Tag Archives: Book of Mormon

The 25th Anniversary of Starting My Mormon Mission…

It has been 25 years, today.

mtcprovoJuly 3, 1991…I was 19 years old and my parents and brothers and I were at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, saying our goodbyes. They were going to drive off and leave me there…

I had never lived away from home up to that point since my first year of college was spent at a local college. I don’t think I had been east of Utah in my life. Being the oldest, our family had never sent a missionary off. I was nervous. I’d imagine my parents were nervous. This was new territory. After a short presentation by the staff and leadership of the MTC, I hugged everyone, cried, and walked into a hallway with hundreds of new missionaries while my family walked back to the car with hundreds of families in similar situations.

First thing I learned as a missionary: I loved my family.

Then I hauled my bags to my room. Then I met Elder Evans who I would grow to love like a brother. Then I met the other missionaries going to my mission, and a few others going to other missions. I spent about three weeks in the MTC, learning, studying, playing basketball, eating (and immediately using the restroom), praying, praying…And eventually traveling to Texas where I served as a representative of my family, my church, and my Savior in bringing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen.

It has been 25 years since I embarked on that adventure. I served for two years. I’ve had 23 years to think about it. Here are some of the things I learned:

I learned that I could get along with anyone. I didn’t have to just stick with my friends like I thought I needed to do in high school. The mission president could stick me with any missionary companion and it wouldn’t be long before we were laughing and joking and working together. I even had one companion who didn’t speak any english (and I didn’t speak his language). We got along great!

I learned that I could work hard. I didn’t grow up on a farm or as an olympic athlete. It is doubtful that I would be remembered in high school as any other than an average worker. But very quickly I learned that I could go all day, so to speak. We were up at 6:30 AM, out the door by 9:00 AM, and gone all day until 9:00 PM that evening. And I liked it. I really enjoyed it. It was tiring, and could be discouraging, but we found ways to enjoy just working.

I learned that my intestines didn’t like 32-Bean-Soup.

I learned that my Samoan companion punched a lot harder than I did.

I learned that when you sense that a dog is going to try to bite you, it is because it really is going to try to bite you.

I learned that not everyone likes Mormons.

I learned that there was beauty and truth and great people in every religion.

I learned that there were incredible people who weren’t religious at all.

I learned to enjoy the friendship that developed with other religious leaders.

I learned that I enjoyed attended the Jewish Synagogue, Catholic Mass, and Baptist worship meetings.

I learned to let rejection, disappointment, and frustration bounce right off of me.

I learned that I could choose to be happy regardless of my circumstances.

I learned to get off of my bike, get out of my car, and get out of my routine to help strangers with no expectation of repayment. A person didn’t need to listen to our message to receive our help.

I learned to follow those quiet promptings, impressions, and feelings that come from a loving Heavenly Father.

I learned that obedience isn’t limiting or oppressive. Following the council of leaders doesn’t require that I become un-thinking or un-feeling. Just the opposite. And blessings and protection seem to follow.

I learned that Joseph Smith did, in fact, see God the Father and Jesus Christ. And that there was a lot to learn about that experience and from that experience.

I learned of the power of the word of God and the special relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I learned that Jesus Christ really did live and die for all of us. He was resurrected and lives today.

I learned that God knew me very personally, and knows me today.

There’s certainly a lot more. Lessons were learned everyday. Over the last 23 years, since returning home and moving on with life, I’ve also learned that those two years as a missionary were not the best two years of my life. They set the stage. The mission ended up teaching me the patterns I would need to understand to make the next 23 years wonderful.

I will forever be grateful for parents and church leaders who encouraged me, but didn’t force me to serve as a missionary. I could have not served in that way and everyone would’ve loved me just fine. I had friends who didn’t go as full time missionaries and they were loved as much as me. So I learned that being a missionary didn’t make me any more special or loved by others or God.

But I’m grateful I went. I would go again. We’re encouraging our children to serve as missionaries because of the blessings and lessons that come. Those two years were critical in becoming who I am today.

Be encouraging…

BJM

No One Can Make Me Believe, and No One Can Make Me Choose Otherwise…

D&C 5:16

D&C 5:16

I had a moment of clarity some time ago regarding belief, faith, testimony, and knowledge. Things are a little more simple for me now, and more peaceful. And, in fact, I feel like I can put my drive and effort and heart into what I think are the most important things in life now…I thought I was before, and I was trying, but things feel even more peaceful now. Best explanation I have, I guess…so here we go.

No one can make a person believe in God, Jesus, or Joseph’s divine calling as a prophet in the latter days. And, no one can make a person not believe or stop believing. More clearly, you are responsible for your choice to believe or not to believe, and you can’t “blame” anyone for your choice. Evidence either way can’t be blamed, and arguments or the choices and examples of others can’t act upon you in a way that takes your agency away. Personal moral agency is too central to God’s plan to have Him force one of His children to be a believer in Him or to allow another person to force their will upon a son or daughter of our Heavenly Parents. Think about what is taught in Moses 4:3 regarding how protective God is of our ability to choose. Can you imagine God saying, “Here is some evidence that I won’t allow you to choose to ignore. I just made you a believer and you’ll get the consequences whether you like it or not…”? Also, can you image God saying, “Here is evidence that will make you a non-believer. You might want to be one, but I’m using this evidence to stop that, and to stop blessings you would otherwise be qualified to receive…”?

Once a person makes a choice–a purposeful agency-backed choice–there are possible and probable outcomes. If you choose to believe, you are now capable of receiving a confirmation from a source outside yourself. In other words, your choice to be a believer (and acting on that choice) qualifies you for a heavenly witness. For instance:

“…whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit…” (D&C 5:16)

I have made the conscious decision to believe in God and prophets, and that decision, made over and over, day in and day out, has been confirmed by quiet manifestations of God’s Spirit. The promise in D&C 5 has come to pass in my life. There’s been very few remarkable or outstanding spiritual moments…just quiet manifestations that the choice to believe is the right one for me, and that I don’t believe in something that isn’t true. In other words, God is real.

With all of the evidence that proves that Heavenly Father exists, and all of the evidence that He does not, none have caused me, or anyone else, to have to believe or not to. I have chosen to believe, and have had His Spirit allow me to know things I couldn’t know based on evidence. We have Heavenly Parents, and God has called prophets in the last days.

What I Mean When I Say that “I Know the Gospel is True”…

Holland book of mormonThe phrase “I know” seems pretty definite and makes people a little nervous, if not dubious and doubtful. I totally get it. Hearing other people express the idea that another can’t know for sure that the gospel or the church or obedience is true–and that they know it–has given me reason to dig into what I’ve meant when I’ve expressed that idea…the idea that I know the gospel is true.

Here is what I mean, and it comes in parts, and I may not be expressing this as clearly as another person could:

I’ve tried to spend much of the last 30 years studying out multiple sides of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve studied the scriptures, the words of those who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the ideas of those who question the gospel or church or leaders, the words of those who have fought against the Church, the talks and addresses of the general authorities of the Church, and a lot of what would be considered in between “believers” and “nonbelievers”. So, I’ve tried to do good research. I still have more to go in this category.

I’ve tried to live the tenets of this gospel. Admittedly, that hasn’t gone as well as I wish. Meaning, I mess a lot of stuff up. I can’t seem to keep the commandments in my life the way I picture myself doing it in my mind. I’d like to say that I’m improving there, but that may or may not be true. Hopefully I am. The verdict is still out, but either way, I still have some work to do in this category.

Third, I’ve asked God for help in understanding what is going on when it comes to truth, church, spirituality, and life. I’ve asked, seeked, and knocked, as directed by the scriptures.

In the spirit of transparency I need to share these two things: First, I hope the gospel is true. I hope there is a God and a Jesus and prophets and apostles and priesthood keys. I hope the Book of Mormon really is an additional witness, working with the Bible, that Jesus is the Christ. I hope repentance is a real thing and I hope that there is a literal resurrection and I hope Joseph Smith really was visited by God in 1820. I do want these things to be true. Secondly, I am choosing to believe. By choice, I am a believer, because there is no other way to be a believer but to be it, to choose it. And, yes, I would totally understand if you were thinking the phrase “confirmation bias” over and over in your head. Totally get it.

My honest experience is that as I’ve studied the church and gospel, tried to live the gospel and serve well in the church, and asked for direction from God, my choice to believe has been confirmed by spiritual witnesses, the source of which is outside of me. I have received many, many quiet, simple, spiritual confirmations that what I’ve been studying and living is true. Do I know that every single little part of the church and gospel is true? I don’t know how to answer that. I’m not there yet with the above steps. But what I’ve chosen to believe about what I’ve studied and lived has been confirmed, repeatedly.

I have nothing to say about other people’s experiences, but I know what I’ve experienced.

When I say “I know the gospel is true”, I mean that my belief in the gospel (and the study and actions behind it) has been confirmed by God through His Spirit. And those confirmations have brought peace, motivation, continued hope, and optimism beyond any other source I’ve experienced…

Be Encouraging….

BJM

A One-On-One Experience with the Savior…

jesusIt is one thing to hear about something. Especially good if whoever tells you about it is good at explaining things with detail and passion. But, as they say, it is another thing to experience it yourself.

I believe that the Savior wants us to experience the gospel for ourselves. But it goes deeper than that.

Most of the world doesn’t know that Jesus Christ visited the Americas after His ministry in Jerusalem, though he hinted to the fact during His mortal ministry in the Old World (John 10:16). That visit to the New World is rich with principles, truths, doctrines, and teachings. One of the most powerful moments has less to do with words and much to do with action.

After appearing to those who had gathered around the temple awaiting His arrival, Jesus invited each of them to

Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. (3 Nephi 11:14)

Importantly, the people come forward to feel those tokens of the Atonement, but they came forward “one by one” (3 Nephi 11:15). Apparently there were at least 2500 people in the large group (3 Nephi 17:25), which would have created quite a line.

If each person touched the Savior one at a time, and each person had ten seconds to do so, this experience lasted roughly seven hours. Seven hours.

I realize that there is a lot of information we don’t have. I don’t know if each person had ten seconds. I really don’t know. But I know that the Savior was willing to take a significant amount of time to allow each person to have a person experience with His sacrifice. The Savior wants each of us to have an individual, one on one experience with the atonement.

How does that happen now? Rather than just read about or hear about other people’s experiences with the atonement, we need to come unto Christ through the process of repentance. When we strive to repent, we experience the power of the atonement in a very personal, private way. Once that happens, we become not only beneficiaries of the blessings of the atonement, we become witnesses of the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Jesus Christ thinks we’re worth the effort. And I hope, so do we…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

The Difference Between Weakness and Rebellion (and why it matters)…

scottWithout breaking any confidences, years ago an individual came into my office at the meetinghouse and confessed that a very, very poor decision had been made. We talked. We wept. We prayed together. We worked together for a long time. To start, they were crushed. But, eventually this person started to feel peace replace the feelings of worry, discouragement, and unworthiness. In the middle of this process, this church member asked me why it was that they weren’t being excommunicated since the sin was quite a sin (as far as sin goes…)*. The answer was simple and was one of the first things I discerned as this person and I started the process of repentance.

This person wasn’t in rebellion.

When we’re struggling through mortality and not quite living up to what we know we can do and what our Heavenly Father expects us to do, it seems wise to check our hearts. Are we just thumbing our noses up at the heavens…I can do what I want! or are we struggling with mortality, trying, but falling short even with good efforts?

I’m not saying that if we’re just struggling through our weaknesses we ought to just let things go and see how life turns out. We still need to repent. We still need to strive. There will still be discouragement, surely. But God can work with weaknesses. In fact, He has promised to do that very thing:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

So, without saying “go easy on sin”, I’m saying go easy on yourselves. You can still work on yourself today…and tomorrow. God wants to help weaknesses become strengths and so He is willing to work with you today…and tomorrow. I love Elder Richard G. Scott‘s recent thoughts on the matter:

“The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.” (Elder Richard G. Scott, “Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ”, 2013)

I’m thankful for God’s mercy, especially when it comes to my endless weaknesses. If He is willing to continue to work with me, I’m willing to continue to work on me…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

*This post is not a statement on what qualifies a person to be excommunicated. Each situation merits revelation from heaven on the matter.

As always, these thoughts are mine and do not represent the official views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints…

“Living in Thanksgiving Daily”…

I’ve quite enjoyed the Facebook posts where people express gratitude each day of November. Also, today being Thanksgiving here in the United States, many people are expressing gratitude on Facebook and/or Twitter, etc. I like that kind of thing.

There’s a Mormon Message entitled, “Thanksgiving Daily” that talks about gratitude, and the title comes from a verse of scripture from the Book of Mormon:

“That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” (Alma 34:38)

Here’s the interesting thing about this verse. It doesn’t talk about being thankful or expressing gratitude. The exact phrase is “living in thanksgiving daily”. Though I think being thankful and expressing thankfulness and living in thanksgiving are related, they may not be the same.

Look at how the phrase “living in” is used in other ways. For instance, what does it mean to “live in fear”? I’m guessing it means to feel a constant panic that is anything but momentary. Living in fear lasts a long time and affects thoughts, choices, decisions, and attitude. It would affect how you think and treat others. It could almost be overwhelming…

Well, that’s a negative example. What about applying the same definition to “thanksgiving”. Living in thanksgiving is not momentary. Living in thanksgiving lasts a long time and affects thoughts, choices, decisions, and attitude. It would affect how I think and treat others. It could almost be a feeling that overwhelms other feelings. It would be wonderful…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

The Most Important Truth I’ve Learned About Service…

samaritanThere are these moments, every once in awhile, when I catch wind of some kind of tragedy in our community or within my circle of friends/family. Someone, somewhere, finds out they have a disease, someone passes away, someone loses a job or a home, someone loses a friendship or a relationship or a marriage. Normal people (a group to which I may or may not have membership) typically feel a desire to help and I am the same. I’ll immediately start wondering if there is anything I can do. Those thoughts usually lead to me wondering if I should go to their home or call them or email them (depending on the circumstances). I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I wonder if I should make some kind of contact.

This is usually where the problem begins. I’ll imagine myself going over to the home and quickly realizing that I have almost nothing to give or no way to help. Vary rarely have I procured a job for someone, healed a marriage, cured an illness, and I’ve never brought someone back from the dead. I almost never even say a helpful sentence. I’m just not the person who usually has the answer. So, the thought of visiting or calling becomes overwhelming or daunting as I think of my inability to actually solve any problems.

Some months ago I was watching a video about President Thomas S. Monson. The video told the story of many visits he had made to hospitals, care centers, homes, etc., to be with people who were sick or dying or in some kind of trouble like that. While watching, I started to feel bad about my hesitancy to do what he does. The real guilt isn’t that I don’t go and make these visits, because I’ve actually made a bunch of them. The guilt was stemming from the fact that I almost always hesitate, and typically wonder what good I’ll do, and then I really don’t solve many of the problems people are facing.

Then, in the middle of this video, I noticed something. Kind of a pattern. Many of the people President Monson visited, well, died.

There’s no way to keep track of stuff like this, and there are endless stories of President Monson’s assistance actually solving a problem. But there are many stories of President Monson showing up at the hospital, visiting with, laughing with, praying with, and then blessing the friend…only to have that person reach the end of their life a few days later. And, actually, it was fine. And I sat there pondering why it was fine. Why was he even impressed to go and visit when this person was apparently appointed to die, visit or no visit?

Here is the answer that came to me. I’ve edited the spelling, grammar and punctuation (because it is written on the iPhone), but I’ve left the meaning and intent as much as possible:

“Why go and visit in these situations? Because people shouldn’t struggle or suffer alone. Regardless of how the story ends, at least it won’t involve the person being alone in their moments of grief. I may not be able to help or fix a problem, but if possible, the person will know they are not alone. Many of President Monson’s stories end with the people still sick, still old, still dead. But maybe people need to feel love. Maybe they need to feel my love. Maybe that helps them feel the Savior’s love. And maybe that is all that is required…” (my iPhone)

I better appreciate a few lines of scripture that you may be familiar with:

“…mourn with those that mourn…” (Mosiah 18:9)

or

“…comfort those that stand in need of comfort…” (Mosiah 18:9)

or

“I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matthew 25:36)

The point is, go. Call. Email. Text. Write. Visit.

Be Encouraging,

BJM

These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...