Posts tagged Jesus
Times flies in the service of the Lord. That’s where I’ve been or the past three years. Imperfect and stumbling, I’ve been helping to progress the work ever forward, growing Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. That’s where I’ve been ever since my baptism that occurred on March 7th 2010 or three years ago today when I was made a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Still it’s hard to believe that three years have past. Yet, they have, and here I am, the better for it.
Prior to three years ago, I was lost and searching. Now I’m found.
Three years ago, newly baptized, I was leaning on one miraculous experience to get me through each moment in my new found spirituality. Now my testimony has been built, solidified, and strengthened by several years of experience.
Three years ago, I hardly knew a single person in the ward. Now this ward is my family.
Three years ago, I had no responsibility for anyone else in the Church. Now two important positions fall to me each week.
Three years ago I didn’t know how to pray. Now I get down on my knees each morning and night to have a personal conversation with my Father in Heaven.
Three years ago, I didn’t know who I was in the divine sense. Now I know myself to be a daughter of a divine being I call my HeaveLy Father who knows me personally and loves me unconditionally.
I am so so grateful for Christ’s gospel and that I found His true Church. It’s brought me so much joy, peace, comfort, and perspective. It brought be closer to my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ. I’m eternally grateful for my decision I made three years ago today! ♥
Sometimes I need to be reminded of who I really am, so I designed this poster to do just that.
I am so grateful of my knowledge that I am a spirit child of my Father in Heaven who lives and loves me individually!
This year my greatest birthday wish came months before my birthday. It was to be out of the hospital to celebrate my special day. This week, on Tuesday, is my birthday. I will be turning 29 and entering the last year of my twenties. After 11 long, hard, and often frightening weeks in the hospital, I am very relieved and grateful to say that I am home from the hospital to celebrate.
It feels strange to know that my twenties are winding down, and I will soon be in my thirties. Thirties sounds rather grown-up, and, in a lot of ways, I hardly feel like a grown up yet. More than that I’ve spent a large part of my twenties feeling like I was failing to live up to my own expectations of myself. I wrote about this last year in my post Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later).
What I began to see last summer when I wrote that post and that I now see so clearly is that I was so busy feeling like a failure for all the ways I didn’t measure up to where I thought I’d be or should be by now, that I couldn’t see how successful my life really is. And more importantly I was robbing myself of the satisfaction and happiness that could come with that success.
Life often doesn’t turn out how we plan as young adults. As we grow older, we find out what God has planned for us. And the wonderful thing is, though we cannot see it now, that plan is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves as teenagers and will ultimately lead us to happiness. So my new plan is to abandon my own old expectations and put my trust in my Heavenly Father. Trust that he knows what is best for me. Trust that he can see the whole picture. Trust that by following his plan I will be lead back to Him. And trust that in doing so there will be more blessings along the way than I could have possibly imagined.
What a blessing it is that God is no respecter of persons. While I, for the last decade, was so worried that I wasn’t in the right career, living in the right place, having the right romance, and achieving the right things, God and my Savior Jesus Christ were loving me for exactly who I was. And they love me now for exactly who I am. This frees me to give up all those old expectations and just move boldly forward with the knowledge that if I put my trust in the Lord, I will find eternal happiness.
But what does this look like on a practical, day-to-day level? The first thing that come to mind is I must make every effort to live my life according to His example. The basics of prayer, church attendance, scripture study, and service are His standards to live by. Beyond that I can create my life within the context of what’s happening now rather than what I thought I wanted or should be doing at this point. So instead of trying to force the old dream of a career in film that just doesn’t fit anymore, I can relish in my new found love for novel writing and work towards getting published with passion and gusto.
Finally it’s absolutely critical to live in a space of constant gratitude. I am so so so blessed to be alive after the last hospitalization I just had, how can I waste time worrying what a teenage version of myself would have thought of me? Life is too lovely, too perfect, and too short for anything less. This year on my birthday I will remember that.
Why gratitude? I’ve been in the hospital. I’ve been sick. Really sick. Several weeks on life support when I was too weak to breathe on my own. So though there’s been moments of fear, of anger, of bitterness, of longing, of frustration, when I think about what has really filled my heart throughout this ordeal it is gratitude. This experience has left me so so so grateful for my life!
My family has been amazing. They’ve been here nearly every single day to make sure things went right and to be my support and my company. To hold my hand and to just let me know they love me.
My friends… I can’t even think about how hugely the’ve been here for me without getting teary eyed. They’ve sent cards and gifts. And most importantly they’ve showed up and entertained during these long dark weeks. My friends make me feel so loved. I don’t know how I’m so deserving, but I try to be better everyday to deserve how well my friends treat me.
My Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Without them I would be so lost. They give me the strength to endure these tough times. And I am grateful for these hard times as the polish me into the person my Father in Heaven would have me be.
My self expression. I’ve spent most of the past six weeks a complete mute. Communicating by writing notes either on paper or one my laptop since it’s rather hard to talk with a breathing tube down your throat. But last night I got a special valve to put on my tracheotomy that allows me to start to speak again.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how loved each of us are by our Father in Heaven. But we are each loved so profoundly that it is truly impossible for us to comprehend. The more we open our hearts to feeling this love, the closer to Him we become.
This morning I woke up with a nasty eye and very contagious eye infection. I opted to stay home from church rather than risk infecting everyone in my Ward.
So I spent the day reading through scripture while listening to awesome and free Especially For Youth music downloaded from lds.org. While reading through the Book of Mormon this afternoon, I came across this scripture:
But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.
We are each literally “encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.” I felt the Spirit of Christ burning inside me when I read this scripture. I knew how loved I am. I wanted to create some art with those words, so I created the following image in Illustrator to remind me of how I felt when I read it. Enjoy!
(Feel free to use the image as long as you attribute it to me with a link back to this post. Thanks!)
When you turn over a large stone, you have to be prepared to deal with all the creepy crawly things that lurk underneath it. Well I’ve done it. I’ve turned over a large stone in my soul. A boulder even. And I’m not really ready to deal with what I’ve unearthed. And unlike a physical stone, I can’t just put the stone back and cover everything back up. I now know. I can’t unknow it.
Sleep eludes me. Not just tonight. Every night. Not because I’m not tired. No, I’m plenty tired. Still sleep eludes me. I just plain don’t want to go to sleep, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out why.
At first, I thought it was a fear of having nightmares. I’ve had a few doozies of nightmares lately. Woken up with hot tears streaming down my cheeks. In a cold sweat, I’ve done everything in my power to prolong my waking moments to avoid returning to those dreams. Fortunately, however, nightmares are a relatively infrequent occurrence.
So what”s my problem?
Turns out I was on the right track with thinking that it was fear of nightmares keeping me awake. Fear is a powerful motivator. But my fear runs much deeper than the transient nightmare. I had an epiphany:
It’s painful to admit how lonely I’ve been the last several years. Having a debilitating chronic illness, as I do, can be very isolating. So I’m alone a lot. And being alone means being alone with my thoughts. Distraction is my best friend.
But I’ve found the ultimate solution. Internet friends. There are always people online to talk to me into the wee hours of the morning. They will keep me company. Distract me from having to really examine my life. When I turn out the light and wait for sleep to come, I’m ultimately alone. So I don’t go to sleep. I stay up until, hands poised at the keyboard, sleep finally consumes me.
The strange and simply amazing thing about this deeply penetrating fear of being alone , is that I am ultimately never alone. My Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ are always there with me.
And I have a feeling that this realization is only the tip of the iceberg. There are more stones to peer under. More creepy crawlies to unveil. But in my quest to ultimately fulfill on what I’m truly committed to, I must leave no stone unturned.
Christ charged us to love one another as He loves us. He wouldn’t want anyone to be forgotten about or anyone to fall through the cracks. I can’t think of a more organized way to make sure that all of God’s daughters are being taken care of than through Visiting Teaching. Visiting Teaching is a crucial part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a program that assigns Teachers in teams of two to minister to other women in the church.
How do we minister?
- Pray daily for [the sister you visit] and her family.
- Seek inspiration to know her and her family.
- Visit her regularly to learn how she is doing and to comfort and strengthen her.
- Stay in frequent contact through visits, phone calls, letters, e-mail, text messages, and simple acts of kindness.
- Greet her at Church meetings.
- Help her when she has an emergency, illness, or other urgent need.
- Teach her the gospel from the scriptures and the visiting teaching messages.
- Inspire her by setting a good example.
(See “How Visiting Teachers Love, Watch Over, and Strengthen a Sister,” in Daughters in My Kingdom,page 123.)
“The purpose of ministering is to help others become true followers of Jesus Christ. Ministering to others includes:
- Remembering their names and becoming acquainted with them (see Moroni 6:4).
- Loving them without judging them (see John 13:34–35).
- Watching over them and strengthening their faith ‘one by one,’ as the Savior did (3 Nephi 11:15; 17:21).
- Establishing sincere friendship with them and visiting them in their homes and elsewhere (see D&C 20:47)” (Handbook 2,3.2.3).
When I was asked to serve in my Young Single Adult Ward of the Church as the Visiting Teaching Coordinator, I tried to think of ways I could inspire and remind the girls in the Ward to do their Visiting Teaching each month. So, I decided to get crafty. I (with the help of my friend Raquel) created a Visiting Teaching Flower Garden Box to provide a visual aide for the program.
The theme was planting seeds of faith with Visiting Teaching. Through Visiting Teaching we can help build and strengthen each other’s faith and testimonies. The idea was that each girl, each being a unique individual with special needs and talents, would each have her own flower with her name in it. When each teacher Visit Taught her girl, she would turn her name around so that the flower was facing forward instead of the girl’s name, showing that she had planted a seed of faith in that girl.
- We used scrabooking flower pieces (from a craft store) in two layers with a small jewel to make the center of each flower.
- We then glued the flower to one side of a popsicle stick and the girl’s name to a small plaque on the other side.
- We then covered a large, fairly flat cardboard box with pretty scrapbooking paper. I attached a sign I designed on the computer that read, “When you plant seeds of faith, flowers will grow – Visiting Teaching.” We covered the corners of the box with ribbon to protect them and make them look more finished.
- We filled the box with bricks of green dry foam used to do flower arrangements (you can purchase this at any craft store as well).
- Taking a popsicle stick, we pushed rows of holes into the foam to hold each flower. We made the rows at the front of the box deeper than the ones towards the back. We also staggered the holes. This made it easier to see allthe names and flowers once they were all in their slots.
The finished product was even more colorful and beautiful than I expected. Putting it out at each meeting, seems to remind everyone to do their Visiting Teaching which is the most important part.
When people speak of the Atonement, they often speak of sin and the redemptive powers of the Atonement. This aspect of the atonement is crucial to our eternal Salvation and to our ability to return to live with our Father in Heaven again. Through the Atonement, we can be clean of our sins once more and able to live in God’s presence.
When people speak of the Atonement, they sometimes also speak of immortality. Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ broke the bonds of death, so that we too may be resurrected in perfect bodies.
But I want to speak about a third aspect of the Atonement which is sometimes referred to as the enabling power of the Atonement.
For years, I had been searching for a diagnosis for a slew of strange and debilitating symptoms. My doctors thought I had some sort of autoimmune disease, but they weren’t sure which one. Then, about a year and a half ago, I was hospitalized with a serious skin infection on my neck. The infection caused the unknown disease plaguing my body to suddenly get much worse. I woke one morning to discover that I was too weak to lift my left leg off the hospital bed. My right leg shortly followed.
As the severe weakness spread up my body, I knew I was in trouble when I started to lose my voice. Before long the muscles in my chest were so weak and tired that I couldn’t keep breathing on my own. My doctors rushed me to intensive care where they placed me on a machine that breathed for me for the next 7 days. I was subsequently diagnosed with a disease called Myasthenia Gravis in which the immune system attacks the connections between the nerves and muscles causing severe weakness.
So why am I telling you this story? This experience makes me think of the Atonement in several ways. It reminds me of this scripture from 2 Nephi 25:23:
“We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
After I had done all that I could to and taken every last breath I could on my own, something outside myself breathed for me. And by doing so, saved me. Using the Atonement is much like this. When we are too worn out by life to take even more breath, Christ’s Atonement enables us to breath some more. This is the enabling power of the Atonement.
Elder Bendar writes:
“[ Grace is] a word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
“It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.” (The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality)
How does Christ’s Atonement have this enabling power? It is because through the Atonement that Christ received divine understanding of each of us. Through the Atonement, Christ suffered for far more than our sins alone. Bendar writes:
“The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” ( Matthew 11:28–30 ).” (The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality)
Words cannot express how much comfort this knowledge brings me. Often times with the illness I suffer, I’m tempted to feel so alone. Like no one could possibly understand what I endure. But in truth, my Savior knows exactly what I am going through. He has already suffered all of it. He knows what the sheer terror of being too weak to breathe feels like. Of how helpless that felt. And, because he understands so precisely, he was able to give me exactly the kind of comfort and strength I needed to get through that experience.
He knew to fortify me with warm feelings of comfort and courage that I would be okay. He knew to prompt friends and family to visit me. He knew just how to love me through the ordeal. As it says in Alma 7:11-14:
“11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” Book of Mormon, Alma 7:11-14
Because Christ suffered and even died for me, he could succor me according to my infirmities. What a great blessing that is. That we don’t have to feel alone in our infirmities, but instead have a Savior that can nurture us through our darkest hours because he has already endured them and so much more.
So how do we utilize the enabling power of the Atonement in our lives? There are five steps that I’ve come up with: repent, submit, pray for help, have faith, and act.
First we have to repent. D&C 19:16-19 reads:
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” ( Doctrine & Covenants 19:16–19 ).
To use the Atonement, it is required that we repent for our sins and take the upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. The sacrifice required of us is nothing more or less than a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Next, we have to submit to the will of the Lord. As it says in Mosiah 3:19:
“19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the =fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:19)
It isn’t always easy to submit. It is often frightening to let go of the perceived control we have in our lives and turn our will over to our Heavenly Father. It helps me to remember that Heavenly Father can see the whole picture and has a plan for me. From my limited point of view, my life might look like abstract paint daubs where, from His eternal perspective, my life is a painting of a beautiful garden. With that knowledge, it’s far easier to submit to his will and trust that he will ultimately know what Is best for me.
Once you submit, the next step is to pray for help. Now there are lots of ways to pray for help. Sometimes, I am tempted to pray for God to just fix everything. “God,” I might say, “just make this all better. I don’t care how or what has to happen. Just fix it.” But I find I get much better results when I pray for the ability to solve the problem myself. Elder Bednar touched on this when he said:
“I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2Â Nephi 2:14 ).” (The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality)
Next, we have to have faith that this enabling power will come. Moses 1:39 reads:
“behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (The Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39).”
If we have faith that this is true, we can have faith that the Atonement is here to bless us and help us overcome obstacles we couldn’t surmount otherwise.
Finally, we must show our faith by acting. This is so vitally important. We can’t just sit back and passively wait for the Atonement to bless our lives. We need to actively seek it out. Seek to understand it and apply it. Act in our lives with the faith that the Atonement will get us that extra mile if we allow it to work in our lives.
If we allow the Atonement to work in our lives, it will make the seemingly impossible, possible. Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr of the Seventy says:
“His perfect mortal life devoid of sin, the shedding of His blood, His suffering in the garden and upon the cross, His voluntary death, and the Resurrection of His body from the tomb made possible a full Atonement for people of every generation and time.
The Atonement makes the Resurrection a reality for everyone. However, with respect to our individual transgressions and sins, conditional aspects of the Atonement require our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our repentance, and our compliance with the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” (What Does The Atonement Mean To You?)
Brothers and sisters, on this Easter Sunday, I sit before you with a testimony that Jesus is the Christ. That he died for our sins and was resurrected that we might return to live with our Father in Heaven again.
I have a testimony that it is that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. That through the enabling power of the Atonement we are able to still receive life giving oxygen when we can no longer breathe on our own.
I have a testimony that if we repent, submit, pray for help, have faith, and act, the enabling power of the Atonement will work go to work in our lives.
Yesterday I went through the Temple for the first time and received my Endowment. I am so grateful especially for Temples on Earth again today and for the special Spirit I was able to feel there.
I know that the Book of Mormon is true. That it is another testament of Jesus Christ. That the Gospel has been restored. That Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God on earth today.
I want to leave you with one of my favorite scriptures from 2 Nephi 22:2:
And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
From a talk I delivered today in Church for Easter Sunday.
Last night I went to my ten year high school reunion, and it has put me in a reflective mood. It was fun (though somewhat strange) to see everyone after ten years apart. I was impressed by how friendly everyone was and how genuinely happy everyone seemed to reconnect with everyone. It has me thinking though about my seventeen year old self and who I thought I’d become verus who I’ve actually become.
When I was seventeen I had a lot of expectations for myself and everyone. The other day on Twitter I mentioned that I was “Trying not to compare myself to the me my 17 year old self thought I’d be by now.” My friend (@nerdgoddess) replied, “Don’t worry. I don’t think any of us live up to our teenage expectations.” I think this must be true. But I sure had a lot of them at that age. At seventeen, I thought that by ten years later I’d have made my first film, have a husband or at least a serious boyfriend, and be living on my own. None of these predictions were accurate.
At first I was feeling kind of bummed about what my seventeen year old self would have thought of me now, but on further reflection I’m really rather happy with where my life is at as unpredictable as the last ten years have been. It hasn’t all been great; don’t get me wrong. No one predicts or wants to think they are going to end up with a chronic illness. But there have also been so many wonderful things that have come of the last ten years of my life.
When I was seventeen, I was headed to the University of Southern California to study film. I wanted to be a director. Or at least I thought I did. And although I’m sure I could have found happiness pursuing that line of work, my real love is for the written word – specifically the novel. At seventeen, I never would have considered that I’d have it in me to write a whole rough draft of a novel by the age of twenty-seven or that I would be doing freelance graphic and web design. Or that I’d be designing Alternate Reality Games.
When I was seventeen, I was in the middle of a serious depression. My perfectionism consumed my life and made me miserable. Thanks to meds and therapy and a lot of hard work, I have found so much happiness in the last several years. And that is something I certainly didn’t expect at the time. In fact, at the time I didn’t even know what it was to be happy.
When I was seventeen, I was essentially an agnostic Jew searching for some meaning and connection to something larger. I NEVER would have dreamed in a million years that I would have found it in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But a little over a year ago I did. And becoming Mormon has brought me a level of joy, comfort, and perspective on life I never anticipated was possible.
The last ten years have been a roller-coaster ride that my seventeen year old self never would have imagined. Sometimes the sudden drops and loops make me want to throw up, but all in all I wouldn’t get off the ride for anything.
Today I gave my first ever talk in Church! I got the topic, faith, almost a month ago now, and I’ve been preparing ever since. It was exciting to get up there and share my thoughts on faith with everyone. And in honor of Easter, I ‘ll share it here:
Developing and growing your faith in life often occurs in the midst of great trials. One of my favorite scriptures on faith is from Ether 12:6:
“faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”
This really resonates with me and my own experience with faith and trials. First of all it defines faith as things “hoped for and not seen”. Faith is when we believe despite a lack of tangible or concrete reasons to do so. The second part of this scripture talks about the “trial of your faith” which tells us not to question due to the lack of evidence because we won’t have that evidence until after that trial. During trials we have the opportunity to exercise our faith or act in faith. Our faith then grows. And as our faith grows we receive witness confirming our faith through the power of the Holy Ghost.
But how do you start to develop faith when it isn’t strong in your life or even when it seems to be totally absent? Most of my life I considered myself to be a person of little faith. Though I was raised as a Reform Jew and was Bat Mitzvahed, Confirmed, and even assistant taught Sunday school at my temple in high school, I didn’t really believe in a higher power. And a belief in Christ wasn’t even on my radar. As a child I never felt I was loved unconditionally, so the idea that something I couldn’t even see could love me unconditionally was beyond my understanding.
But I saw the way that my Christian friends felt connected to God. I saw that the connection they felt was a deep and profound source of joy, comfort, and surety in their lives. I longed to have that in my own life. The question was where find it. Up to that point, Judaism had never given me that sense of a personal connection with our Heavenly Father. I wanted more than anything in my life to feel close to Him and to know Him as my Father in Heaven who loved me unconditionally. So I began searching for the religion that would bring me to Him.
I began to research and check out other religions. But the fundamental problem I kept encountering was that I just plain didn’t believe in God. However, I realized that my life would be so much happier if I could just believe. I wanted to feel connected to something larger and feel unconditionally loved. I realized that if I could just believe in God, my life would be better for having this faith in it. Logically I figured (and I tend to be a very logically minded person), that if I could just make that leap of faith and believe it wouldn’t even matter if God really existed because the act of believing in Him would bring me so much intrinsic happiness.
So one day I made a choice. I chose go forward from that moment in my life as if God existed. I figured I had nothing to loose. So I made that great leap, and I was rewarded. I didn’t have the context to understand it at the time, but that act of faith of choosing to believe was soon rewarded with increasing genuine certainty that God existed.
Upon reflection it was much with me as it is described in Alma 32:27:
“exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”
It goes on to say that finding faith is like planting a seed inside of you, and if you do not resist it and allow it to grow inside of you…
“will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” Alma 32:28-43
So I made this choice to believe in God and let Him into my life, and the seeds of faith were planted inside me and began to grow.
In the meantime, I was going through probably the most significant trial of my life to date. When I was 18, I started getting sick. It started with strange but fairly mild symptoms like fevers and joint pain that the doctors couldn’t explain. But as the years progressed, so did the symptoms. By my mid 20s, I was spending sometimes months at a time in the hospital. And the diagnoses started to pile up. I didn’t have just one illness. I had five of them. All of them were autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are a type of illness where your immune system starts thinking your own body is a foreign invader and begins to attack your own tissue. There is no known cure and the only medications for it have serious and sometimes life threatening side effects.
It was a very difficult time, going through the years of not knowing what was wrong. I lost a lot of friends who just didn’t know how to be there for me through my illness, so it was a very lonely time. And at the time I didn’t have my faith to lean on. I had no knowledge of Heavenly Father and his love and plan for me. So it was very lonely in that way as well. I did, however, have an an unidentifiable feeling that I would get through it and that somehow everything would be okay. At the time I didn’t know how to label it other than faith in myself. Now I know that sense of peace with the situation came from my Heavenly Father, but at the time I didn’t even know what it meant to have faith in someone other than myself. And I certainly hadn’t a inkling that my illness would be the thing that lead me to this Church and the Gospel. That through my own infirmity my prayers would be answered.
There came a point where I could no longer completely care for myself due to my illness. My joint pain was so severe that I needed to use a wheelchair full time, and I no longer could preform basic tasks by myself like dressing or making meals. My mom who I live with couldn’t do this every moment for me, so I ended up hiring a caregiver to help. The second caregiver I hired is the one who first introduced me to the Gospel. At the time I knew very little about what it meant to be LDS, but we would talk a lot about it. She shared her faith with me and her testimony almost every day. I was fascinated. I shared with her my religious background and it led to some amazing conversations. I also shared my own quest to find a way to have a close relationship with Heavenly Father.
She encouraged me to start to pray. I had never really done so before. At least not in my own words with my own personal hope and dreams, wants and desires and needs. At first it felt so strange. So unnatural. But it soon became more and more comfortable. And also a comfort. But I still sensed that something was missing. And I deep down I think I knew what it was. So I did an experiment. I started adding the words “in the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers. The difference that made was subtle but profound. So I planted that next seed of faith inside myself. But I didn’t really believe in Christ at that point. It was just something that I was trying on. But that is how it started for me.
There’s one conversation that I had with my caregiver that stands out in my mind. I said out loud that “I wonder what kind of miracle I would have to experience to make me go from not believing in Christ to believing in Him.” At that point I honestly didn’t think it would be possible to experience that kind of miracle in my life. Fortunately I was wrong.
If I recall correctly, it was only a few days later that my caregiver convinced me to attend Church with her and getting a blessing for healing afterwards. When I entered the Chapel I had this sense of peace that I had rarely experienced before. But it wasn’t until I got the blessing that things really shifted for me. From the moment the missionaries put their hands on my head I was overwhelmed with such an intense sense of Heavenly Father’s presence that I nearly couldn’t bare it. It was so intense that I thought I was going to pass out. I felt God for the first time in my life. And I knew that He lived and that He loved me. More than that I knew that this experience occurred where it did for a reason. I was suddenly sure that it wouldn’t have happened anywhere less than His true Church. And that church must be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for a reason. I knew that Jesus was the Christ. Heavenly Father had heard my words spoken a few days prior and granted me that miracle that would allow me to believe in Christ as the Son of God and my Savior.
But the miracle of that blessing didn’t end there. I was surprised a few days later to notice that I was suddenly in much less pain especially in my joints. And so I started walking again for the first time in over a year. I walked “by faith , not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
That week I also started taking the missionary lessons and I was baptized about 6 weeks later.
It reminds me of D&C 63:9-10
“10 Yea, signs come by faith , not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God.
9 But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.”
I’d like to conclude with this quote from Richard G. Scott from October 2010 General Conference:
“Thus, every time you try your faith—that is, act in worthiness on an impression—you will receive the confirming evidence of the Spirit. As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow.” (The Transforming Power of Faith and Character)
I’d like to bare my testimony that it is through trials that we are able to develop our faith in Heavenly Father and Christ. As we act in faith we will be rewarded with increasing faith. I have a testimony that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us and loves us all unconditionally. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.