Posts tagged Jew
Last Sunday I was asked to speak in church about making and fulfilling on goals. I also introduced an exciting new project that my ward (or congregation) will be participating in. I attend a ward for young single adults members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, told this thought provoking story in an October 1976 General Conference talk:
Several days ago, while driving to my home, I approached the entrance to Interstate 15. At the on-ramp I noticed three hitchhikers, each one of whom carried a homemade sign which announced his desired destination. One sign read “Los Angeles,” while a second carried the designation “Boise.” However, it was the third sign which not only caught my attention but caused me to reflect and ponder its message. The hitchhiker had lettered not Los Angeles, California, nor Boise, Idaho, on the cardboard sign which he held aloft. Rather, his sign consisted of but one word and read simply “ANYWHERE.” Here was one who was content to travel in any direction, according to the whim of the driver who stopped to give him a free ride. What an enormous price to pay for such a ride. No plan. No objective. No goal. The road to anywhere is the road to nowhere, and the road to nowhere leads to dreams sacrificed, opportunities squandered, and a life unfulfilled.
Thomas S. Monson, Which Road Will You Travel?
Imagine each of you are holding a sign up right now that says where you are going in life. What does your sign say? What would you like it to say? And what would you like it to say if Christ were sitting next to you right now?
Your sign is another way of representing your life goals. There are a lot of types of goals in life that lead down many different roads in this world. We all want to go somewhere in life that will bring us happiness. Though many things of the world try to convince us they offer happiness, how can we choose worthy goals that will bring us lasting happiness? Even eternal happiness.
Eternal happiness is a life long goal. Like many goals in life, we cannot get there in one stride. There are steps we can take to help us set worthy goals for our lives as we ultimately seek eternal life. Here are six steps we can take to make and fulfill on worthy goals:
Step One is to decide.
When set a goal you first need to decide where you want to be in the future. As President Monson’s earlier story illustrated, you can’t get where you want to go, if you don’t know where you are going.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“[…] set explicit goals. You should look ahead now and decide what you want to do with your lives. Fix clearly in your mind what you want to be one year from now, five years, ten years, and beyond.” (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)
Once you know where you want to get to in the future, you need to decide on a goal. Goals can be big and small, long and short term, and fall under any category of your life.
President Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth President of the Church said:
“Every accountable child of God needs to set goals, short- and long-range goals. […] Some will be continuing goals.[…]” (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).
President Benson also mentions that there are four main areas of goals in our lives: mental, physical, and social, spiritual, as well as the lifetime goal of becoming perfect unto Christ.
A. Mental Goals may include completing higher education, learning new trades or occupations, improving skills in a craft or creative area.
D&C 88:118 reads:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
D&C 130:19 promises:
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
B. Physical Goals may include increasing your body’s strength, endurance, dexterity, excelling at sport, or improving overall health. These would also include goals to improve your obedience to gospel principals like dressing modestly and obeying the Word of Wisdom.
“Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124).
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads:
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
C. Social Goals may include improving skills in listening, parenting, public speaking, and leadership.
Proverbs 18:24 tells us:
24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
D. Spiritual Goals may include building your testimony, increasing your faith in a gospel principal, magnifying your calling, doing a service project, and increasing temple attendance.
D&C 42:61 states:
61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.
E. Lifetime Goals are goals of an eternal nature that help you to become perfect unto Christ.
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
Each week when we partake of the sacrament we commit ourselves to the goals of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ, of always remembering him and keeping his commandments. Of Jesus’ preparations for his mission, the scripture states that he ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’ (Luke 2:52.) This encompasses four main areas for goals: spiritual, mental, physical, and social. ‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?’ asked the Master, and he answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am.’ (3 Ne. 27:27.) Now, there is a lifetime goal–to walk in his steps, to perfect ourselves in every virtue as he has done, to seek his face, and to work to make our calling and election sure (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).
Step Two is to Ponder and Pray.
Once we’ve decided on what we want for ourselves and your futures, we can prayerfully ponder steps we should take and make a plan of action. We can seek revelation in our Patriarchal blessings as to what goals to make and how to execute those goals in our lives.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
Receive your patriarchal blessing and strive to live worthy of its promises. A patriarchal blessing is one of the most important guides in life that members of the Church enjoy. Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)
Step Three is to Place Milestones.
Milestones are defined as “an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.” Milestones help us to see we are growing and changing. They help us to strive towards something and achieve more than we otherwise would have. Goals are not meant to be achieved in one large chunk, but just as learning is done “line upon line, precept upon precept“ (D&C 98:12) so should goals be broken down into smaller goals. Place milestones on the path to your goal ahead of time and work towards them.
Step Four is to Set Reminders.
When you have a constant physical reminder of your goal it becomes more real. One of my goals is to always become more Christ-like, so I have a painting and a stature of Christ in my bedroom that I can see from where I sit while I work. Whenever I need a extra sense of peace or need to be reminded of my goal I glance up at Christ and my purpose is restored. Wearing a CTR ring or setting a daily reminder in your phone to exercise or read your scriptures are other examples.
Step Five is to Take Action.
It’s great to decide where you wan to go, ponder and pray, place milestones, and set reminders, but all of that will be ineffective if we don’t take action.
D&C 60:13 reads:
“Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known” (D&C 60:13).
Step Six is to Be Accountable.
When you have a system of accountability your results in your goals will increase.
Elder M. Russel Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish each day. Keep foremost in mind the sacred covenants you have made with the Lord as you write down your daily schedules. (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” April 1987 General Conference)
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin suggests:
Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)
There is no where on Earth more important to achieving Eternal Life than The House of the Lord, the Temple.
We should all make the Temple our biggest goal whether it’s to get there for the first time, to get there more often, or to increase or testimony of the Temple.
The first time I wanted to enter the Temple I was four years old. I remember the moment so vividly. I was riding in the car with my parents and we drove by the Los Angeles Temple. I was immediately drawn to it. It felt very special and I knew I had to go in. I had never been so curious about what occurred inside a building before, but I ached to be a part of it. I asked my mom what it was, and she answered, that it was “someone else’s Temple and I couldn’t ever go in.” As a young Jewish girl, I was curious who else built Temples, and was disappointed that I couldn’t be involved, but I accepted her answer. However I hung onto that early memory though it was buried.
I wasn’t until years later that I was investigating the church more than twenty years later that the memory surfaced. The desire to go into the Temple was stronger than ever. So I decided consciously this time that my goal was the Temple. And I placed milestones to get there. I set Baptismal date. Took the missionary discussions. Got Baptized four and half years ago. Once that was completed, I went to the Temple to do baptisms for the first time. It was amazing and powerful. It Spirit was so strong. But my Temple journey didn’t end there. I wanted to get endowed. So set new milestones. I accepted callings. Took the Temple Prep class. And then I received my endowment. It was the best decision I could have made. My decision to set the Temple as my goal has blessed my life more than I can even comprehend. More than I had ever imagined as a little four year old that had a secret goal of going to the Temple.
Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:
[…] I [was] thrilled as I listened to Elder David A. Bednar invite each of you to become anxiously engaged in doing your own family history and temple work for those who have passed on without the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. As he issued this invitation to you, my heart leapt inside. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read of “other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work, including the building of … temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead.” This is your day, and your work has begun! Now is the time to be worthy of and obtain a temple recommend. As you do this work, you will become saviors on Mount Zion. (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)
What an amazing promise: to be a savior on Mount Zion. And we can all achieve that. Especially in light of a new program relating to ward Temple and Family History work that’s being presented today. You may have seen the posters in either foyer and you should have a copy of your own to take home in each of your programs (pictured left). As a ward we will be collectively be researching our own family histories to find Family File names. Familly file names are from your own family lineage. You research them and then take them to the temple to do ordinances for those ancestors.
As a ward, our goal will be to do a thousand family file names. Each family file name will count once (regardless of how many ordinances you do for each name). Since goals don’t happen in one stride, we will have milestones along the way of 100 family file names completed, then 200 names, then 300, and so on up to 1000.
Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:
The promised blessings of the temple extend not only to you but to all generations. As you make the temple your goal, your influence for good will transcend time and place, and the work you perform for those who have gone before will be the fulfillment of prophecy! (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)
I know that as we do this work for our ancestors we will bless them and we also will be blessed.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:
“May we launch straightway toward setting goals that are gospel oriented, knowing that if we use the talents that are ours–that if we help others, strive for peace, avoid being overly sensitive or overly critical–strength upon strength will be added unto our own abilities and we will move straightway toward greater growth, happiness, and eternal joys”. (“Straightway,” April 1983 General Conference)
I like to leave you with my testimony that I know that setting and fulfilling on goals is a way we can achieve eternal happiness. I know that as we set our goals on the Temple and other eternal things we will be blessed with peace, happiness, knowledge and revelation, and other things we need in our lives. I know that through Temples families can be together forever. I love the Temple. I love Heavenly Father and I love the Savior, Jesus Christ. And I say this in His name, Amen.
As I was sitting in during Sacrament, I prayed for the best way to deliver this talk. I received the strangest prompting – to give my talk in a completely different order than I have written it. I had spent at least 15 hours researching and preparing for the talk, so I was rather surprised and extremely nervous about going out of order. But I’m not in the habit of ignoring promptings from the Lord, so I did what I felt urged to do. The following is my memory of the order in which I gave this talk.
I’d like to begin with a story in President James E. Faust’s talk, The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope, that retells a story by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “something of a parable” about “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.
“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’
“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.
“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’
“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’
“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.
“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.
“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”’”
President Hinckley then quoted Isaiah:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. …
“… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
No man knows the full weight of what our Savior bore, but by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know something of the supernal gift He gave us.10 In the words of our sacrament hymn:
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
So as you may have guessed the subject of my talk today is the crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ, in which He died for our sins so that we might live again with our Father in Heaven.
The events leading up to the Crucifixion give us vivid examples of both absolute faith and the absence of it. The absence of faith can often be characterized as fear. As I describe the following events, I invite you to think about which events are representative of faith and which represent fear.
Christ perfectly endured the Atonement in all its agony, according to the will of the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus was arrested, and the rest of his Apostles fled. Jesus was then subjected to multiple counsels and trials having false witnesses brought against Him.
Even the faithful disciple Peter ultimately denied Jesus and Jesus Himself prophesied he would earlier in Christ’s ministry. In John 13:38, it reads:
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. (John 13: 38)
Then at one of Jesus’s trials, the prophesy came to pass. In Matthew 26:69-75 it reads:
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.n (Matthew 26:69–75)
Christ was mocked and ridiculed. In Matthew 27:28-30, it reads:
And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. (Matthew 28–30)
Christ was made to carry His own cross most likely weighting 75 to 125 pounds until a passerby named Simon was compelled to do it for him by the Roman guards.
When they reached the site of the crucifixion, Christ was nailed to the cross. At the head of the cross was affixed a title, “Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie describes the brutality of what the Savior must have physically experienced:
A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries, especially of the head and stomach, became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and, while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. Such was the death to which Christ was doomed. ( Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:816)
Even is this moment of extreme physical torment, the Savior was merciful, asking Heavenly Father to forgive those who crucified him. In Luke 23: 34, it reads:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)
Despite his tortured state, He thought of others before himself. In John 19:26-27, it says:
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26–27)
Then darkness came over the land as Heavenly Father withdrew his presence from the Savior. In Matthew 27:46 it reads:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
It’s hard to imagine the utter terror at being cut off from Heavenly Father for the first time in such a moment of tremendous suffering. But Christ needed to feel what it is like to be utterly alone, to descend all things. To completely fulfill upon what He came here to do.
Andrew C. Skinner said in his book, Golgotha,
The scriptures teach us that God has not forsaken us nor will he ever forsake us. He is waiting and able to help us in our extremity. No less powerful to help is his divine Son, who has perfect empathy for us and can carry us through those times when we cannot go on, precisely because of his own experience. In fact, one reason Jesus was abandoned by his Father in Gethsemane and on the cross of Golgotha [or Calvary] was so he could descend below all things to know every human circumstance and thus emerge victor over all things, with the knowledge and power to help us. By his confirming witness, I know that Jesus suffered on the cross the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God, and because Jesus suffered that wrath on the cross, I do not have to. Even more important, I know that because Jesus was lifted up on the cross, I can be lifted up also—to eternal life. Furthermore, I know that because God forsook his Son on the cross, he will never have to forsake me.
James E. Talmage, in his book, Jesus the Christ, wrote about Christ last moments:
Fully realizing that He was no longer forsaken, but that His atoning sacrifice had been accepted by the Father, and that His mission in the flesh had been carried to glorious consummation, He exclaimed in a loud voice of holy triumph: “It is finished.” In reverence, resignation, and relief, He addressed the Father saying: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He bowed His head, and voluntarily gave up His life.
[…]Jesus the Christ was dead. His life had not been taken from Him except as He had willed to permit. Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed. In the latter days the voice of the Lord Jesus has been heard affirming the actuality of His suffering and death, and the eternal purpose thereby accomplished. Hear and heed His words: “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”
The Crucifixion can teach us much about living our lives after the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ. These are the five main things we can learn from the crucifixion:
- Be forgiving.
- Be filled with mercy.
- Be in service of others.
- Following Christ.
- Endure all things.
The first thing we can learn is to forgive others. Even when Christ was on the Cross he said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. This very Spirit of forgiveness teaches us that we need to forgive all. Even and especially those who hate and persecute us. In Doctrine & Covenants 64:10 it reads:
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64:10)
Second we learn to be filled with mercy. To have mercy we must have compassion for people in our lives including ourselves. Having compassion for and extending mercy towards others as well as ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give.
Matthew 5:7 reads:
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Third, we learn to serve others. Christ’s ministry was one of continually service. Healing the sick, feeding the poor and hungry, raising the dead, teaching the masses. Mosiah 2:17 reads:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)
Fourth, we learn to carry our cross and follow Christ. This mean forsaking anything in our lives that are not in the manner of Christ. Giving up unrighteous thoughts, music, clothing, and activities, and exchanging them for righteous ones. Then follow the Saviors example in all things.
Fifth, we learn to patiently endure all things. Christ never complained, never object, never asked “why me?” He bore his burdens with tolerance, long-suffering, and dignity, always submitting to the will of the Father.
This perfect example of how to endure all things can especially help us in times of trial. Over the last ten years I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the hospital, often the ICU, often for several months at a time due to an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis. Myasthenia Gravis, which means grave weakness in Latin, causes its patients to become so weak during an acute flare or it that they cannot move any of their limbs and sometimes cannot breathe on their own, requiring the assistance of a ventilator. I have experienced this many times. It’s hard when lying there in the ICU unable to move or breathe on my own to feel like things are going to be okay, but the thing that gives me the most strength is the sweet knowledge that our Savior descended below all things so that I don’t have to suffer that alone. He knows exactly what extreme physical pain is like, beyond what I can even imagine, so He certainly can feel what I feel in those times. And it gives me the ability to endure to know that He endured all things. If he endured all things, then certainly I can endure this one trial I have been given as difficult as it seems. And this gives me eternal hope.
We also accept that Heavenly Father is giving us trials for our own benefit. Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8 said:
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? (D&C 7-8)
Since we are not greater than our Savior Jesus Christ we can take so much comfort in all He has done for us. All the pain He has suffered so that he could descend below all things was for our benefit because He has so much love for each and every one of us.
I want to share my testimony that Christ not only atoned and died for our sins but that He rose again three days later. He lives today. He knows and loves me personally. The Holy Ghost testifies of this to me on a daily basis. I am so grateful for my Savior and for his atoning sacrifice that through it I can return to live with my Heavenly Father for all eternity. I know that my Heavenly Father lives and loves me as well. I am grateful for all of you and the Spirit that is felt here today. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
When that scripture is usually quoted it’s typically in reference to helping bring others to Christ. But today, I thought of it in a different context. Because today was truly a joyous occasion for me. Today, Friday, March 7th, 2014, marks the 4 year anniversary of the day I entered the waters of baptism and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To this day I know with every fiber of my being that decision to get baptized was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. That day, March 7th, 2010, I brought my own soul unto Christ, and I have never been more joyful!
It began with a quest like many good stories do. My quest was to find a close connection with Heavenly Father. My problem was I wasn’t really sure He existed. But I wanted to believe so badly. My quest, which originated in the Reform Jewish Synagogue of my youth, took me to lots of different places and to many congregations. Never feeling complete or satisfied. Always searching for something more. I was interested in college in how my Christian friend cultivated a close and personal relationship with Christ and would occasionally attend her college group prayer meetings at her church to see if I could glean how they went about it and apply it to my own quest. I told them straight up that Christ wasn’t for me. I remember that kind Youth Pastor prayed with me that I would find my own truth in my own time. Whatever it was. I appreciated that a lot.
Years later I was going to a Universalist Unitarian Church, but I still hadn’t found what I was seeking. At the same time, I needed to hire a caregiver. I had been in a wheelchair for over a year due to multiple autoimmune diseases causing extreme pain that made it impossible to walk. The new caregiver I hired was Mormon. We would talk about religion all the time. Sharing about our different background. Her being raised in the Church. Me being raised Jewish, Bat Mitzvah’d, Confirmed and having taught Temple Religious School, but still searching. I admired how close she was to God. How personal it was for her. How it was such a source of strength, peace and hope in times of stress and darkness. I wanted that for myself on some level but I didn’t believe. And I couldn’t just suddenly believe in something I didn’t believe in just because I wanted to.
However, she convinced me to start praying on a regular basis. I’d never said a personal prayer before. I didn’t even know how to go about it until she explained it to me. It felt super awkward at first but slowly more comfortable.
It wasn’t until I decided to try an experiment that things started to shift for me. I decided to try adding “In the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers, just as an experiment to see if it felt any different. I was amazing to realize there was in fact a subtle but significant difference. It brought a sense of calm and peace, love and comfort into my heart.
I remember telling my caregiver, “I wonder what kind of miracle it would take to get me from not believing in Christ as the Redeemer of the World to accepting Him as the Savior of all Mankind. What would it take to change my whole belief system?”
So when my caregiver asked me yet again to attend Church with her and to get a blessing for healing I finally agreed.
I loved Church. I remember feeling such a sense of peace and warmth come over me the entire time. Then it was time for the blessing of healing. From the moment the two missionaries giving the blessing put their hands on head, I felt Heavenly Father’s love for me so intensely I thought I might pass out. The way I experienced His love for me was so all encompassing and so complete, it was just sooo awe inspiring to know that I am that loved and that known by God. And that He is real. And that He lives.
In that instant I knew that I wouldn’t have had this experience if I wee not the in the right place to have it. I knew it was a signal from God to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I started taking the missionary discussions and was baptized 6 weeks later. And I walked into the baptismal font (with the help of my caregiver) having started walking the same week of the blessing. My baptism was held during the 3rd hour of Church, so my whole Young Single Adult Ward attended it. My Dad and his girl friend were also able to attend. My baptism was so special. I’ll never forget those tender and elated feelings I had coming out of the waters of baptism, feeling more pure than I’d ever felt before. I will treasure those memories always.
The last four years, haven’t been the easiest, but they’ve been richer and more joyful with the gospel in my life. Through the hard times and all the hospitalizations especially, it’s given me so much strength to endure. In the happy times, it gives me so much more context in which to enjoy each moment. The gospel truly is the greatest gift in my life. I’ve learned so much, gained so much, my life has been so blessed in every way!
I’ve received my my Patriarchal Blessing, a piece a personal scripture and revelation that is individual to each person who receives it, given by men ordained of God to give such blessings. I’ve held multiple callings (or volunteer positions) in my Ward at Church. And I’ve gone to the Temple, the House of the Lord.
To celebrate, today I went to the Los Angeles Temple with a dear friend and spent some quality time there. There was no place I felt that would be more appropriate to send commemorating my baptism, than in the House of the Lord where I can reflect, seek peace, calm, protection, and revelation from on high.
I am so grateful for this gospel and this Church. I’m grateful for my baptism. I am so thankful for the chance we all have to repent of our sins, enter the waters of baptism, be cleansed, and start fresh. I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father and the chance I have to return to Him through this work.
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.
One year ago today I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a decision that surprised many least of all me. I was raised Jewish. In fact, I was Bat Mitzvahed, Confirmed, and even taught religious school while I was in High School. And although I always felt a strong cultural connection to my Jewish heritage, I never felt spiritually fulfilled. I wanted to feel close to God, but didn’t know how. So I in my mid-twenties, I began to search for a faith that would help me find what I was looking for.
At the same time I was battling a serious physical illness. I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases that kept landing me in the hospital. And among other symptoms, I had joint pain so severe I had been in a wheelchair full time for over a year. I also had lost a lot of my independence due to my illness, and required a full time caregiver to help me with basic things.
My caregiver was a girl about my age and she was a member of the LDS church. We would have lots of discussions about faith, and she taught me a lot about the church. As a result, I decided to start praying. I had never really done so before. But at first prayer didn’t make me feel any closer to Heavenly Father. So I decided to do an experiment. I decided to try adding the words “in the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers. Suddenly I started to feel connected to Heavenly Father in a new way.
Around this time my caregiver invited me to attend church with her and get a blessing for healing from the missionaries after church. From the moment I entered the church building I was filled with a sense of happiness and peace.
But the true miracle of my conversion occurred during my blessing. The missionaries placed their hands on my head to impart the blessing, and I was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of connection to Heavenly Father. I felt His love so intensely I nearly passed out. It was so strong! Up until that point I had no idea that it was possible to really feel God. And from that moment on, I KNEW that Heavenly Father lived and that Jesus was the Christ. I started taking the missionary discussions that week.
That week another miracle occurred. I suddenly had a lot less pain in my joints. I decided to try and start walking again for the first time in over a year. By the time of my baptism six weeks later I was able to walk for the whole thing!
My baptism was an amazing day. My whole ward at church attended it, and my dad and his girlfriend were also there to support me. What I remember most was the feeling of pure love I felt. The love that Heavenly Father has for me. I felt it so strongly that day, and I was just so happy I couldn’t stop beaming.
Since then my decision to become Mormon has been confirmed many times over while doing things like reading scripture or attending church each week. I have also found an amazing support network in the church. I have made amazing friends who have been there for me through some really difficult times and really wonderful times. My decision has brought me so much peace and joy in my life. I have never been happier.