Thursday, 30 January 2014

A Type and Symbol of Christ

     So this week I wanted to talk about Christ, I find it interesting with this that there are a ton of types and symbols of Christ.  You can draw parallels in many places where they may not have been even intended.  The first ones that come to my mind are; Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, Moses holding up a brass serpent, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings (especially in the movies),  Superman, Harry Potter, the list goes on and on.  The reason for this I feel is because what Christ did was the most heroic act of all time.
     By following his example and trying to develop more Christlike characteristics we show our love for God.  While in London I have seen many good examples of Christlike people.  As a mormon missionary I was once teaching a man who was in very humble circumstances just outside of London, his name is Paul.  His wife had left him and he was in a difficult place for money.  He received help from the government and one month pulled out his money for the next 4 weeks and headed home on his bike.
     What he didn't know was that his wallet fell out of his pocket.  So when he arrived home the money that was meant to feed him, and keep his gas and electric going for the month, was all missing.  About 200 pounds which is around 400 dollars.  With no heating, food, or gas to cook food, he felt very hopeless.
     We stopped by with a man who is a local member of the church.  As we stepped inside the member asked about Paul's problems, recognizing that it was very cold in the humble home.  Within 20 seconds he had figured out what the problem was, and asked for the gas and electric key for the home.  (a gas and electric key is basically a card that gives you pay as you go gas and electric, you top it up at a shop and then stick it into a machine back at your house to use the credit.)
     He returned in about 10 minutes and turned the heating on with around 18 pounds on the card and a bag full of groceries.  Paul asked if he wanted to him to repay his selfless act when he had the money.  The member said that he didn't want to be re-payed,  and at this point Paul lost control of his emotions and repeatedly thanked him.
     The nice thing about Christ is that his love, like this members love, is selfless.  He came and payed for our sins so that all that is unfair about life can be made right.  His atonement, or his suffering in Gethsemane, death on the cross, and resurrection, make it possible so that all of us can one day return to live with God despite our many short comings. Christ did many things during his mortal ministry, always demonstrating that love.  He also set up a church and established his doctrines, he called 12 men as apostles and gave them authority to preach his message.  I'd like to just leave also my favorite quote about this subject; "Live in such a way that people who know you but don't know Christ will want to know Christ because they know you."

Thursday, 23 January 2014

One Ring to Rule Them All...

     One of my favorite family activities as a kid was when we would float down different rivers wearing a life preserver.  I don't think my mother liked doing it herself because there were always a few perils involved.  First off the whole idea was to float down a stretch of river, feet pointed down stream for safety, in an area that had decent sized rapids.  You had to guide yourself down and avoid the more treacherous looking parts of the river.  Then you had to book it back to the car and beg my mom to drive us to the top, but she wouldn't let us in the car because we were soaking wet.   So, what we had to do was run bare foot to the top ourselves.  I remember one occasion specifically, not because it was one of the times that someone injured themselves on a rock, but because it was a little more symbolically meaningful to me.
     My dad went into the rapids about 30 feet ahead of me and we both came out to our spot of more calm water that we had decided was where we would get out of the water.  It was very dark and muddy in the shallows where we got out, and my dad had forgotten to take off his ring.  As he reached down to steady himself, then mud sucked it right off his finger.  
     At the time I didn't notice it, or maybe he didn't show it, but he was definitely panicking on the inside.  We scrambled through the mud looking for the ring for about 15 minutes with our hands in the dark, murky water, praying we would feel it.  The number of Gollum/Smeagol Lord of the Rings jokes I could have dropped was almost unbearable, but my dad didn't seam in the mood.  My memory isn't perfect, but I do think we ended up finding the ring after quite a bit of prayer and searching.  
      A prophet is a man chosen by God to act on his behalf for the salvation of his children.  Prophets receive revelation about the true nature of God and about how we can draw nearer to him.  If people do what the prophet says, then God blesses them.  But when people don't follow the prophet, they don't receive those blessings.  When this happens widespread it is called an apostasy, and if it gets bad enough, God takes away the prophet.  But because God loves us, he will always send another prophet.  This pattern of apostasies (no prophet on the earth) and dispensations (period of time with a prophet on the earth)  goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.
     Just like the ring was in my dad's possession but then was lost and subsequently found, so is the pattern that happens with prophets.  But just like the ring has deeper significance than it's surface value (namely it is a symbol of my parents marriage)  Also having a prophet of God on the earth has deep significance.  For example: it means the authority of God to do things like baptism is on the earth (priesthood), it means that we can receive guidance from God through the prophet on current day challenges, and it means that God is still communicating with us today.  Having a prophet doesn't take away from our personal relationship with God, we still must seek that through prayer, reading scriptures, etc.  But rather, following the prophet strengthens our relationship with God. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Faithful to Our Families

    Where does joy come from? Where do you find lasting happiness? I have asked this question to thousands of people and have gotten varying responses, from money, to girls, whatever else people want at that moment, all these answers are far overwhelmed by those who say that lasting happiness for them comes from having a happy family. The movie Iron Man says it well, Tony Stark is "... a man who has everything... and nothing" because he has lots of money but no family.

    The hardest trials in our lives often come when they hit closest to home, its often the worst when it affects our families. My great great grandmother lived through one of these nightmares. Her name was Dorothea, she lived in Chicago in 1911 and it was at this time that her husband left her. She had two kids and as you can imagine felt quite alone and abandoned. Her family and friends gave her the advice to move to California so that she could find work more easily. She decided that was a good idea and borrowed some money from her family and took her small, struggling family on a train to southern California.

    When she arrived in California she found a cheap hotel room and had enough money to stay there for a day or two. So she left her kids in the room and told them not to answer the door if anyone knocked and started walking, stopping at every store and asking for a job. After about an hour she found a place that the manager agreed to hire her for just a few days because they were short staffed with one of their employees was sick.

    She excitedly got right to work and went to stocking produce shelves. After a few hours of work, she saw a man come in that looked a little shady. She saw him reach out and take an apple off a shelf and sneak it into his pocket. Realizing this wasn't right she thought about it for a minute and then decided to confront him. She told him that he shouldn't become a thief for the price of an apple and that if he was hungry, the manager was a pretty nice guy and would probably let him have one if he just asked and he really needed it.

    After considering what she said silently the man nodded and walked over to the manager. A few minutes later she noticed the man was still talking with the manager and that the two of them were laughing. Then they shook hands and the shady man left. The manager then walked over to her and said "Well that was interesting.... If that man comes back and takes something, it's ok. He is the owner of the shop." Dorothea was so embarrassed, and started to apologise but then was cut off. The manager said "Don't be embarrassed, he was very impressed, he wants to hire you on full time! What do you think? Do you want the job?" A startled "yes" was all she could manage. 

      The home is the best place to learn and apply gospel principles. Just as Dorothea had no idea who would be watching her actions, the same is true for children, they watch and learn from their parents actions often far more than their words. Also, the best way to draw closer to God is as a family. This poor widow showed what family truly means by her dedication to provide for her children. I believe that the family is established by God, and that we can live forever with our families after this life if we do the things we need to in order to prepare for the life after this one. Our choices matter and have lasting consequences for more than just us. 

    Thursday, 9 January 2014

    Knowledge is Power

         Johnny wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, or the sharpest tool in the shed, or even the smartest suit in the closet.  What I'm trying to say is that Johnny often made poor judgement calls.
         Johnny's father loved to hunt and was a staunch and proud redneck.  Johnny's father lent him his extra bow and some arrows once so they could go hunting for deer together.
        After a few hours they set themselves up for an easy catch, Papy (Johnny's father) was at the bottom of a hill and scared a few deer up the hill to a waiting Johnny.  As the deer entered the clearing near Johnny, Papy saw him pull back, release and..... the bow snapped in Johnny's face.
         From reviewing what happened, Johnny said, "I held the arrow in place, pulled back the string and let it fly hoping it would catch the arrow along the way, and carry it on through."  Papy was furious at it all, Johnny, hadn't nocked the arrow on the string but just hoped the string and back of the arrow would line up.  From dry firing, the bow snapped because of this horrible misuse.
         Often an incorrect view of God shakes or destroys our faith, just like the bow in this story.  That, or sometimes we expect God to do all the work for us.  For him to scare the deer, knock the arrow, and even pull back the string.  But God has given us this mortal experience to learn and grow. The purpose of this life is not to be pampered, but to be prepared for the life after this.  As we do the small and simple things necessary such as prayer and try to learn more about God, we can come to know him.