Magnifying Your Callings

As I write today I am filled with a profound hope for the future. We live in an amazing time of difficulties and challenges. Everywhere we go we are asked to do more, to be more, and to become more.

As a Mormon we receive callings, or invitations to serve in a capacity of responsibility within our church. All positions within our church are filled by volunteers. They are called in to be interviewed by those who have already been chosen as leaders in the church and are then asked if they would be willing to volunteer their time, talents, and abilities to serve in the offered position.

There is also an expression within our faith that speaks of doing our best: Magnifying our callings. To magnify is to make something larger and bring it into clearer focus. In this context it means to do our best in applying our time, talents, and abilities towards the completion of whatever task lies before us in the performance of our responsibilities.

Almost a month ago now I was extended such an opportunity to serve, a ‘calling’ if you will. All callings operate under the direction of the priesthood keys held by the Bishop of the church, or ward. If you would like a better understanding of the difference between the priesthood and priesthood keys are, as well as what it means to operate under them please review this talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

Last night, as I studied, reading the words of a prophet Joseph Fielding Smith (not to be confused with Joseph Smith) I was struck by an excerpt from a sermon he gave. “If we have a clear understanding of the covenant we make when we receive the priesthood, and of the promise the Lord gives if we magnify our callings, then we shall have a greater incentive to do all the things we must do to gain eternal life. May I say further that everything connected with this higher priesthood is designed and intended to prepare us to gain eternal life in the kingdom of God.”

He continued quoting from D&C 88:33-44 and tells us that “whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become… the elect of God… Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.”

In that scripture we are promised that if we magnify our callings our bodies will be renewed and that we will become the elect of God. The quality of our lives will reflect our commitment to the Lord. Receiving the Priesthood is a covenant between ourselves and our God. Because it is a covenant between us and the Lord it is immovable and unchangeable. The blessings promised are assured us if we fulfill our part of the bargain. It is promised. And the Lord cannot, and will not, break His promises.

President Smith continues, “Priesthood offices or callings are ministerial assignments to perform specially assigned service in the priesthood. And the way to magnify these callings is to do the work designed to be performed by those who hold the particular office involved. It does not matter what office we hold as long as we are true and faithful to our obligations…”

One priesthood office or calling is not greater than another in terms of priesthood power. The priesthood does not change. It is the same for each and every man in the church. The only difference is found in the keys one holds and the responsibilities over which one has authority to function as one holding power in the priesthood. In our personal lives and in our homes our priesthood power is fully operational, according to the dictates of the spirit and our righteous desires. Otherwise it is only restrained, or limited, by the limits of our respective callings. We have the authority to use our priesthood for each and every stewardship over which we have responsibility.

In the next section President Smith talks about Christ exercising His priesthood and how “Christ is the great prototype where priesthood is concerned, as He is with with reference to baptism and all other things. And so, even as the Father swears with an oath that his Son shall inherit all things through the priesthood, so he swears with an oath that all of us who magnify our callings in that same priesthood shall receive all that the Father hath.”

“This is the promise of exaltation offered to every many who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, but it is a conditional promise, a promise conditioned upon our magnifying our callings in the priesthood and living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God…”

“There is nothing in all the world as important to each of us as putting first in our lives the things of God’s kingdom, as keeping the commandments, as magnifying our callings in the priesthood, as going to the house of the Lord and being offered the fullness of the blessings of our Father’s kingdom.”

What about you? Is there anything in your life more important than the things of God? More important than His work of salvation on our behalf? What is so important that you would be willing to risk eternity to experience in the space of this life?

Will you fill your callings, dedicate yourself to make a difference, and serve others to the best of your ability today?

The Rising Generation in Christ

For those who don’t know – I am a Mormon. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And every 6 months we have a conference the areas in which we live. These conferences are called Stake Conference and thousands gather to discuss as a community what we need to be doing in our lives as a whole – that we may be united and one, in purpose, direction, and heart.

At 9:41 pm on April 12th we’d just gotten back from the Saturday Evening Session of Stake Conference and put the kids to bed.

The conference itself was wonderful, and all about the recent call by the Prophet to hasten the work of the Lord. He has said that the time has arrived that the work of the Lord is to be hastened. The Lord is speeding up His work of Salvation among the children of men in preparation for the Second Coming of the Son of Man, or Jesus Christ.

Will you be ready? Will you be a part of the preparation? Of the expansion of the gospel and all it entails?

I was touched by what I heard. This age is one of the greatest ages in which to be alive. The work of the Lord has been hastened, and is hastening. The gospel will never again be taken, or be allowed to be taken, from the earth – we have this promise in modern day revelation.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Lattery-day Saints will roll forth as a stone cut from the mountain without hands until it has filled the whole earth and shattered all kingdoms built by men. As the kingdoms built by men crumble and fall the Church of God on the earth today, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will rise in power, and might, and dominion until under its banner flock every lover of peace, hearth, and home. Every righteous person in the world will flock to the banner of His church, or die trying.

We live in the most amazing time, a hard time but an extra-ordinary one. Forgotten will be the administrations of Bush or Obama, and the crash of 2008 and those greater yet to come. All the wars and contentions of the world will be but backdrop to the expansion of the gospel.

In the eternal courts of Heaven above the defining eras of our lives will be spoken of in relation to the expansion of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its availability. Whether you lived before or after the coming of Christ, after the Restoration of the Gospel, when the hastening took place, or just prior to the Second Coming of the Lord. In the eternities they will not ask how you responded to the demands of life, nor how you earned a living, but rather how you participated in the gathering of Israel and the hastening of salvation among the children of men.

What will you say? How will you answer?

The youth of the church today will be raised and taught by leaders who have gone astray, seduced by what the world had to offer – and come back stronger, and more sure of their faith, in the end.

The youth will be stronger for it. They will be raised by those who have returned from ‘inactivity’ and will have learned the true cost of the choices presented them as reflected back in the lives and experiences of their leaders.

This will be markedly different from the previous generation. They will be taught from early on to be missionaries, to be examples, and to stand up for what they believe in the face of any adversity. Why? Because it’s true. What other reason could there be? This will perpetuate the acceleration of the Lords work of salvation here upon the earth, and it will be marvelous to behold.

Just as the rock that was cut out of the mountain without hands rolled forth to fill the earth so too will this rising generation spread the gospel message of salvation to all corners of the earth.

Whereas my generation was raised to be good examples and stand up for what we believe in when called upon the rising generation will be called upon to actively rise up and be missionaries at all times, and in all places. They will be taught this from birth on.

So what do you say? Will you participate in the instruction of the next generation? Will you let your voice be heard, your experiences shared, and the warnings of your life sounded so that they can choose more wisely than we did?

What do you say? Will you participate in the hastening of the Lords work by raising the next generation of missionary minded men and women? Will you?

Strengthening the Home

“Ours should be a conscious effort every day… to strengthen the homes which are our Heavenly Father’s first line of defense.” – Harold B. Lee

In a world that is self-destructing itself into darkness we ask ourselves where we can turn to stem the tide of decaying morals and values, dishonesty, selfishness, and pride? Must we focus on our politics, our institutions, or ourselves as individuals?

The answer is surprisingly simple. If we wish to save our country then we must start that saving process in our homes and families. Our homes are the first line of defense in this decaying world of darkness. If they fall prey to the degradation that surrounds us then our civilization falls as well.

Strengthening the home and defending it from any unwanted influences should be our primary goal. The answer to every problem we face as a nation lies in the rearing and raising of the rising generation, and the protection and establishment of the solid homes from which they come. In those homes they will grow and mature as a young plant seeking the light. Let us fill our homes with light that they may drink in the sustaining power of a powerful home.

As Americans we often believe ourselves above the decay taking place all around us, but there is a reason it is called decay. It is often unrecognized until it is too late. Do we take the time to let our children know we love them? Do we teach them about the reality of natural consequences – or do we mitigate all consequences in an effort to ‘keep them from harm’? Do we show them, by example, how they are to live? Do we exemplify moral rectitude, honesty, integrity, honor, and faith in God?

The very cures for the times we live in are found in the children who surround us. The question remains, however, will we raise them in such a way, and from such a place (the home), that they can face the challenges of this world and stand up to the darkness that is spreading even as you read these words.

We must remember that the light is always stronger than the darkness. But that light, it begins, grows, is nurtured, and developed in the home. That is where we must focus if we are save some semblance of the society we cherish in our hearts.

Whatever happened to the America where neighbor serves neighbor? And where when something bad happens the entire community turns out to help and repair whatever wrong was committed? And the most important questions: Do you exemplify such an America? Will your home exemplify these things?

If enough homes in America come to exemplify these values then we will save our country, for in the face of such great light what darkness can stand against it?

If we fortify our homes, we may yet save our country. If we do we will be part of the solution, not the problem.

Will you do your part today? Will you put your family first? Will you fortify and strengthen the presence of your home in the lives of your children, and make it a place of peace, love, and light from which they can go forth and change the world?

I am the symbol of Christianity

I am the symbol of Christianity. So are you.

Every religious practice across the world puts great meaning into its symbols. When thinking of Christianity in general the symbol of the cross instantly comes to mind. It is a symbol of Christ’s death, and the sacrifices we must make to live with Him again. The meaning behind it is important, but it is not the true symbol of Christianity.

To those more initiated in the lore of Christianity the fish has special symbolism as well. During the times of Nero and the apostasy of the church across Europe Christians were heavily persecuted. They were turned in by neighbors and friends, ridiculed, spat upon, and even executed for sport at state events. The symbol of the fish gained special meaning among believers. It let them know that they could speak openly of their beliefs, or that they were among friends. It guided them through the catacombs to where they could meet in secret and still worship according to the tenets of their faith, and the dictates of their conscience. But the fish, like the cross, isn’t the true symbol of Christianity either.

The true symbol of Christianity is found in the Christians themselves. We are the symbols of Christianity.  We are the symbols of everything it means to be Christian. We do not worship the cross, nor a dead Christ, or any image of Him or His prophets in any way, shape, or form. We worship the Living Christ. We glory in the Living Christ, and we live our lives so as to bring glory to His name.

What does this mean – to literally be the true symbol of Christianity?

The way we live our lives should flow from our faith as naturally as water flows forth from a spring. It means that the way we live our lives in such a way that those we meet know of our honesty, integrity, compassion, long-suffering, strength, and love. The only true symbol is Christianity, or of any religion or movement, is found in the lives of those who profess to belong to it.

How do you live your life? And what do you live it for? Are the beliefs you profess instilled into your every action and interaction with your fellow men? Do your actions speak of your dedication and self-transcendent way of life? Or the greed, lust, corruption, and pride that so commonly plague the world? As they say – if we do not stand for something we will fall for anything. What do you stand for?

How will you become a living symbol of Christianity?

You know the answer to that question already – for the actions you must take echo inside the chambers your heart and soul. They are the promptings that have been conveniently ignored throughout your life, or the ways you know you should live but don’t, the truths you have been taught but have forgotten amidst the demands and cares of life.

Will you exemplify, in action, what it is that makes us great and binds us together?

The actions you choose to take today will set the stage for all future generations after you. How will you be remembered?

Transcending Ourselves

Reposted from Forward Walking
February 27th, 2014 by Daniel Adam Freeman

Why are we here in this life? The answer is as simple as this: to transcend ourselves.

First, what does it mean to transcend ourselves?

a.)   To transcend means to rise above, go beyond, overpass, or exceed.

b.)  To transcend ourselves means to act differently in the present moment – in a more positive way –  than we would have in the past.

1)     It is begun when we act in alignment with the truths we have been taught.

2)    It is manifest when we finally overcome that which we have struggled with for so long.

3)    It is realized and finally recognized when we find ourselves teaching others how to overcome the same things which we have passed through.

c.)   To transcend ourselves means that we have finally felt the reality of forgiveness in our lives, that peace can be restored to our souls. This will only occur as we change our lives  and seek forgiveness for the mistakes of our past – from others, from ourselves, and from our God. Teaching others is the culminating virtue of repentance.

———-

Second, how have I learned this?

Several years ago, a friend called and asked if we could talk. He was and is an amazing man, more full of love than anyone I have ever met. As we talked I learned that he was struggling in his relationship with his wife. It troubled him to his core. They’d been married for several years, and had been fighting and arguing more than usual. At this point he began questioning if he had done the right thing by marrying her, or if he was the best person for her to be happy with. His words brought tears to his eyes.

After sharing this, my friend paused and asked me what I was thinking.

I’ve made many bad decisions over the course of my life. I will be the first one to admit that I am not perfect in any way, shape, or form. But it is from some of those bad decisions that I learned the most amazing lessons – lessons that changed my life forever.

So when my friend asked me this, several stories from my life came to mind, and I began to share them with him.  One one of the things I shared, in particular, was what I consider the biggest mistake of my life up to this point.

These stories, plus the time we shared together, were enough to change my friend’s perspective on his marriage. Realizations that came to him caused his tears of pain, fear, and uncertainty to turn into tears of joy, peace, and gratitude. He had heard what he needed to hear, seen what he needed to see, and understood what he needed to understand.

However, in sharing my observations – which I learned by virtue of bad choices made throughout my life – I relived many of the emotions associated with them. The shame, anxiety, regret, and sadness that accompanied the initial bad decisions revisited my heart, and I began to see myself as less than I was. The feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty my friend had felt were now duplicated within me.

But, being the wise man that he is, my friend looked at me – both of us were now crying – and said something that I will never forget.

“Dan, don’t beat yourself up. When you can finally teach someone else the lessons you learned because of your bad choices, you can know that you’ve finally been forgiven for what you did. What you’ve done here is beautiful. You’ve taught me from your experience. When you can teach someone something like that – something that you’ve learned from the mistakes of your past – then those mistakes no longer have any hold on you. You are free, and you are forgiven. You have transcended the mistakes.”

In the years since that conversation, I have thought much about what my said that day. There I was to comfort him, and in the end he comforted me and helped me find peace again.

———-

We can transcend ourselves. We can find peace. We can rise above the weaknesses of our lives, and soar like the eagles – confidently moving upon the winds which surround us.

The bad news is that we all have weaknesses, and we will sometimes fall. Each of us will make bad choices and will have to live with the resulting consequences.

The silver lining amidst it all is that there is hope. We can feel peace again. We can be made whole and move forward in our lives. We can transcend ourselves and move onward and upward into a brighter day.

When we can help others overcome, pass through, and learn from the things we have experienced, we unlock the key to our own freedom.

When we can teach or help another pass through the lessons we’ve learned from our mistakes, then we will know that we have finally transcended those things. And, in like manner, we transcend ourselves again and again.

Will you commit to transcend yourself today? What will you change? Who will you help?

Quotes on Being

The words you are about to read are a collection of various thoughts and quotes taken from my personal journals. In them I hope you can find something that will speak to your heart and help you on your way…

They do not follow any logical flow or conclusion so please read as you feel so prompted…

As human beings in this fast moving world we focus much time on how to, how to, how to. Just as vital as what you must do, however, is who you are.

As the germinating seed in growth, reaching up toward the light, becomes all that it was meant to be, so too as we stretch ourselves toward the light do we become all that we were meant to be.

Everyone is fighting hard; first against oneself, then against the world.

In the presence of what we are not, we become what we are; this is called ‘being’. This ‘being’ creates the world in which we dwell, and move, and live; a world of dualities and paradoxes, a world of truth and fiction, of black and white, of right and wrong. In not being all things have being, even you and I.

Contradictions define. Differences made clear clarify both sides. If you would discover what something is: decide what it is not. In not being all things have being.

In finding our purpose the search is not in finding something to do, but rather, in discovering who we are.

It’s not what we are accomplishing; it’s who we are becoming.

It is wisdom in itself to exclude those distractions, temptations, and sins, from the ever closing encircling that is taking place within our lives. We circle ever nearer to those things upon which our hearts are set. True success is found in circling in upon those refining, developing, godly things which invite us to move towards the light – for the end result of such a choice will fill our very lives with light.

In the search for True Self we must not look for it abroad. Many a man has spent his life in search of something outside himself that can only be discovered within.

It is not about accomplishing all of your goals and dreams in life; it is about who you become on the way to accomplishing all of your goals and dreams in life.

Out of the abundance of the mouth the heart speaketh.

Sacrifice is necessary, for we truly show who we want to become by the sacrifices we are willing to make. It is through the things that we actually sacrifice, however, that we become who we are.

All men become what they think about and they think about those things that they hear, read, see, and do. Guard your mind and you guard your destiny.

Stop seeing what you see and start seeing who you’ll be. Stop seeing what you see and start seeing who you’ll be.

The little things in life make all the difference. They determine who and what we will become.

The things that we learn we do. The things that we love we remember. The things that we live we become. All things that affect us for good or ill have been learned, loved, and lived.

There comes a time when it is no longer enough to show potential, but a time when we must live up to our potential.

True self is revealed when one analyzes the connections between oneself and one’s time; between oneself and one’s responsibilities; between oneself and one’s speech. The revealed differences that come from such an analysis truly show us for what we want and who we are.

We do not teach what we know, we teach who we are.

We form and create our destiny by who we become; all things stemming from our thoughts.

Who we are on the inside reflects on the outside, and in all the people, places, and things that we choose to surround ourselves with.

Who we become is but who we are today, drawn out over time.

Focus on what you are to become, not what you have done.

There come times in life when we must ask ourselves some questions; What do I want to be, do, accomplish, and be remembered as? Each time the answers change and a new journey begins.

The world is neither miserable nor joyous, but the people in it. The world is but a reflection of what we ourselves are.

Life is nothing more than the polishing of the stone we wish to become. To become such we must polish our ideas and in so doing, polish ourselves.

Read it twice, even three times, for it is a subtle difference. We do not become successful by what we do alone, but by who we are. Read it twice, even three times, for it is a subtle difference. We do not become successful by what we do alone, but by who we are.

As in temples of old, the great stone walls becoming sun bleached and marked by all who pass, so it is with the temples of our lives; through the bleaching and purifying process of life, and the marks left by all who pass that we become who we are today, immortalized in stone. We must remember, however, that the greatest shaping effect upon the temple of our lives, does not come from the bleaching and purifying experiences of life, nor from the marks left by those who pass, but from the way in which we have carved the stones and upon what we have built the foundation of who we are.

Until we awaken as the masters of our own Destiny we follow the principles and edicts of the culture and time in which we find ourselves. Will you allow the culture of your time to dictate your destiny? 

Or will you awaken from the dust, stand up, step out, and speak up? Will you decide who you will be? Will you shape the path of your own destiny or relegate yourself resignedly to whatever the world gives you?

What will you decide to be?
Who will you decide to be?
And who will decide, if not you?

Character and Obedience

Speaking of character in a recent article Richard G. Scott said, “It is the manifestation of what you are becoming. Your character will be the yardstick that God will use to determine how well you have used your mortal life… Strong character is more important than what you own, what you have learned, or what goals you have accomplished… Your character is being solidified by consistent correct choices… Neither Satan nor any other power can weaken or destroy your growing character. Only you can do that through disobedience…”

In the development of character obedience is at its core. It is our character, or our habits of obedience or disobedience, that are at stake in every decision we make, big or small. And in reality there are no big decisions – only small ones.

The real question is whether or not we will choose to cultivate a habit of obedience to the laws, commandments, and revelations of God? Or whether will we cultivate a habit of disobedience to those same laws as we seek to serve ourselves?

Whatever habit we create in the small decisions of our daily lives will be the habit we act from in our moments of crisis and confrontation.

It isn’t about the size of the decisions we make. It’s why we make them.

Are we are cultivating a habit of obedience, or of disobedience, to truth and direct revelation?

Will you trust God and cultivate a habit of obedience to the truths of the gospel and what you have received as personal revelation? Or will you cultivate disobedience as you rationalize the deviations and distractions that take you from fully living as you know you ought, no matter how sound, reasonable, or logical, such rationalizations may seem at the time?

—– Receiving Revelation —–

Nearly a year ago I was sitting in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Taking in the calmness which surrounded me I began to wonder what God thought about my beard. I’d heard, and participated in, numerous arguments back and forth about whether or not it was acceptable to have a beard in the temple, or in church at all. I wanted to know God’s thoughts on the matter and determined to ask Him as I sat there.

Bowing my head I reaffirmed to myself and to God that whatever He told me I would honor and obey, aligning my life with whatever I was taught. I know that it was precisely because I felt this way that I received an answer.

Thoughts flowed calmly into my mind as I listened, “You may grow your beard as you like, my son, but when you come into my house, whether here (in the temple) or in one of my chapels I would ask that you come clean shaven before me. It will show the respect you have for Me and help you prepare yourself spiritually for coming into my house.”

Since then I have shaved each and every Sunday prior to going to church and every day that I have attended the temple.

Now, I do not try to insinuate in any way that I have received revelation for the church at large, or for anyone but myself. This is a personal commandment I received in response to a heartfelt prayer. It came as I sincerely sought the mind and the will of the Lord regarding how I should act before Him. Aside from the commandments of the gospel, which are for all men, you must seek your own revelation and confirmation with regard to how you should live your life. The interesting thing is that often you will already know the answer before you ask – you will have already felt what is right and in prayer will find the confirmation of what you have already felt in your heart.

—– The Small Things —–

So why is this story important?

Well, this past Friday a rather large and painfully obvious cold sore had formed on my upper lip. It was not a pretty sight and I had decided not to shave that morning because of it. I told myself that shaving would risk the possibility of nicking it with my razor, which would hurt, and that having a beard would serve to hide it somewhat so that it didn’t stand out so much.

So Sunday, prior to going to church, I was trimming around the edges of my beard, questioning if I really should shave my beard off all the way or not. As I pondered this questions began flooding into my mind…

“What is more important to you? Keeping the commandments of God or how you appear to others? Will you obey God and honor the promptings, revelations, and commandments you have received – no matter how small they may be? Or will you endeavor to hide your imperfections, and disobey the word of the Lord concerning you, for fear of what others will think? What is more important to you? Keeping the commandments of God, or worrying about how you are perceived by your fellowmen?”

Well that was very direct, I thought. And there was my answer. There was no explaining that away as an overactive mind. Those questions were right. The choice before me was very clear. And though it was not what most would call a big or important choice it was. In reality there are no big choices, only small ones. I was reminded that all big things hinge upon the small and simple things of life and that by very small things are great things brought to pass. The great moments of our lives will be but comprised of smaller moments all put together.

Some of the biggest lessons of my life have come from the smallest and simplest experiences of my life. This would be no different. This simple cold sore had become an instrument in God’s hand to teach me a deeper lesson: to remind me that every decision in life is 1) a small one, and to teach me that 2) it is really about whether or not we cultivate the habit of obedience or disobedience to what we have received.

If I chose to follow God’s commandments now (shaving), what most would call an unimportant decision, then wouldn’t I choose to follow God’s commandments when it really mattered? If I chose to follow His commands now when the discomfort to myself would be small, slightly physical and a little socially, then wouldn’t I do so when the discomfort, and consequences, were real?

If I hold true to the revelations He has given me, and the truths of the gospel, in the small decisions of my life then won’t I hold to them when the larger decisions of life arise? Won’t honoring what I have received now help to cultivate the habit of obedience so that when I am sorely tempted or distracted it can be relied upon to keep me upon the sure path of truth?

—– Self-Evaluation —–

What about you?

Are you cultivating a habit of obedience, or disobedience, to what you have received? What are the small things that you need to work on? What truths have you forgotten, or been distracted from applying in your life? Where have you rationalized the deviations which have led you to this point? And where can you improve and get back on track?

What small decision will you make today to come into alignment with the truths you already know in your heart to be true?

That one decision will make all the difference.

"It is the habits we choose to keep, in the face of change, that shape our future."

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