Now, I might be slightly dramatizing the situation, but a part of me really thought it might be my last night to live. I told my two friends that I loved them, and tried my best to fall asleep while a violent death awaited me. My frantic mind then led me to imagine what the spirit world would be like. Morbid? Perhaps. But nevertheless, I will tell you about it.

The spirit world is the space of time between death and the resurrection/judgment day. As Alma says, "the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yeah, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life." He also states that "the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:11-12).

What a place this will be! I don't know exactly what the place for the wicked will be like, but I'm aiming for this paradise Alma speaks of. This is also the place Peter talks about where Christ preaches the gospel to spirits in prison(Peter 3-4). Now, I am not hoping for a tornado to take me from this earth anytime soon..but if it does, it's comforting to know the other side won't be too bad.

Feb 21, 2011

so far yet so close

I am here

my little brother is here

my best friend is here

and the majority of my other friends and family are here

but even though we are thousands of miles apart and our main method of communication is this

most of the time they don't seem very far away, and I attribute that to this

and this

Each night my friends, family and I kneel down and pray to the same father: I pray for them, and they pray for me. I know that God hears our prayers, and I feel close to them when I pray.

Each Sunday we go to the same church buildings throughout the world, study the same scriptures and doctrines, and worship the same way. The amazing thing about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the teachings stay consistent no matter where you go. We are a worldwide, unified body of saints with Christ as the head. I love knowing that no matter where I am in the world, I will always be a part of the same church family-Christ's church family. It makes me feel not so far away at all.

Feb 20, 2011

nasty habits

I have a confession to make: since arriving in Tennessee last July, I have developed some nasty habits--all of which involve food.

Nasty Habit #1: Second Breakfast
I remember watching Lord of the Rings with my friends in high school and laughing when one of the hobbits asks, "What about second breakfast?" Well, this question has now become frequently asked by me. I eat a bowl of cereal at approximately 7:30 a.m. each morning and by 9:30 a.m. I am ready for a tuna fish sandwich. This habit I've developed is not very good for my daily calorie intake.

Nasty Habit #2: Fast Food and French Fries
The combination of having a very limited food budget and even more limited meal times has led to this nasty habit. It's not something I am proud of, but it has become a regular and sustaining (or not so sustaining) part of my life these past months.

Nasty Habit #3: Chocolate
Not once a day or twice a day, but after every single meal; even second breakfast. Let's face it though, I developed this habit long before I got to Tennessee.

While these nasty habits sometimes cause me to feel down about the down about the direction my body is headed in, I find comfort in these scriptures: Psalms 22:29 "All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship" and 2 Nephi 9:51 "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness."

After reading these verses I am left feeling not so bad about my habits. I do feel like I am spending my daily labors for that which satisfies (I'm in the business of bringing people to Christ), and I am definitely worshiping regularly. Therefore.. I delight in fatness.

Feb 19, 2011

borned again

A month or two ago our friend's little boy Skyler came to church with us, and that day they had a lesson in his primary class about baptism. After church, he came home and told his mom and dad that he'd learned all about baptism; about how "when you go into the water, you get borned again and when you come out your skin is all clean."

It was so cute the way he said it, and we all laughed pretty hard. Not long after this comment, Skyler was able to see his mom get "borned again" and see her come out of the water all clean. It was such an amazing day, and I couldn't help but just smile all day long after seeing her come out of the water with so much joy and excitement. Today I was able to witness that same beautiful ordinance with my friend Nikki. As I watched her go into the water, and come out with that same pure, joyous look about her, I thought of Skyler's comment.

Why do we need to get "borned again?" In John 3:5 we are told that "except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." 2 Nephi 31 refers to baptism as the "gate by which ye should enter" and through which God promises us "a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost." We know that baptism is a necessary step to receiving salvation, and that even our perfect Savior was baptized to show us the way.

So how do we come out of the water cleaner than we were before? One of my favorite scriptures is in Isaiah 1:18, where we are told that "though [our] sins be red like scarlet, they can be white as snow." Our Savior Jesus Christ has given us the opportunity to be cleansed from our sins, and to walk in a newness of life as we bring our lives closer to him. When we are baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God, we are not only being cleansed from our sins but we are making a covenant with Him to keep his commandments and always remember Him. After we are baptized we can continue to be cleansed from our sins as we repent and partake of the sacrament each Sunday.

Nothing is better than knowing we are doing what God wants us to do, and that through Christ we have been cleansed from sins. I am so thankful for the sacred covenant of baptism, and to be able to see some of my best friends make that important step in their lives.

Feb 17, 2011


Last week I wrote about strength; about staying strong despite opposition. Opposition is something I have been thinking a lot about lately, and I have been finding a lot about it in my studies. If there is only one loving Godhead, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5) and only one way to eternal salvation and happiness, then why does there have to be so much darkness in the world? Why aren't people running after every LDS missionary they see saying, "Hey! Will you teach me God's plan of happiness and what I need to do to live with Him again?"

If only missionary work was that easy. But, the reality is that most people we talk to do not recognize the value of our message. The ones who do come to recognize the value of our message do not usually come to that recognition quickly or easily; it takes study, prayer, and devotion.

So why isn't it easy? Why does there have to be opposition? Well, the answer can be found in 2 Nephi 2:15&27. There must be opposition in all things, "forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter." Life is full of opposites: light versus dark, good versus evil. Men are according to the flesh; we can either choose Christ, or we can choose His opponent. Ho do we know the difference? Moroni 7:13. Everything good comes from God.

Every prophet has faced opposition and been persecuted. Christ, our perfect example and Savior, was persecuted more than anyone who has ever lived. Of course Christ's church and gospel faces opposition today! The reassuring thing, however, is that good always triumphs over evil. God is what will bring true and everlasting happiness.

Feb 12, 2011


Today is Valentines Day, and I want to post something about love. However, the love I am thinking of is a different kind of love than most people think of when V-day comes around. I am not going to write about red roses, chocolates, or teddy bears (even though all three are lovely, don't get me wrong); I am going to write about the kind of love that lasts. The unconditional, purest kind of love that only Christ has truly perfected. This love I speak of is known as charity.

One of my favorite scriptures on the subject is in 1 Corinthians 13:

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth."

I also want to quote some parts of my favorite talk on the subject:

"Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life.
Sometimes the greatest love is not found in the dramatic scenes that poets and writers immortalize. Often, the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.
True love lasts forever. It is eternally patient and forgiving. It believes, hopes, and endures all things. That is the love our Heavenly Father bears for us.
We all yearn to experience love like this. Even when we make mistakes, we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings—even if we don’t deserve it.
Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.
We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.
The means of this refinement is our Christlike love. There is no pain it cannot soften, no bitterness it cannot remove, no hatred it cannot alter. The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”

(This is from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin's talk, The Great Commandment.
Click to read the full text)

I know that God's love for us really is perfect; and that nothing we do can change his love for us. I also know that the way we can show our love for Him is by keeping his commandments, and that the more we do so, the happier we will become.

Feb 10, 2011


I can do all things through Christ
which strengtheneth me
(Painting by Greg Olsen)

On Tuesday I was able to attend a mission-wide transfer meeting in Franklin, TN. Ten missionaries went home, fourteen new missionaries arrived, and the rest of us were all reassigned areas and companions within Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois. As I sat there observing the situation, particularly the new group of missionaries, I couldn't help but think back to the day I first arrived in Tennessee.

Nothing in my life could have fully prepared me for that experience. After a whirlwind of events from May through the beginning of July 2010, I found myself in a land 1500 miles from home, completely surrounded by strangers. I was living and spending all of my time with two young women I'd just met, and we spent the majority of our days walking around in 113 degree weather in skirts, talking to every stranger we met about our religious beliefs. It was a life so foreign from anything I'd ever known. I knew that I was where God wanted me to be, but I wasn't sure exactly why. I felt homesick, exhausted, and alone.

As time passed and I became better acquainted with the people and the area, I started to enjoy the work a bit more. But I still struggled. One day I met a lady who gave me a bookmark with the insignia: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" -Philippians 4:13. I read that scripture I had heard so many times before, and this time it stood out to me with much greater force. The one thing that I needed more desparately than ever before was strength.

A few weeks later I had a similar experience. Elder C. Scott Grow, an apostle of the Lord, came to visit our mission and asked if he could interview me. I was a bit nervous at first, but he quickly helped me feel comfortable. He asked me a little bit about my life before my mission: my family, my school, and my desires. He also asked me if there were any questions I had for him. For some reason the question that came out of my mouth was, "How do I stay mentally and spiritually strong when there is so much opposition all around me?"

He pondered my question for a minute or two, and then he reached for his Book of Mormon. The scripture he turned to was Mosiah 24:14-15, and he asked me to read it out loud. These few verses talk about the people of Alma, who were being enslaved and persecuted because of their beliefs. All these people could do was turn to the Lord in prayer, and this was the response they received, "I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."

My eyes filled with tears as I recognized this inspired answer to my question. How do I stay strong when there is so much opposition? There really is only one answer to this question: turn to Christ for strength. Christ suffered everything that we go through so that he could strengthen us in our hard times. The Lord will not always take our burdens away, but he does promise us that he lighten our burdens. He will strengthen us if we turn to him.

As I have trusted in this these past several months, and prayed to my Father in Heaven fervently each day, the promise has been fulfilled. The Lord has strengthened me. He has turned my hardest days into my best days, and these strangers into some of my best friends. Christ has strengthened me, and I have found so much joy in sharing his beautiful gospel. I know that this promise is true not only for me, but for everyone who turns to Him.

Feb 7, 2011

a sacrifice for sin

(Painting by Greg Olsen)

"The offer of the firstborn Son to establish through his own ministry among men the gospel of salvation, and to sacrifice himself, through labor, humiliation, and suffering even unto death, was accepted and made the foreordained plan of man's redemption from death, of his eventual salvation from the effects of sin, and of his possible exaltation through righteous achievement."
-James E. Talmage

Feb 5, 2011

serving in tennessee

Well, I am here! I have not used the internet for anything other than emailing my family for the past 8 months, but this is all about to change. Missionary work is being revamped. As the internet is the place people go for most of their information these days, it makes sense that missionaries are being asked to devote a bit of time each day to online proselyting. So this is what I will be doing: sharing scriptures, thoughts, and spiritual insights each day. Its really nothing different than what any Latter-day Saint can do! If the gospel is what makes us so happy, if this is what we live for, why not share it?
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