Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"... Unto a Lively Hope"

Hope.  Like faith, it's another one of those words that seems difficult to define at times.  What exactly is hope?  And what is worth hoping for?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has several definitions for hope, some of which are "to cherish a desire with anticipation", "to expect with confidence", and "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment".  The dictionary then gives several examples of "hope" being used in a sentence.

    Everyone in your family is well, I hope.

                      The latest reports hold out hope for a possible end to this crisis.

                                       I hope you're feeling better soon.

While all of those examples are good things to hope for, the hope that I have found in life is a lot more certain.

Hope is an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. It is believing and expecting that something will occur.

The apostle Peter writes in his epistle that through the mercy of Christ, we can gain a "lively hope" (1 Peter 1:3), and Paul speaks of hope as "an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast" (Hebrews 6:19).

The prophets in the Book of Mormon are not silent on the attribute of hope either.  In 2 Nephi 31:20, Nephi writes "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."

 Hope is a truly powerful thing.  For me, hope is the force behind my faith.  Without hope in Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and His gospel, I have no reason to do the things I do.  President James E. Faust, who at the time was serving as First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, stated, "Hope is the anchor of our souls. I know of no one who is not in need of hope—young or old, strong or weak, rich or poor." ("Hope, an Anchor of the Soul") Our hope reaches far beyond the limits of what we are sure of, and helps us to believe in a world where disbelief is often viewed as easier, less restrictive, and increasingly common.  It is in this type of world that hope becomes all the more important, for if we refuse to find hope, then we will most likely never find joy.

On days when the world seems to be against me, I can find joy in the hope that tomorrow will bring a new day.  When I feel lost or sorrowful, I can find joy in knowing that there is always at least One who is reaching out to me in love.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, "Those with true hope often see their personal circumstances shaken, like kaleidoscopes, again and again. Yet with the “eye of faith,” they still see divine pattern and purpose (Alma 5:15)." ("Brightness of Hope")

I have come to realize that of all the things in the world that I could hope for, none are more beneficial to me than having hope in and through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Moroni 7:41)  Even when the world turns upside down around me, and I don't have any idea where to turn next, as I center my life and my hope on Our Savior and His teachings, I know that things will turn out alright.  My hope is sure, and I know in whom I have trusted.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


There are so many things in life that can and do draw our attention.  The world of entertainment seems to be moving more and more towards more noise, more color, more excitement.  It is very easy to lose perspective as we go through our week, and I've often found myself beginning to lose sight of the things that are really important. 

I'm sure that I'm not alone in this dilemma, because I've seen a lot of people who aren't sure what path they should take in life, and even for those who are, it can be difficult to remain focused on the end goal.  This last Sunday in church, we had some wonderful talks on priorities that really got me thinking. One of the speakers spoke of making sure that we fill our time with the important things first, before our time is consumed with the little, unnecessary things that fight for our attention.

I was thinking about that, and realized that accomplishing that task is a lot easier said than done.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve gave a talk in October 2007 called "Good, Better, Best", and he talked a lot about how we can prioritize our lives and focus on things that really matter. (Click here to read the full talk)  In this talk, he says, "As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all."

So what things are of the greatest value in life?  I think that a good indicator is whether or not an activity brings us closer to God and to those around us.  Obviously not everything that we do in life has to have God at the very forefront, but I think that we need to remember Him in all that we do, and especially if something draws us away from Him, we may need to reconsider our options.  I've found in my own life that setting time apart to just focus on studying and learning more about my Father in Heaven and His plan for me has helped me to set things in order a lot better.  There are lots of little things that I don't need to worry about so much, but things like consistent scripture study and prayer, I feel those are very vital every single day.

I'm certainly not perfect at having my priorities all in the right order, but I am working at it.  As I've tried to make God a bigger part of my life, and focused more of what I do to bring myself closer to Him, things have always worked out for me.  They're not always easy and carefree, but they have always worked out.

What will you do to prioritize your life?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year, New Beginnings

This is always an interesting time of year, with the holiday rush still winding down, and the new year looming before us.  It's somewhat intimidating to realize how quickly each year passes by, bringing new adventures and challenges to life.  Many people use this time of year to reflect on the past twelve months, and set goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.  Whether or not those resolutions last beyond the first week or two is often an entirely different story.

So what is it this year that I will focus on?  For me, I look back over the last year, and I'm simply amazed at what has happened.  For the last calendar year, and a little bit more time before, I have been serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It has been an incredible year of growth and learning for me, and I've come to more fully realize who I am as an individual, and who the Lord wants and needs me to be. 

Has this last year been perfect?  Of course not.  I've had many shortcomings and hard times, and I haven't always responded the way I should have to them.  So one of my resolutions for the upcoming year is to rely more fully on the Lord, and trust that He knows what is best for me, regardless of whether or not I can see it all at the time things are happening.

Another resolution of mine is to continue my daily scripture study and personal prayer.  I never fully understood the importance of those simple actions until I began serving as a missionary.  Before then, I didn't really study my scriptures as often as I should have, and I realize now how much I was holding myself back.  There have been many mornings that I have received answers to my questions as I have prayerfully studied the revealed word of God.  And even when I haven't received as direct of answers, showing Heavenly Father that I'm willing to put Him first in my day has helped me to invite the Spirit into all that I do.

As we face this new year, filled with hope, anticipation, perhaps a little anxiety at times, it is my prayer that we do all we can to be obedient to the Lord and turn our lives over to Him.  In closing, I'd just like to share a statement made by President Henry B. Eyering, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, when he said,
“We cannot see the future with precision, but we can know what the Lord intends and what it will take [for] each of us to qualify personally to participate.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Tis the Season

Now that December is here, snow has finally decided to fall on the ground.  All the students here on campus are busily preparing for the stress of Finals Week, and the following joy of Christmas break.  This time of year always brings a lot of excitement, stress, and hurry into seemingly everyone's lives.

But at the same time, the Christmas season also brings a feeling of peace, and reverence, of closeness with family and loved ones.

President Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in December 1998, "This is a glorious time of the year, simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit. It has an attraction to which our hearts are readily drawn. This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our mind, feelings, and actions to the spirit of Christmas."

I've been thinking a lot this season about what Christmas truly means.  I think that everyone starts to think, at least a little bit, about what lies beneath the hustle and bustle, the rush to get the right gifts, about what the true "reason for the season" is.  As I've done so, I've come to a much better understanding of what it means to give.  Sure, it is a lot of fun to give or receive toys, or games, or clothes, or whatever it might be.  Far more meaningful, however, is the gift of ourselves.  This may be given in the form of time spent together, kind words spoken, love or gratitude expressed, and many other forms.  I look back over the many years, and in all honesty, I remember very few of the gifts that I received wrapped in paper.  But I will never forget the times that my family spent with me, the fun memories we share, and the love that is always present this time of year.

Dr. Seuss, in his classic Christmas story, tells of the Grinch who hated Christmas.  The Grinch did everything he could to stop Christmas, but even after he had stolen the gifts and trees and decorations, the Whos down in Whoville still celebrated Christmas.  The story follows:

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"
To me, that little bit more is the love that we feel for those near to us, and most assuredly our love for our Savior, Jesus Christ.  What things can you do this year, to show that love, to truly give of yourself?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Pure love of Christ"

One morning last week, I was reading through and studying Moroni, chapter seven, in the Book of Mormon.  In this chapter is a great address given by the prophet Mormon to the people.  There is so much contained in this address, there isn't a chance that I could discuss it all in one post.   Perhaps I will get to some of the rest of it at a later time, but something really stuck out to me that I wanted to write about today.

Mormon talks about the importance of faith, hope, and charity, and how one must possess all of these attributes to come closer to God and find true happiness.  Towards the end of his address, Mormon focuses on charity, and he said something very interesting.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."  (Moroni 7:46-47)

I've quoted these verses in an earlier post, but something I learned something very different this time.  The Book of Mormon has footnotes, with further explanations and cross references to verses in the Bible and Book of Mormon.  In verse 47, it has a footnote on the word "love", which directed me to the Old Testament, specifically Joshua 22:5, which reads:

"But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul."

What I felt impressed with is that charity is not only the pure love that Christ has for all men, that we can be given, but also our love for our Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I thought about this concept, a flood of verses came to mind.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men." 2 Nephi 31:20

"Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Matthew 25:40

"If ye love me, keep my commandments" John 14:15

If we truly and purely love Jesus Christ, then we will strive to lay down our lives for His sake, and we do this through service to others and keeping the commandments He has given us.  The more we come to love Him, the more His light will shine through us in lifting up those around us.  The rest of charity just falls into place when we have Jesus Christ as our example and focus.

I thought it was pretty neat, and it really helped open my eyes to the driving motivation behind true charity.  What do you think?