Tags Posts tagged with "Repentance"


He is risen

Jesus Christ has risen today! Let me share a story of how I was raised from spiritual death.

Putting Our Trust in the Savior

We were a new congregation and I was asked to be the leader for the teenage girls’ organization. The Bishopric (what we call our local clergy over the congregation, consisting of a Bishop and two counselors) held a “Getting to Know You” fireside for the youth and their new leaders. In concluding the evening, the Bishop surprised me by calling me up to help demonstrate the concept of trust. He blindfolded me then asked me to fall straight backwards without bending my knees—he promised he would catch me. He and the leaders then began to joke. “Maybe you should move the end-table so she doesn’t hit her head.” “Quiet, or she’ll hear the Bishop sneak out.” “This is a plush carpet—she should be fine.” The kids found this quite amusing, but I was terrified.

abstract-graphic-design-falling-symbol-distressed-3053While many people I know have been involved in trust-building activities in the past, I had not. I learned early on to trust only myself when it came to matters in life. Even as I gained a love for the Savior and I knew in my heart that we should “trust Him”, I never had to rely on that depth of trust in a live situation—until now.

In darkness, I froze with fear. Ridiculous thoughts kept running through my head—what if the Bishop doesn’t mean it? What if he won’t catch me? Then my head began to spin with crazy notions of spiritual symbolism, like falling away from the Savior or falling into a pit of emptiness never to be found. The kids were getting impatient with me, (“Come on, do it already!”) and it made my heart race faster. They’re mocking me, now, I thought.

I tried to fall—but it didn’t count, the Bishop said. I bent my knees. He made me do it again while everyone encouraged me to go for it. I locked my knees, spread my arms and let go. It felt like time had stopped, sound had ceased, and I was giving up the ghost. Then time resumed as I felt myself drop into his arms and he guided me gently to the carpet. I think people were cheering, but I couldn’t hear them. I took off the blindfold, looked up at my smiling Bishop and never again thought about falling in the same way.

No one wants to be vulnerable. Ever. To be vulnerable means you are weak, to admit you can’t do “it” on your own—whatever “it” is. Women especially hate to appear weak because that implies they are powerless and can be abused or controlled. If you are a woman who has ever been subjected to dominance, you especially fear vulnerability. A side effect of this fear is independence, which is good. But another side-effect is mistrust, which is not good at all—especially if you don’t trust the person who has the power and authority to save you.

I was profoundly affected by this little object lesson, probably more so than the youth. I stood face to face with a spiritual mistrust I didn’t even realize I had—a mistrust of the redemptive power of the Savior. I knew of His love, His miracles, His sacrifice and resurrection, all for humanity’s sake, but I didn’t believe His redemptive power was enough for me. I still thought I had to do “it” on my own. In this case, the “it” stood for saving myself.

Which ladder are you climbing?

rust-219893_640Remember the parable of the man and the ladder from several weeks ago? The man was Christ and the ladder was the Atonement. The two planks of the ladder represented what He did for us—how He saved us from sin and death. The rungs represented what we do for Him—following the laws and ordinances of the gospel—in order to make it out of the pit and back to His presence again. As I looked back over my struggle with the trust activity, I realized I had been climbing up the wrong ladder.

Have you ever gotten on the wrong ladder? It may have the same two planks—what Christ did for us—but the rungs are all wrong. My rungs were based on my own independence, my own desire to save myself, my unwillingness to be vulnerable to the Lord. Pride in thinking I can save myself left no room for humility. Suspicion of others who say they are there for me left me alone—even void of the spirit. Being too independent, liberated from assistance when aid was most needed, left me in a state of helplessness—the very thing I feared most.

There are many ladders out there with the wrong rungs. The ladder of popularity, for instance is one. Do you do your good works to be seen of man rather than God? Christ warned of this when he described the hypocrites who prayed in public.

What about the ladder of keeping up appearances—when you think doing “good works” means doing “every good work known to mankind, all day long, every day, without rest”? This is a particularly destructive ladder. When you are on it, you don’t realize you are burning yourself out rather quickly. I know women who have left their faith because they were on this ladder so long; they thought they could never live up to impossible standards of perfection. They misunderstood—they were on the wrong ladder.

The rungs on the right ladder—Christ’s ladder—are meant to cleanse, purify, and bring you closer to the Savior. If your rungs are causing you to compare, compete, or become encumbered, you are on the wrong ladder. Unhealthy comparisons make for a divided congregation, family, and self. Repentance and the laws of the gospel are designed to heal, comfort, strengthen, and ultimately move us up the ladder to our heavenly home.

Today is Easter. All the Christian world is celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I invite you to take a moment and reflect on your beliefs. If you believe in Christ, if you believe He is who He says He is, if you believe He has the power to save you, then will you let Him? Will you look down at the ladder you’re on? If you are on the wrong ladder, will you trust Him to catch you when you step off and fall back into His arms?

Let this Easter be the starting point in your journey to trust Him again.

We receive God’s grace because of the Atonement. We can’t raise ourselves from the dead, so the Resurrection is an example of His grace. We can’t purify ourselves from sin, so the Lord’s forgiveness is another example of grace. But before He will forgive us, we must repent—that’s our part, our works.

“How do you repay someone who saves your life? You never forget him.”

I have often thought of those who’ve been saved from a burning building or any other perilous situation. How do they repay their hero? Of course they are grateful, but no amount of money could ever be sufficient. firefighter-502775_640Unless they follow their hero around for the rest of their lives in order to be there at the exact time he might need saving, they can never repay their champion fully. One story I heard involving a mountain climbing expedition where a hiker was saved by one of his fellow mountaineers was related in this way. The hiker said, “You never forget him.”

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” As the Third Article of Faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I consider this a two-way covenant. The first half outlines what our Savior promises to do—to save us through His sacrifice, mercy and grace. The second half is our part—to be obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Some may wonder if this means we are instruments in our own salvation. I would rather think of it as a debt of gratitude to an otherwise unrecompensable act of mercy. Or more simply put, a way to never forget Him.

There is no question in the heart and mind of every true follower of Christ that the atoning sacrifice He made for all mankind was the most supreme act of saving grace. pictures-of-jesus-mary-martha-1104492-galleryThe question does arise, however as to whether or not mankind must do something in return for this gift. It is obvious that we cannot repay the Savior—what He did was something no one else could have accomplished. But does He expect anything from us in return? I believe the Bible points to numerous examples of what He asks of us. A prophet and apostle of the Lord in these latter days, Dallin H. Oaks, stated it this way. “We receive God’s grace because of the Atonement. We can’t raise ourselves from the dead, so the Resurrection is an example of His grace. We can’t purify ourselves from sin, so the Lord’s forgiveness is another example of grace. But before He will forgive us, we must repent—that’s our part, our works.

“Besides repentance, our works also include receiving ordinances, keeping covenants, and serving others. While these works are necessary for salvation, they aren’t sufficient. They are not enough because we can’t live perfect lives, but we can do our best to live righteously. By doing so, we invite the Lord’s grace into our lives and qualify for the gift of salvation.” (March 2005 Ensign)

A Christian author, C. S. Lewis, compared grace and works to the blades of a pair of scissors. scissors-268636_640Both are necessary. To ask “Are you saved by grace or works?” is like asking “Do you cut with this blade or that one?” We need both blades to make a perfect cut. So as the Lord provides the grace of His atoning sacrifice, we show Him our dedication through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel—a two-way covenant.

No one can comprehend the suffering Christ had experienced both in Gethsemane and on the cross. It is a debt we cannot possibly repay. But like those who have experienced the heroic acts of being rescued from a burning building by a fire fighter or from the grips of a terrorist by a soldier, something changes inside of you when you realize you’ve been saved. You are not the same person you once were. You value your life much more because you have faced death more closely. You never forget your rescuer. You do not look at life the same anymore because of the perspective you have been given. And I would venture to say, you make wiser choices in your everyday life based on your change of heart.

So, too, does a true convert to Jesus Christ have a change of heart, and thus a change of behavior. To become truly converted to Jesus Christ requires that depth of change. To feel an eternal bond that connects your spirit to His is a life-altering experience. Ask anyone who has felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost testify to them of the forgiving power of the Savior’s atonement, the truthfulness of the restored gospel, the saving grace of His mercy and love. Their experiences are personal and undeniable. They are as real to them as the act of being physically saved by a fire fighter or a soldier. More so, even, because the saving power of Christ is eternal.

It is only natural to want to give back to the person who saved your life. In the case of Jesus Christ, we could not possibly make up for what He did. But we don’t have to. He only requires we remember Him in small ways. His life was an example of how we should live—we can remember Him by being more like Him. He demonstrated how we should act—what manner of men or women we should be—even as He is. He led by example in His teachings. jesus-teaching-apostles-friends-1138161-gallery (1)His parables were stories of how we should treat our brothers. If He did not mean for us to change our ways, why would He have spent three years of His life in ministry teaching repentance, forgiveness, kindness, and to keep the commandments of God? He even received baptism—a remission of sins—when He had never sinned at all. He was baptized out of obedience, not necessity. He knew baptism was an ordinance that was required for salvation, and so he complied with this ordinance.

In comparison to what He did for us, the Savior does not require much. And when we think how He gave His life for us, the least we can do is remember Him. His end of the covenant was the hard part. Ours is easy—it’s also renewable, each Sunday when we partake of the sacrament. We promise to always remember Him, so that we can have His spirit to be with us. What a beautiful gift He gives us, one we can deeply appreciate if we truly have a change of heart.

“Get on the ladder—otherwise the parable goes nowhere” - the Atonement - Part Three

We have been engaged in a parable of sorts, one that involves a lone man and a ladder. You can catch the details from the last two blogs of Morning Devotional. But here’s the main point: the parable is about the Atonement of Christ and how we are saved.

Last week we saw in the parable that one man alone had the proper ladder. He lowered it from above and climbed down to help us up. Christ is the one man and the ladder is a symbolic representation of His atoning sacrifice and ultimate resurrection. The ladder has two long planks, each of equal importance; each representing what Christ did when he partook of the Atonement.

The Importance of the Two Planks

The first plank represents the suffering he went through for each of us, both in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. The weight of all the sorrows, sufferings, sins, and pain of mankind pressed on Him for three hours during the night before His crucifixion. It caused Him to bleed from every pore. And yet he survived. He was the only one who could have, being divine in nature from His Father in Heaven. And the reason for this suffering? So that our weak and mortal bodies would not have to go through the agony. We would not have survived it. He was divine, he had the added strength and help from above. And his flawless life made Him the only one qualified to endure.

The second plank represents his ability to overcome death. While Christ had the power to remain alive, He was willing to lay down His life. He suffered on the cross for three hours before he gave up the ghost. This He did so that He could take up His life again for our sake, which He did when after three days in the tomb, His spirit was reunited with His body and He became a perfected being. Mary was the first to witness this event. She came to His tomb on the morning of the third day to dress and care for his body. She was met by an angel who told her He had risen. She was the first of many to witness the resurrected Savior. He visited His twelve apostles, ate with them, and allowed them to feel the wounds in His hands and feet so they knew of a surety that He had indeed overcame the sins, suffering, and mortality of the world.

We Must Climb the Ladder One Rung at a Time

This is the story of the Atonement. But our story with the ladder is left unfinished. We last saw the entire human race down in the pit with their Savior and the ladder. The people knew this man was the only one with the right ladder to save them. But what good is the correct ladder if you won’t start to climb?

Taking a step on the first rung of the ladder is an act of faith. We are taking his word for it at this point. How can we be sure? Sometimes we need to act in faith before a witness of truth can be seen. The first rung is faith—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith that He is who He says He is. Faith that He will do what He says He will do. We may not have much to go by, but we can exercise faith, for at least one step. And that’s where the miracle begins.

We see He is there with us, right behind us, guiding our steps. If we are injured He helps us along the way. Some people are too weak to make it on their own. That’s alright. He will carry us when we need it. He does this for each and every one of us.

Now it’s your turn to get on the ladder. Do you hesitate or do you take the leap of faith and begin the climb? Christ is there for you just as he had been for the others. Your heart softens and you take another step onto the next rung—the rung of repentance.

I don’t know how anyone can begin the climb toward our heavenly home and not stop to give gratitude to our Savior who provides the way. If it were not for his suffering, we would never make it. If it were not for His crucifixion and resurrection, we would not be promised the same glorious outcome. Repentance is the perfect way to show our Savior the gratitude in our hearts for what He did for us. And the beauty of the matter is, each rung up the ladder represents other things we can do to show our gratitude, too.

The next rung is baptism—an ordinance of the gospel that even Jesus participated in. Baptism is an outward expression of our commitment to the Savior. Christ set the example by being baptized, and the practice continued from that point on. Babies and small children are innocent and do not require baptism, but those who are older need it. When people die without it, we should not worry for them. In Christ’s church, even back in Paul’s day, the practice of baptism for the dead by proxy was a common occurrence (1Corinthinas 15:29). Christ would not set up his church in such a way as to exclude some of His children simply because they died before baptism. He had a back-up plan because He is perfect.

The next rung is to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, another ordinance given to us when we decide to climb the ladder, or when we commit to the plan of the Savior. The gift of the Holy Ghost provides comfort, promptings, and clarity of mind to help us through our daily lives.

Most Important Rungs – Faith and Repentance

There are more rungs to climb, but what I love to remember is that two of these rungs come up more frequently than others—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance. Faith is an action word that drives us daily to make good choices which align our will to the will of our Savior—to stay on the ladder, so to speak. Repentance is a cleansing of the heart that can and should be done daily because we make mistakes along the way.

One more rung that comes up regularly is partaking of the emblems of the sacrament (or communion as it is called in other Christian denominations). Taking the sacrament is like being baptized again—we are washed clean of sin and we can start fresh. So while the “baptismal rung” comes up once, the “sacrament rung” acts in the same manner as the baptismal rung, but it comes up weekly as we attend church. This allowing us to climb one step further up the ladder toward Heaven.

Stay on the Ladder

The key is to stay on the ladder. Your Savior is right behind you. If you fall off, he’ll come down and help you back on, no matter how many times this might happen. He’s not going to pull up the ladder without you. Remember, no one will be left in the pit.

If we remember that the two planks of the ladder represent Christ’s part in the Atonement, and the rungs are like the ordinances and laws of the gospel, we’re ready to understand how this entire system is a two-way covenant between us and the Lord—the topic for next week.

There once was a woman named Petra, who lived in a land actually very near to your own. She was a happy soul, and had many friends. Life was good, and the cares of the world seemed like something that belonged to other people, but not Petra.

To get to Petra’s house you had to walk down a long path, lined with flowers, trees, bushes, and small patches of lawn. It was relaxing and beautiful, and everyone loved to visit Petra’s property almost as much as they enjoyed her company.

fruit displayOn this particular night Petra was just finishing up an evening with some new friends. There had been food and drink for more than enough people, and she decided that she was too tired to clean it all up that night. It could wait until morning. She had thoroughly enjoyed all her friends, and had laughed until it hurt. Sleep was a welcome release after that much exertion laughing the night away.

The next morning when she awoke, she had the aftermath of her night’s reveling to deal with, but she really didn’t want to deal with having to be thorough about cleaning, so she just pushed all the leftovers and party favors into bags, and walked the distance to the lane where she lived and left the bags on the curb. When she returned to the house her new friends were calling her, wanting to have another get-together. They had enjoyed themselves as much as she had.

This new batch of friends enjoyed themselves more than her old friends had. She felt oddly liberated by their willingness to abandon themselves to the pleasures of each other’s company. The more time she spent with them, the more she forgot other duties and responsibilities. One such responsibility was the waste that was produced by her now consistent partying. She managed to haul it to the lane, but the pile kept growing.

trashBy now the smell was becoming uncomfortable to be around, so she would drop the garbage off at the edge of the pile closest to the house, and retreat to her home so she wouldn’t have to deal with the growing mound. Day after day, week after week, and month after month she added to her trash heap. The smell intensified, and the flies came, but she quickly retreated to her home where she didn’t have to look at it or think about it, and could continue to enjoy her parties with her friends.

As with all actions in life, there comes a time of reckoning. Petra had been avoiding dealing with her ever growing trash heap for so long that it now stretched from the lane all the way to near the house. Not only was the walk to the house becoming increasingly problematic for her guests, who had to deal with the flies and the smell, but she started to have the attendant mice and rats entering her home, chewing on her furniture, and eating her food. And if the breeze blew in just the right direction, she had to endure the stench of the rot her trash had created.

The day came when she could endure what she had created no longer. It had become a plague in her life. Petra’s friends would no longer come to her house, and people mocked her and ridiculed her for the slop she now lived in. Instead of the beauty she was once proud to show off, she was filled with shame for the blight she had created.

You say, “But all she had to do was get rid of the garbage!” And you are right. That was all she had to do, but she was too distracted by her new playmates and her activities to deal with what it took to clean up her life. Now she was surrounded by mountains of her own makings, and all the attendant discomfort such things bring. The garbage seeped and oozed into the ground, poisoning her plants and lawns, killing them and causing even greater blight on her land. Holes were opening up in the most unexpected places in her walls and cupboards as the mice and rats increased in numbers. This could not go on much longer.

sad womanPetra finally looked herself in the mirror and was not happy with what she saw. Her life of waste and reveling had produced nothing worth having. Her friends only loved her as long as she provided for their pleasure, and they did not have to deal with the aftermath of her entertaining. They all got to go home to clean rooms, while Petra had all the work to do to pick up after them. She admitted that change was now necessary.

All she needed to do was call the regent of the city and petition to have her garbage hauled away, but she had become so focused on her worldly pleasures that she had never gotten around to it. Now the task was so enormous that the trash could only be cleaned up a little at a time. She paid for every bit of it, too, and the cleanup cost her dearly. Weeks and months went by, but little by little the trash in her life was removed by the regent.

As the garbage began to disappear, so too did the rats, mice, flies, and other side effects of having that much garbage in her life. Over time the ground began to heal as the cleansing rains washed away the muck and ooze from the trash she had heaped upon it. As the seasons passed, her once beautiful property, with care and diligence on Petra’s part, returned to its former glory.

What did not return was Petra’s negligence. Now the city’s regent was her best friend. She knew now what happens when the garbage in our lives is not removed and our lives kept clean. Petra now knew that her choice of company had not been wise, and she returned to those who had valued her for her own sake, and not for the entertainment she could provide. The air was sweet no matter which way the wind blew, and now when Petra laughed, it was with satisfaction from living a wholesome life.

Lessons learned

What can we learn from Petra? She wasn’t committing any great sin, but she was certainly negligent in some of life’s weightier matters. She allowed nonessentials to clutter her life, which led to a slow dissolution or breakdown of what had been beautiful and orderly.

All it took to repent and change her life was to work with the regent of the city (read priesthood leader or friend) who could help her clean up her mess. It took time, and fortunately, nothing was beyond repair. She learned some good lessons about her priorities in life. She learned that who her friends were made a difference in her life. She learned that it sometimes takes a long time to clean up the messes we make. Working with our leaders can help us get our lives back in order, but once we have let ourselves go to such an extent as she had, the price of cleaning ourselves up can be dear. She also learned that once we let distractions into our lives, they invite additional distractions which make it more difficult to see clearly what we need to do.

Kelly Merrill--Prophets and Their Teachings by Kelly Merril
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I leave you with a quote from Sister Julie B. Beck’s October 2009 Conference talk:

“What are the nonessential things that clutter your days and steal your time? What are the habits you may have developed that do not serve a useful purpose? What are the unfinished or unstarted things that could add vigor, meaning, and joy to your life?”

We all produce clutter (garbage) in our lives. It is only when we do not get rid of it that it becomes a burden to us. If we are consistent in our efforts to keep our lives free of needless distractions, we will be able to enjoy, to a much greater extent, the simple pleasures of life that will contribute to our lasting happiness.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“I’m a good person, really. I go to church. I pray and keep the commandments of God. I should be receiving the blessings that come with being good. But I keep making mistakes, I keep falling short. Why am I stuck in a spiritual rut?”

Have you ever felt this way? What could possibly be getting in the way of your progression? Maybe it’s not just about keeping on top of the things you should do—maybe it’s about doing the things you’ve convinced yourself you don’t need to do.

yw-teaching-class-276556-galleryOne of the most horrific experiences of my undergraduate life was the time we had to video tape ourselves teaching a mock lesson to our peers. Correction—watching the video tape of myself teaching was the horrific part. Facing my mistakes was like being at the head of the line while walking through a mine field. When you’re forced to watch your own mistakes, the embarrassing moments explode in your face, leaving you in a pile of woe and discouragement. After you pick up the pieces of your shattered ego, you realize the exercise actually helped more than it hurt. You learn from your mistakes and use them to move forward. The times I face my faults with the intent to iron them out are the times I improve. In contrast, when I go along my merry way thinking everything is fine, I stagnate, and wonder why.

What drives the forward momentum is two-fold. It consists of the willingness to admit you are not perfect and the desire to improve—to aspire to be something better today than you were yesterday. It takes guts to look back at yourself and say, “What are my flaws? What am I doing wrong?” After all, what if my flaws are so vast, I’ll never be able to improve on them? It’s easier to bury your head in the sand and act as if everything is going just fine, but you remain in a rut. If you chose the path of denial, you face the problem of not going anywhere at all.

This problem often bleeds into our spiritual life, like the “woe is me” mantra from above. We follow God’s commandments and wonder why we are depressed. We think because we are righteous, this shouldn’t be happening. We feel we are exempt from the trials that other people experience. Or, we get in a rut and think we can never get out. What we fail to recognize is the cycle of faith that accompanies our existence, and how this cycle works for our progression.

Samuel the LamaniteThere were two primary nations in constant struggle with each other in the Book of Mormon—the Nephites and the Lamanites. In the approximate 1000 year span of the book, both sides flip-flopped between being righteous and being wicked. I won’t tell you how the book turns out—you’ll have to read it for yourself. But there is one cycle that repeats throughout: I’ll call it the faith-repentance cycle. When the righteous people were experiencing prosperity, they soon became puffed up with pride, slacked off in keeping the commandments, and eventually found themselves in bondage. When they humbled themselves, repented of their ways, and exercised faith in Christ, they were delivered from bondage and became a prosperous people again. This is the cycle—from prosperity to bondage and back again, spiraling down like a whirlpool, then up again through repentance.

Logically, you would think that they would “learn from their mistakes,” stay in a state of humility and righteousness, thus never fall into bondage, especially after they witness the mercy of the Savior the first time. But this did not happen. Why? Perhaps their trials act as a teaching tool for us. The faith-repentance cycle is not something to overcome; rather it is a pattern that moves us forward toward our home in heaven.

Even the best of us make mistakes. Even the best of us get complacent in our faith. Just because we are “good people” or “we don’t commit the major sins, (murder, immorality, theft), this does not absolve us from struggles and pain. We all know this, and yet we judge ourselves poorly when we can’t lift ourselves up on our own or we can’t seem to stay on the spiritual high we crave. We try to overcome the cycle we studied in the gospel, saying, “I won’t be like the wicked Lamanites (or substitute any other ‘Ites” in the previous sentence). Then we beat ourselves up when we find ourselves falling short.

Young woman reading scriptures outsideHere’s the little lie we tell ourselves—we can overcome the cycle. We may be able to learn much from observing the faith-repentance cycle, but what we cannot learn is how to get out of it. That’s what we really want to do—to become so good, we won’t ever fall into complacency or neglect, we will never commit an unrighteous act, and as long as we are faithful we can overcome all sin and become perfect before we die. Sin, after all, is what bad people do, not us. This is the lie that gets us stuck spiritually in the mud of our own making.

Think of a wagon wheel. It has many spokes holding up the outer frame of the wheel. Each spoke is vital in keeping the shape of the wheel. If the spokes are bent, the wheel is bent. If the spokes are missing, any of them, the wheel will falter. If the wheel is not perfectly circular, it will not turn and your wagon will be stuck.

This wagon wheel represents our life, every day, every minute even, until we leave this life for heaven. Each spoke represents a portion of the faith-repentance cycle—prosperity, complacency, sin, repentance, faith, forgiveness, prosperity again. In order for us to progress we need to roll through all the ups and downs of life. We cannot stay in a perpetual state of bliss, nor should we stay in a constant rut—otherwise our wheel stops where it is. There is no forward momentum. Heavenly Father knew this. He knew mistakes were part of the progression of life. He knew the only way to overcome those slip-ups was to provide a Savior, Jesus Christ, to atone for our flaws, to heal our hearts, to pick us up again and put us on the path toward heaven. Thus we will never be perfect in this life—the wagon wheel rolls through our imperfections. It continues to roll onward as we allow our humility to bring us to bended knee and pray for companionship of the Holy Ghost, blessings from Heavenly Father, and forgiveness through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Our Savior provides the spiritual relief to get through the down side of the cycle and gives hope on the upward climb. And the wheel turns and moves forward from trial to trial, again and again.

The lie is in thinking we can move forward without making mistakes. The lie is that we can get to heaven without the Savior. The lie is that we will never get out of our rut. The lie stops the natural movement of the wagon without letting it roll through its cycle—without letting our Lord and Savior be our Lord and Savior.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Morning Devotional
Morning Devotional
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This is the truth—Christ made a covenant with you to help you get back to heaven. His Atonement added the necessary spokes to the wheel to keep it rolling forward. Following His commandments—especially repentance—provides the way to make this happen. He turns the wheel of faith and gets you where you need to go. He knew you would need to repent daily. His forgiveness (through the atonement) rotates the wheel, inching you toward your heavenly home.

Will you stop getting in the way of the wheel?

“Come unto Christ and partake of the goodness of God, that (you) might enter into his rest.” (Jacob 1:7).

Stop thinking you are too good to repent. Stop thinking you are absolved from sin. Stop thinking mistakes make you a bad person. Stop thinking you can never be forgiven. Stop getting in the way of the covenant that Christ made with you. Let him let you progress. Earth-life will not last forever, and one day you will be perfected in Him—when He comes again. Until then, let the faith-repentance wheel move forward, and enjoy the ride.

The Lord opens doors

Sometimes I have to convince myself that I am not special. There are plenty of others just like me. I don’t think I am alone in suffering from that problem. I have felt for years that because I have not had some grand experience that has stripped me of my desire to sin, that I have not experienced what the scriptures refer to as the mighty change of heart. I have to keep convincing myself that there are probably at least a few others out there who are in the same predicament – no mighty change.

This problem appears to fall under the same category as those who talk about their testimony of the Book of Mormon, or some other principle of the gospel, in terms of a grand experience. One minute they were like me, and the next minute they were fully converted. How do they do that? More importantly, why can’t I do that? I was sitting in the temple chapel thinking about issues in my life I need to deal with, and the thought came into my mind to write about the mighty change of heart. “Great,” I thought, “The one topic I totally fail on.” Well, I am here to tell you that the Lord opens doors when He tells you to go through them.

As I started my search for something one of the Brethren might have said concerning this mighty change of heart that we all need to experience, I came across an article in the Ensign Magazine by President Ezra Taft Benson. Since we are going to be studying his words next year, I thought this might be just the ticket. When I started to read the article I found that all my questions were answered, step by step.

What is the Mighty Change?

couple bringing a treat to a woman.What the Lord wants is a people who have lost the inclination or disposition to do evil. These are the people He considers to be members of His church. Being a member of record is a good beginning, but that doesn’t get us where we need to go. A dramatic example of a whole group of people who had this mighty change of heart at the same time is found in Mosiah 5:2. After King Mosiah finished speaking to them he asked if they believed his words. This is their response.

… Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

So this mighty change the Lord wants us to go through is the purging from our souls of all desire to sin in any manner. We must desire to do good continually. This is the part about the change of heart that has always bothered me, well, besides the fact that they got it all at once and I haven’t been able to do that. I have always been a lover of good and a doer of good. It is in my personality. So why don’t I qualify for the change of heart?

Requirements for the Change

mormon-prayRepentance is a gift from God. It requires faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. We must come to Him with humility and a broken and contrite heart, willing to take any chastisement or correction in order to be forgiven for what we have done. That has always been my downfall. For some reason I am still trying to do this whole change by myself. It galls me that I have to admit that I can’t save myself. I can’t change myself by myself. I have to rely on someone else to make those changes for me. In effect, I have been fighting against myself all these years.

I have to be willing to admit that my changes have to be made by having my heart changed. That means that I have to humble myself to the point that I admit that I do not have the power to change the disposition of my heart. I do not have the power to change how I am on the inside. I can fake it on the outside, but my core is just the way it has always been as long as I have tried to do the changing by myself.

It is only when I accept the fact that Christ is the only one who can change my heart, my very disposition and inclination so that my desires to bypass His role in my salvation are replaced with gratitude for His role in my salvation, that I will be able to experience the change I have been searching for all these years. I have to stop trying to do it all by myself, and let Him do what He does best, save people by changing their hearts.

Kelly Merrill--Prophets and Their Teachings by Kelly MerrilOnce I can let the Savior do His job of changing my heart, I begin to experience what the scriptures call godly sorrow. When I am doing this whole repenting thing on my own, I feel bad for doing wrong, but I don’t necessarily do anything to change. I just know I am not happy. When you have godly sorrow for sin, you realize you have offended Him whom you love most, and you desire to change your life and bring it into conformity with His laws. You know that this pleases Him, and this is what makes you happiest. Everyone wins. The wicked only sorrow for not being able to find pleasure in the sin. The righteous experience sorrow that actually causes them to seek out repentance, which is permanent change for the better. The end result of godly sorrow is peace, joy, and forgiveness.

How long does the change take?

I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to read this Ensign article by President Benson. I strongly urge you to read the whole article. It will bring you hope and joy. I promise. Here is the part I found most hope in.

The … final point I wish to make about the process of repentance is that we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)

We must not lose hope. Hope is an anchor to the souls of men. Satan would have us cast away that anchor. In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender. But we must not lose hope. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope (President Ezra Taft Benson, A Mighty Change of Heart, First Presidency Message, Ensign, November 1989).


So there you have it. My answer to my one time witness of the Book of Mormon is the same as my answer to my own change of heart. As I try to become more godly, day by day, the Lord works with me, matures me, teaches me, witnesses to me, and often I don’t realize that I have had a baptism by fire until I spend time counting my blessings and searching my soul as I take inventory of my life. The changes are coming. They are happening all the time. As I was shown the door to open today in the temple, I was able to take one step closer to the humility I need to let the Lord change my disposition to one of greater humility and gratitude. I still have a way to go, but I won’t lose hope in the process.

Lost coin Bible story

“Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she finds it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:8-10)

A dear friend of mine flew to Arizona to visit her seventy-five-year-old brother for the last time. He was terminally ill. What made the situation more heart-breaking was the fact that he was afraid to die. He had transgressed before the Lord and fallen away from his faith while in his twenties. Except for this one sister, his entire family had abandoned him because of it. For over fifty years he had been estranged from them. During this time, his guilt and pain caused him to believe God could not love him again. After all, if his family couldn’t forgive him, why would God? And so, he was afraid to die.

My heart broke when I heard her tell me this story. Her intention was to bring peace to his bedside, to show her unwavering love, and to remind him of things he once knew; that God loved him and had forgiven him. He was happy to see her. He was touched by her words. But she told me the pain of the estrangement had taken a great toll on his soul. He was not convinced of God’s love. He died afraid of meeting his maker.

Who is the lost coin?

Jesus Christ LambFor the longest time I read the parable of the lost coin, convinced that the focus was on the coin, or whatever it was that was lost. I knew Jesus used the parable so that his disciples, both of olden times and those who strive to follow him today, could relate to its meaning. Losing something of value can cause a great burden in our lives. Maybe a coin in our day means little, but a larger sum of money that is misplaced can cause financial ruin. Remember George Bailey from the Frank Capra movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” When eight thousand dollars went missing, it would cost him his livelihood. He was in such fear of the future; he wanted to end his own life. In the parable, the lost coin can symbolize other more precious things of value to us. Think of what it means to a little family if their dog is lost on a chilly winter night. Think of a young family whose five-year-old child wanders away in an open market in the streets of a foreign country. Think of a teenage runaway who is afraid to come home after a heated argument with his father. We can all relate to the pain and sorrow of losing items of value and people we love. Indeed, if we’ve ever had a disagreement with a family member, aren’t they temporarily lost from us?

Who lost the coin?

At first glance, the focus of this story is on the coin. But the coin didn’t pick itself up and roll away to a shadowy corner by its own power. It’s an inanimate object and doesn’t have the ability to do this. Therefore, the story is not about “the prodigal coin”. I think the Savior used the coin in this story to help us see where the greater focus should be—on the person who lost the coin. In other words, if we turn our hearts inward and see ourselves in this story as someone who is in jeopardy of losing something or someone of value, we gain a greater benefit from its teachings. It’s not about the coin. It’s about the owner.

How do we treat the people we love?

Lost coin Bible storyEveryone in life goes through heartache with family. It’s part of living. The true question is how do we resolve the issues of family disagreements? We all know of families who have created wedges in their relationships that run so deep, they do not even remember what the original fight was about. We also know families who have a “healthy fight” now and then, quick to forgive and forget. Still, there are some who seem never to fight, or at least they never let an argument explode like the lid off a pressure cooker. What are the factors that differentiate between the three? Foolish pride, genuine forgiveness, and godly love. Or more plainly, turning our hearts away from ourselves and seeing situations with an eye single to God.

From pride to godly love

If your eye be single to my glory your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.” (D&C 88:67) I’ve found in life that the pursuit of godliness is an eternal endeavor, where we are in constant check and re-check of our intentions, our actions, and the condition of our heart. There will be times when we are so in tune with the love of our Heavenly Father, no family disagreement can bother us. There are other times when our defenses are down, our weaknesses take over, and we are extra-sensitive to life’s little misunderstandings. The road from foolish pride to godly love is a road we become familiar with as it is naturally traveled down as often as the sun rises and sets. I’m grateful that a loving Heavenly Father knew this about us and provided a way for us to face this road tirelessly, through the spiritual healing power of Jesus Christ. Because he overcame sin, we can too. We can repent of our anger and negative emotions. We can forgive family members of their mistakes as Christ has forgiven us. And we can see them with renewed eyes—ones that understand like the Savior does with a pureness of heart and a love that is unblemished by grudges and pain.

When the coin seems to roll on its own

Morning Devotional
Morning Devotional
To read more of Nanette’s devotionals, click the picture.

While the parable is about the owner of the coin, there are times when the coin does seem to roll on its own away from us, causing a state of family discontent. I understand perfectly how the wrongful actions of others can lead to justification of our own anger toward them. It is human to feel sorrow, grief, and pain. But again, what we do with those emotions is key to becoming godly. The widow searched diligently and with a heavy heart to find the lost coin. She did not wait for the coin to come rolling back to her. Nor did she judge it as being of less value than the rest of her coins. So too should we focus on our part; combing through our own battered heart, clearing out the pride, filling it with the light of forgiveness and love, thus allowing our family to feel safe when they are ready to return in full circle with us and the Lord.

Let us never allow a loved one to be afraid to die

“Behold he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42)

I wonder how many people in my life would be willing to come closer to the Savior if they saw in me a heart full of love, forgiveness, and acceptance of them, despite their estrangement from the Lord. I wonder how many people would feel more willing to reconnect with the Savior if they saw in my countenance the unconditional love He has for them. I know our Father in Heaven has his own time table when it comes to the salvation of mankind. I know he is all-kind, all-wise, and all-loving. If he can forgive my loved ones their mistakes, then I should be able to as well. I may need a heavenly boost to do this now and then, but luckily it’s always available. And when my heart is single to His glory, His light will shine through me. Maybe that is how the widow found the coin—maybe she was so filled with light, it could not remain hidden in the shadows.

Spring Cleaning for the Soul

Spring is just around the corner and that means two things for me. Gardening, which I love, and spring cleaning which I love even more! Hi, my name is Krystal and I am a cleanaholic! I love, love to clean. Blame it on my Dad, whom we have nicknamed the next Martha Stewart. He’s what you might call a little OCD, and I have inherited that from him! There is just something about purging and getting rid of all the stuff you don’t use anymore, and starting with a fresh clean house for the summer! My husband doesn’t like spring cleaning; he hardly finds it as fun as I do, and I literally have to drag his feet or bribe him to help. I don’t blame him. It’s a lot of work, but it’s something that needs to be done!

Spring Cleaning for the SoulThere are so many awesome ideas on Pinterest on how to clean and organize your home! I love it! I have switched over to all green cleaners too and it makes me feel good especially with my daughter, to get rid of the toxins and yucky chemicals.

At church, I am attending a Gospel Principles Sunday school class. Gospel Principles is a class that teaches the basic doctrine and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS church) in a more simple way. This past Sunday our lesson was about fasting. We talked about what fasting is, and how it applies in our life. In the LDS church, the members are encouraged to fast, or go without 2 consecutive meals at least once a month when needed. When we fast, we usually do so with  a purpose in mind. This can range from fasting for a friend in need, better health, answers to prayers..anything! The key is to fast with prayer. If we don’t fast with prayer and real intent, we are just going hungry, so prayer is essential! As we talked about this, I thought of how not only are we cleansing our bodies by going without 2 meals, but our spirits are being cleansed as well.

It’s no secret being a wife and mother has its challenges, so I have found myself fasting for that purpose–to be a better mother. During this fast, I pray to my Heavenly Father to help give me guidance, to help me be more patient, and to be able to recognize the blessings I receive on a daily basis. I tend to get down on myself a lot, and I realize that like the green cleaners I use to get rid of the toxins in my home when I clean, I need to purge the negative thoughts from my head because that is Satan trying to take over my spiritual home with his poison. After my fasting period is over, I have been able to face the daily things so much better, and have felt the Lord’s hand in my life.

Serene womanAs I reflected on this experience, I realized how these gospel principles I learn every Sunday can be used as a resource for spring cleaning…but spring cleaning for the soul.

  1. Purge, Purge, Purge! When I clean, I like to go around to each room in my home, I have 2 bags. One for trash, and one to donate. Think of all those negative thoughts that take over your mind, and throw them out!! You don’t need them; they are taking up room and are just plain trash! Surround yourself by positive influences that will lift you up instead of bring you down. The lessons you learn from a trial–donate them! So many of us go through the same experiences, and it’s easy to feel like we are the only ones,  but if we donate our experiences with others, we can really be useful and help someone else in a time of need!

  1. Organize yourself. Once school is out a lot of you have kids who are home for the whole summer, and having a schedule of some kind keeps you sane! Well, make that schedule for the spiritual things also. Make a list of things you’d like to incorporate in your family life, whether that be family prayer, scripture study, or family home evening, and work it in your schedule. I plan to start doing a scripture study with my daughter in the morning. We usually eat breakfast together and just kinda talk or listen to music, but I want to take that opportunity to teach her a little bit about the gospel with a story, or a fun morning activity.

  1. Clean! How could I forget the most obvious thing! Actually clean! We scrub baseboards, wash windows, and clean carpets!

    Childhood is Magical
    My Young Mormon FamilyClick the picture to read all of Krystal’s articles. 

    Clean your soul. Repent for things you are doing that are dirtying your minds and your spirits. Your Heavenly Father wants more than anything for you to be closer to Him, and is waiting to forgive you. Get rid of the dirt and become clean again.

As you get ready for spring, getting rid of junk is a great start, but don’t neglect you! Take the challenge with me and lets do some home spring cleaning, and some soul spring cleaning. I promise you will receive so many blessings because of it. I have a testimony when we clean both spiritually and physically it invites the spirit into our home. You’ve heard of the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness?” Well, I truly believe in this. When my home is organized and free from chaos, and we are doing the things we should be doing as a family, such as scripture study, and family prayer, our house becomes a house of order. It becomes a home where the Spirit can dwell and we, as a family, are much happier. Try it out this spring, and let me know how it goes!

It’s winter again and that means snow! Whoever you talk to, you will find a variety of emotions associated with snow. When a big storm was forecast as coming our way, I used to tell my 5th grade violin class to play “Jingle Bells” ten times in a row when they got horenewal-gift-Jesus-JSme to ensure we’d get a snow-day the next day. Meanwhile, parents would grumble about the mess, the dangerous driving conditions and the horrible commute they’d have to endure if we did get snow. I’ll never know if they took their kid’s instruments away from them after the third or fourth rendition during those long nights. But one thing was for sure—I saw snow from both sides.

One of my all-time favorite folk songs is “Both Sides Now” written by Joni Mitchell and performed by Judy Collins. In it she sings about the contrast between her naïve optimism and hardened pessimism in looking at various aspects of her life, namely clouds, love, and life itself. The lyrics have a magical way of conveying her whimsy on one side, making me laugh at my own childhood fancies of life. Then when she sings of the other side, my heart aches for her because I too have felt the deepened pain of life, be it through loss, betrayal, bad choices, and so on. Can you really ever see the naivety of life again, after having lived through pain? Can you ever really pray for a snow-day after being an adult who has to live through the hazardous weather? Judy Collins saw both sides. I’d like to introduce another side—what our Father in Heaven sees.

Winter is white. It doesn’t have the budding flowers of spring. It doesn’t have the full green splendor of summer. It doesn’t have the brilliant colors of autumn. Winter is white. And with that whiteness lies resetting, refocus, restoration, and rebirth. Imagine a garden filled with maples, dogwoods, aspens, and weeping cherries. Each tree has a unique shape and size, a singular way of expressing its true nature. In spring their flowering buds are of a variety of pinks reds, and new greens. In summer the leaves are of differing shapes and depths of green. And in autumn, a painter stokes them with the richness of reds oranges and yellows. But in winter they are bare—every one of them. When the trees are bare they can hold the heavy snow perched on their limbs, making them all white. Even the fir trees that retain their needles of green hold a layer of white snow on their branches. Suddenly, all the trees are reset to white, like a clean slate. The temperature drops to slow them down to rest and restore for their life cycle to begin again.

Give Away Sins

The Book of Mormon contains an amazing story about a missionary named Aaron. Aaron had the opportunity to teach a king. If you were given that opportunity, would you take it? He did and he was very bold in his teachings—no wasting time being vague so as not to offend. The king had questions, things that had been worrying him and Aaron gave him the answers he needed.

He asked Aaron about something another missionary, Ammon, had taught. Ammon had told the king’s son that if we repent, we can be saved, but if we don’t repent, we will be cast off at the last day. He was worried about this because he didn’t understand what it meant and he didn’t want to find himself cast off.

A Book of Mormon King Becomes a Christian

I will give away all my sins to know thee - Alma 22:18 Mormon QuoteAaron began by evaluating where the king was currently. He asked the king if he believed in God. The king answered cautiously that he knew the Amalekites, a people in his kingdom, said there was a God and that he had given them permission to build churches to worship that God. But so great was his trust in Aaron that he said that if Aaron said there was a God, he would believe him.

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