Friday, March 22, 2013

A Shield of Faith

There is something very crucial to a Star Fleet Vessel: shields. A shield is a force field created to protect a vessel not only from enemies, but also from natural occurrences as well. It is projected around a ship in times of attack and danger.

Shields are mentioned quite often in the Star Trek world; I have seen how having shields has saved my favorite crew (of Voyager) as well as other Star Trek crews several times. I always thought it would be cool to have my own shield - there are even many scientists working on developing such a thing - I'm excited for when they do. However, I wanted to share a perspective that I have on Star Treks shields and how they relate to faith...

First off, I'll start with a scripture from Ephesians when it is talking about putting on the armor of God; "stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparations of the gospel of peace;" then it goes on to my favorite part - the reason for this blog... "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked."*

The shield of faith! It's funny because on Star Trek, a shield is something that is not seen unless it is hit. An enemy wouldn't even know a shield was up until their weapons were stopped by it. In real life though, you can look at a person and be able to tell that he or she has faith. If faith is strong enough it can be seen in a persons countenance.
I've seen episodes of Star Trek where when desperately trying to keep their ship and themselves safe; the crew diverts all power from everything including lights, turbo lifts, life-support, replicators, and even weapons to the shields so that they may survive. Shields have proven critical to their survival. When every offensive tactic has failed they rely on their strongest defense. It is the same in our everyday lives as well: when all else fails we can rely on our faith in the Lord.

Shield strength is determined by the power put into it. It is the same with us: the power of our faith depends on how much effort we put into building it. The way a crew maintains their shields so as to be ready for use is simple - regular everyday maintenance. We can do the same for our shield of faith. We do this by saying our prayers, reading scriptures, going to church, and so on - everyday! Not just when we feel like it or when we need it. I've never heard the captain of a Star Fleet vessel say "oh check the shields and make sure they are working" in the middle of a battle. On the contrary - he or she simply states "raise the shields" without a doubt that they will work.

I can testify that we will be able to have that same confidence in our shield of faith - when we need it to protect us it will have the necessary strength - if we are constantly building it up a little at a time every single day.

*Eph 6:14-16

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Patient Moment

I recently came across a quote from Elder Jacob de Jager; it hit me very strongly. He said. "Patience is learning to hide your impatience."*  At first I thought well that isn't really patience - it's just pretending to be patient. The more I thought about it the more I realized that it is what leads to patience...

Preach My Gospel, a book we study from as missionaries, defines patience as, "the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious."**  I've often found the best way for me to become patient in a difficult situation is to just pretend that it isn't getting to me, then soon it becomes true. If it is a situation with another person, I try to take a moment, see things from their point of view, look for the best, and try to understand and have that desired patience. However, I've discovered - I do not allow myself the same courtesy. 

I am far from a patient person when it comes to myself and the mistakes I make. I'm trying to learn about patience and be more understanding of myself as I am of others. I think this can be a common problem among most of us - we are hardest on ourselves. 

Jesus Christ has commanded, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." ***  I think that can work both ways - love yourself as you do others...

Another quote from Preach my Gospel says, "You must be patient with all people, yourself included, as you work to overcome faults and weaknesses." Just as I have worked patiently to help others to improve themselves I should work kindly and patiently with myself.

The Savior is our perfect example of patience, I'm trying to be more like Him; I know that even in the moments when I am impatient with myself - He is being patient with me. From this point forward I have decided to remember to take a moment of patience whenever I am frustrated with myself. It's new and I'm still working on it, but I would like to invite you to also remember that you deserve patience just as much as your neighbor. 

*Ensign, May 1983, page 76
**Preach My Gospel Page 120
*** Mark 12:31

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Child's Perspective

Although my favorite show is Star Trek: Voyager, I also love all other Star Trek shows and movies. the second Star Trek series is called Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is centered on the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise; a science vessel on a long term mission to explore the galaxy. On this ship they allow for the families of the officers to stay on-board. There is an episode titled "Imaginary Friend" that has always stuck with me.

In the episode, a young girl named Clara has an invisible friend named Isabella. Clara would often talk about her friend to members of the crew, but no one thought much of it - thinking it was just an imaginary friend - a phase she would pass through. However, Isabella was not as imaginary as they thought. It turned out that she was an alien being that lived in a nearby nebula that had chosen to only show itself in the form of a young girl to Clara. After a while, Isabella wanted to see more of the ship than Clara had shown her. Many parts of the ship were off limits to the children for safety reasons. They two tried to see the places of the ship where they are not allowed several times. Each time they were caught  and Clara would tell them that Isabella wanted her to go. Clara was told very strongly each time that she was not allowed to go to certain places. This upset Isabella very much it made her so angry that she began to destroy the ship. When the Captain of the Ship - Captain Picard - discovered that Isabella was real he began speaking to her and she appeared to him.

Captain Picard offered her power-energy for her and her people if she would not destroy them. Their conversation was quiet interesting...

Isabella told the Captain, "You should be destroyed. You are cruel, uncaring creatures." She went on to say that they were unfair to Clara. 

"In what way did we mistreat her?" Captain Picard asked.

"You wouldn't let her do what she wanted to... or go where she wanted to..."

Captain Picard then Replied, "You've seen this ship...all of us...from a unique perspective - a child's point of view. It's must have seemed terribly unfair and restrictive...You must understand how deeply we care for [our children]. When our children are young, they cannot always understand what might be dangerous. Our rules are a way to keep them from harm."

Isabella then understood and was able to see how young Clara was and that she needed to be kept safe. Isabella after realizing she had been wrong left the ship and it's crew unharmed. 

I like this episode because I believe it can easily relate to our relationship with Heavenly Father. He gives us rules-commandments, and sometimes we may feel that they are 'unfair and restrictive.' In reality it is the contrary. He gives us these rules to keep us safe. We still have the ability to chose if we want to obey the rules or not, just as Clara had chosen to go where she was not allowed. If our Heavenly Father did not care, then He would not give us commandments to follow, but He loves us very much and wants us to be safe. Right now we can only have the 'child's perspective' where we don't understand the big picture - all of the dangers. I can testify that if we submit to the Lord and trust in Him we will find safety and peace.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Breaking Point

There was a talk* given by President Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1977. He gave a great parable to describe how Jesus Christ is a mediator for us.

"There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred [took on] a great debt.

He had been warned about going into that much debt and particularly about his creditor, the one who lent the money. But it seemed so important for him to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later.

So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn't worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.

The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token [small] payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning [the day he had to pay repay all the money] would never really come.
But as it always does, the day came and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.
Only then did he realize that his creditor had not only the power to repossess [take away] all that he owned but also the power to cast him into prison as well.
“I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,” he confessed.
“Then,” said the creditor, “we will take your possessions, and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.”
“Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?” the debtor begged. “Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?”
The creditor replied, “Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?”
“I believed in justice when I signed the contract,” the debtor said. “It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then nor think I should need it ever.”
“It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,” the creditor replied. “That is the law. You have agreed to it, and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.”
There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail [win] except at the expense of the other.
“If you do not forgive the debt, there will be no mercy,” the debtor pleaded.
“If I do, there will be no justice,” was the reply.
Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served and mercy also?
There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended—but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.
The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer: “I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.”
As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, “You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.”
And so the creditor agreed.
The mediator turned then to the debtor. “If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?”
“Oh yes, yes,” cried the debtor. “You save me from prison and show mercy to me.”
“Then,” said the benefactor [one who helps], “you will pay the debt to me, and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.”
And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken. The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share and mercy was fully satisfied."
This story from President Packer shows the love and role of Jesus Christ more than anything I've yet to come across. What stood out to me most about it was the point in time that the mediator came. It wasn't until the last minute when the debtor was about to be taken to prison that he came.
I can imagine the debtor at that moment felt a deep sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach - hopelessness. He had literally reached his breaking point! This is when the mediator stepped in to help - to save him.
Sometimes in life we feel like we are approaching our breaking point and we don't know how much longer we can endure, but remember Christ is there and if you trust in him he will step   in before you break.
In Corinthians 10:13 it says "...but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." I also apply this to hard times and trials. Just like that old saying ...'God will not give you more that you can handle.' 

Trust in the Lord, don't give up, and remember He lives and He loves you!

*“The Mediator,” Ensign, May 1977, 54–56.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A New Beginning

Well, Christmas has come and gone and the new year is approaching! I can hardly believe that a whole year has passed by since last Christmas. It's been a great year even though it went by way too fast. I'm grateful for all of the experiences that I've had this past year; I've learned and grown a lot.

When the year comes to a close, just as many, I reflect on how it went: what I did well and how I could do better. I also look forward to the next year to figure out how I can make it better than the last. I will be able to try new things and find new successes, while putting other things behind me and starting fresh. In Isaiah 43:18 it says "Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old." With the new year we can put the past behind us, but this is something that doesn't have to happen just once a year. We can have a fresh start every week!

Once a week on Sunday we are able to partake of the sacrament. When we do so we are completing the repentance process and renewing our promises with God. With this important ordinance we are able to start fresh for the new week...every week! We don't have to wait an entire year for a new beginning  Oh how amazing and merciful the Lord our God. What incredible opportunities He gives us!

I testify it is through the Savior Jesus Christ we are able to be cleansed of our sins, and this by baptism, and when we take of the sacrament our sins are forgiven and our promises renewed once more. I invite all people everywhere who have made those sacred promises with God to renew them this very Sunday, and again and again after that, so that you may feel the joy of a new beginning.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Does it All Mean?

We recently had a Zone Conference in our Mission. It's where several of the missionaries in the area gather together for a meeting. This conference was special for Christmas; our Mission President, his wife, and several others worked very hard to make it memorable. There was a lot of singing - Christmas songs, and there was a gift exchange for the Sisters as well as a tie exchange for the Elders. It was a fun day and I learned a lot from everyone who spoke, but there was one thing in particular that stood out to me...

President Allen, a member of the Mission Presidency, was one of those who addressed us. He spoke of the birth of Christ. In reference to this he asked us to ponder two questions. The first question was, "What does it all (the birth of Christ) mean?" The second, was "How does it effect me?"

Those questions hit me deeply and I've thought about it since then. I always knew Christ was important and we needed him, but what does it really mean? In Luke 2:11 it says, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." We only have one Savior - Jesus Christ - who came to make a way for us to return back to live with our Heavenly Father which is something we can not do alone. "...he (Jesus Christ) descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;"*

How does it effect me? The Son of God came to this earth in very humble circumstances, he taught, healed, raised the dead, submitted to the will of his Father, and suffered more than anyone can ever understand. He did that because he loves me and he loves you. This act of pure love by my Savior should and does effect every aspect of my life. This time of year is full of distractions; travel, shopping, decorating, gifts, etc... all of these things can be good, but remembering the birth of Christ is often left out of that list. President Thomas S. Monson stated, "There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ."**

This Christmas season I'm going to refocus on Christ and truly reflect on what it really means. I would invite everyone to do the same and to remember Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

*Doctrine and Covenants 88:6
** "A Bright Shining Star," 2012 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, (Dec 5, 2010)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Roots to Endure

In my last blog I wrote about trees and how much I love them. Well it turns out I have more to say about trees...

I've often looked at trees as an example for myself. They stand strong and steadfast whatever comes their way. It takes a very long time for a tree to recover from an injury, in fact they never do fully recover.There are many people who carve things into trees like initials and dates. People do that because it lasts so long. The tree heals around those things, but it always holds onto them; the scar is always there. No matter how many years go by the most a tree can do is cover up the scar.

A tree can stand strong through rough winds and hard weather.  However, if a tree has shallow roots then when a storm comes to rage it cannot stand. It's roots must be deeply planted in the ground; with strong roots it can bear almost anything. The tree just stands tall and steadfast enduring through whatever storm or trial is sent it's way.

We have been charged with that same responsibility, "Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ...and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." - 2 Nephi 31:20

The difference is that Christ has promised to be there for us and while a tree can never fully heal and must hold it's scar forever, we through Christ don't have to hold onto our scars. He is there to help us fully heal. Through the Atonement, we can be healed from the guilt of our sins and the pain we receive from the sins of others.

"Unless the roots of your testimony are firmly planted, it will be difficult for you to withstand...When firmly planted, your testimony of the gospel, of the Savior, and of our Heavenly Father will influence all that you do throughout your life." -President Thomas S. Monson

I can testify that if we trust in Christ and rely on him and his atonement we will have the strength to endure through all of life's trials and the ability for all of our scars to be healed.