Thursday, January 25, 2007

Seeking the Spirit

As I've discussed over at my Book of Mormon Inspection blog, I started writing my thoughts about each chapter I read when I was a missionary. Now I'm posting them and sharing them with the Internet world. Some entries were better than others. Sometimes I'd get so caught up in what I was going to write rather than on learning. When I focused on feeling the Spirit and learning something, then the writing part was really easy. And so it went that if I didn't focus on what I was getting out of the scriptures, my entries were poor. But when I really focused on learning from the scriptures, I found that I thought of many things I wanted to write about.

The same thing happened today at lunch. As usual, I read a chapter and then write some commentary on it or how I can apply the teachings to my life. After reading 2 Nephi 15, I didn't really get much out of it. I read a few things from the gospel library as well as, but I wasn't feeling inspired. But I thought some more and waited for the feeling to come. As I reviewed 2 Nephi 15:4, Elder Holland's talk came to mind. I didn't remember what talk it was or which General Conference it was, rather I remembered the feeling I had when I first listened to that talk. The Spirit made such an impression on my spirit that I've not fogotten it. And so I went and found the talk and read it over again and felt the same spirit as when I first heard it.

We can't simply expect to have spiritual experiences come to us every day. Sometimes they will, but more often than not, we must seek them out. If we exercise a little faith, then those experiences will come every day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Family

Our sacrament meeting talks were about the family and what we can do to strengthen our families.

The first talk was by a young woman who comes from a large family. She is the oldest at 19 and her youngest sibling is 3. What touched me from her talk was the love she has for her parents and younger brothers and sisters. She mentioned in her talk how her younger brother's favorite book is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and how he will go to every person in the house and ask each one of them to read the book to him. Mostly he gets replies that they are busy. But one of her sisters always drops anything that she is doing and reads to him whenever he asks her. It was a very touching story. How un-selfish an act to stop whatever you are doing to read to a child.

I am the youngest of 7 children in my family and I can remember feeling loved by my parents and older brothers and sisters. My most fondest childhood memories are with family. I feel that because of those happy times, I am a better husband and father. Because I felt love in my parent's home, I desire to create that love in my home today. Part of my patriarchal blessing counsels me to appreciate and keep strong the bonds within my family because they will be important to me througout the eternities.

I've always taken the importance of family for granted. Knowing that family is important was always a given growing up. So in 1995, I was a bit non-plussed about the Proclamation on the Family. I really didn't understand the importance of that document at the time. As I look back, I think I didn't realize at the time how the family was under attack. It wasn't until I had my own family did I realize the importance of that document.

When people find out that we have 4 children, they are usually taken aback. The first question from their mouth is "are you done?" And I agree with a gentleman I spoke with yesterday who said that there was a time when a family of 4 children was considered average or below average. Now, 4 children is "big" by today's standards.

How the world's troubles would begin to vanish if everyone began to focus more on repairing and building a strong family. Would it hurt to drop what you are doing and read a book to your child? It might be fun to take your kids to the park or play toys with them. Why not pass something you love onto your children ... if you love to play chess, as I do, then spend time with your kids playing chess. Take your kids to the gym and play basketball. Go jump on the trampoline with them the next time you're outside. Teach them how to play catch or ride a bicycle. Say you're sorry if you lose your temper in front of them. Work with them ... help them to clean the kitchen or rake leaves. Read the scriptures and pray with them every day. Sit down with them and work on their homework together. Sing a song to them. Laugh with them. Tell them you love them ... very often. Hug them and kiss them on their cheeks. Let them hug and kiss you on your cheeks. Be the best Dad and Mom to your kids and they will grow up with a healthy sense of what a righteous family is all about.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blow by Blow, Brick by Brick

When I was in the MTC, one of my teachers counseled us to strive to have a spritual experience every day. Sometimes the experiences would be big, but many times they would be regular experiences ... such as when we read the scriptures. But the point is to strive to have those spiritual experiences every day.

Later on in my mission, I came accross a quote by Og Mandino. I've kept this quote with me over the years and I've found that it has helped me a lot when trying to focus on a goal. I think the quote can apply to striving to have spiritual experiences every day.

Henceforth, I will consider each day's effort as but one blow of my blade against a mighty oak. The first blow may cause not a tremor in the wood, nor the second, nor the third. Each blow, of itself, may be trifling, and seem of no consequence. Yet from childish swipes the oak will eventually tumble. So it will be with my efforts of today.

I will be liken to the rain drop which washes away the mountain; the ant who devours a tiger; the star which brightens the earth; the slave who builds a pyramid. I will build my castle one brick at a time for I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.

Consistency is the key. If we strive to feel the Spirit every day, then the Spirit will eventually fill our lives and we will be guided more easily to do our Father in Heaven's will. And just as with anything else in life, if we don't practice (whatever we're trying to get better at), then we won't succeed.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Spiritual Improvement

Sunday School and Elder's Quorum meetings were really good yesterday. I taught Gospel Doctrine again. We finally have a teacher called and he'll begin next week. But while I had the chance, I taught Gospel Doctrine. Class participation was pretty good. I felt pretty good about how the lesson was going, but it seemed to be hobbling along. Then one sister gave this great comment to a question I posed. We were discussing the mission of John the Baptist and how we can apply what he did to our own lives. The comment she made was that we need to find our own calling in life. Of course she elaborated more than that, but the essence was really good. From there I bore my testimony about how not only should we "do" all the Sunday School answers (pray, read the scriptures, temple attendance, go to church, serve, etc.) but that we should specifically ask Heavenly Father what it is we need to say or do with regard to our families and those over whom we have a responsibility.

For example, we can pray about what we should say in our lesson to our families that we visit and teach. We can pray to know whose life we can touch that day. I told the class of an article I read by Elder Eyring when I was a missionary about how he would pray every morning to know whose life he could touch that day. I just went and found the article. Elder Eyring's son said, “Something that we all feel about Dad is that he has the ability to make us feel that we are valuable people. He always makes me want to try harder. My father has told us that there are two things that he prays for every night. The first is, ‘What blessings do I have that I am not aware of?’ and the second is, ‘Whom can I help?’ And,” Matthew adds, “Dad says there has never been a day that his prayers haven’t been answered.” (Ensign, September 1995, 10) So Sunday School went well and I felt the Spirit.

Elder's Quorum was really good too. The teacher was really animated (he's a great person!). Anyway, we got into a discussion about what we need to overcome in this life. He gave this pretty good analogy. He said that life is like walking up an escalator that is going down. If we stand still, then we'll go down. If we walk or run the other direction, then we'll overcome the downward pull of the "natural man." What I really liked is when he said that know what our temptations are and if we know what they are, then we know how to overcome them and then it is simply a matter of doing it. President Kimball was a big promoter of doing rather than knowing. Knowing is important, but doing is more important. It was a good lesson.

Our home is sold. We have a contract on a new home. It's all a matter of time and signatures now. January 31 is the big day. We're hoping to rent our place back from the new owners so that we have a bit of time to move out and clean it up. A lot of people in our ward (along with the missionaries) are going to have a great opportunity to serve at the end of the month!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Faith and Home-buying

My wife and I are in the midst of selling and buying a home. It is stressful.

At this point, we are in the option period of the contract to sell our current home. We have also made one offer on a very nice home. But at the same time, another nice home has come to our attention and we're working out some details on that home with the current owner. We may make an offer on that home too and then decide which one to purchase.

We went through this several years ago when we bought our first home. We looked at half a dozen homes before whittling the search down to two. Our home has served us very well. There have been some minor and major repairs, but we're still floating. It was a leap of faith with the first home. We had bought our first car six months before our first home and I was obsessivly worried about our finances. I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to afford a car payment and a new home. Also, we only had one child when we bought the home and so I was also concerned about being able to support a growing family. But despite all my worries, we survived.

We faithfully paid our tithing and made generous fast offerings. My paycheck gradually increased. We had our 2nd child and then our 3rd child and finally our 4th child. With the addition of our 4th, our house is quite cramped. Our 4th currently sleeps in our closet! We thought my company was going to move us with a job transfer, but the transfer never came. So we've decided that we're not going to wait for the company to decide our fate regarding a home purchase.

I made some initial calculations about how much we can afford. It wasn't until this week that I found a few flaws in my estimates. It turns out that our new mortgage will be much more than our current. As it is, our budget is very strained. I've not changed much ... I am still overly obsessive about our finances. So I've been pulling my hair out and ranting to my wife about how we might go bankrupt with this new house. But she keeps reminding me of the feeling we've had about this decision.

We've both felt that this is the right move (buying a larger home for our family). So now we just need to have faith and trust that everything will work out eventually ... just like when we fretted over buying our first home.

So I'm writing this while we're in the midst of selling and buying so that I can look back on this day and see that when we trust in the Lord, things will work out. I hope to report several months from now that all is well in our home and that our decision was indeed lead by the Spirit.

In my heart I know things will work out.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Responsibility of the Tribe of Judah

In my previous post, I forgot to mention one other thing I heard yesterday at church. One of the older members of our ward bore his testimony. He's been a member many, many years and seems very knowledgeable about the Gospel.

In his testimony, he mentioned that one of his grandchildren (or great-grandchildren) recently received his patriarchal blessing. All of his sons and daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchilden have been from the tribe of Ephrium. Well, this last one is from the tribe of Judah. I assume he is not adopted because this elder brother bearing his testimony did not say anything about adoption. But the comment he made on this fact is interesting. He said that they looked up what the responsibilities of the tribe of Judah are and they found that the main responsibility is leadership in the 2nd coming.

I've been searching all over today trying to find a definitive answer, but I haven't found anything thus far. The only really helpful article I found is from the March 1971 Ensign by Ellis T. Rasmussen. In this article he mentions (at least that's how I read it) that Judah's task is to be faithful to one God and to be an example to the rest of the World. One quote from the article says,
To some extent Judah’s descendants have remained as witnesses of the power of faith and fidelity to the one God, and of the moral and ethical values and the validity of his laws for man if man will live them.

So I read that to mean that indeed, Judah has always been and will always be a leader.

If I find any other information on the topic, I'll be sure to add it to this post.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Today At Church

A lot of the times at church (Sunday meetings) I am really occupied with tending to our kids and getting things ready for my calling. I don't have a whole lot of time to focus on the spiritual. It is a sad commentary on today's church. We're so busy that we often don't make time to listen to the Spirit at church.

But other times, like today, I "get" a few things out of the meetings.

Missionary Marathon

The first one was from a sister's testimony. She ran a marathon last month. Despite being on Sunday, the marathon proved to a be a spiritual experience for her as well as a missionary opportunity. She said that she didn't know anyone at the race and it was at mile 7 before she talked to anyone. This other lady jogged up next to the sister and they started talking. By mile 21, they had had a somewhat deep conversation about religion. The sister was able to tell this other lady about the LDS church. The other lady was so impressed that she decided to check out when she got home that day. It was a really neat testimony and I learned that no matter what you're doing or where you are, there are missionary opportunities to be had.


The second significant event happened in Priesthood. Sunday School was good too, but since I was teaching and was so nervous, I don't remember a whole lot. But in Priesthood meeting, we were discussing a talk given by President Faust. His talk was entitled "Spiritual Nutrients." One of the nutrients is service. The teacher gave this example of when he was a teenager about how they gathered a bunch of food and gifts and then took them to an orphanage south of Tiajuana, Mexico. As soon as he mentioned that, I remembered the time I went to TJ.

It was my first Christmas home from my mission. I served in Central America and learned to speak Spanish. I was in San Diego for Christmas with my brother and his family. One day we rounded up a ton of gifts and then drove to TJ to an orphanage. I remember crossing the border and then seeing all the Latin buildings ... it was like I was back in Central America. We arrived at the orphanage and distributed the gifts and then sat around and played with and talked to the kids. I remember holding a few younger kids and reading them some books in Spanish. My brother and his wife speak Spanish too, so it was really neat for all of us to speak freely with those orphans and nuns who ran it.

But that memory lit a small fire in my heart. I remembered how much fun it was to serve others and to see the smiles on their faces. That memory gave me more desires to find opportunities to serve.

Today was a good day at Church.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Purpose of This Blog

As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I kept a Book of Mormon commentary journal. Every time I read through the Book of Mormon, I revise my commentary on it. This time through the Book of Mormon, I am posting my commentary on a blog. There have been many times that I have wanted to post my thoughts about a gospel topic or something that I thought of that does not fit into my Book of Mormon blog. This blog will capture these thoughts.

Also, there are times when I study a topic and write up notes on it. This blog will be a place where I can share my thoughts and learnings on a gosepel topic. This blog will also be a forum for feedback and discussion on these thoughts and topics (if I have any readers out there).

The name of this blog, Spiritual North, is derived from a talk by Elder Robert D. Hales from the October 1994 General Conference. In that talks he states,
"Individual testimonies are the foundation and strength of the Church. Our testimony provides a guiding light that leads to a commitment which directs our conduct and our way of life. Our testimony is true north on a spiritual compass. It is a moving force that cannot be seen but can truly be felt. It is a burning within that tells us what is right."