Monday, December 27, 2010

A Great Love

Alma 20

v. 26

I love reading the account of Ammon and his brothers as missionaries.  It always brings up the feelings I had while I was a missionary in France almost 25 years ago.

Verse 26 tells how King Lamoni's father was astonished at the love that Ammon felt for his son, and that his son returned.  And it brings back thoughts of Sr. Le Tendre, Marie-Cecile, Albanne, Julien and Patrice, and many more.  The reason I loved my mission so much was that I loved the people I met so much.  We shared so much joy as I taught them the things that I knew to be true, as I offered them the opportunity to come unto Christ and delight in His gospel.  I loved them.  I loved the work I was doing.  I felt closer to my Heavenly Father than ever before.

I think about the time when this life is over and we all meet again.  Hugs and tears and laughter, and thank you's, I'm sure.  Unnecessary thank you's, because I've been blessed over and over again, not the least by their love and association.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Learning of Jesus Christ

Alma 18

I wonder what it would be like to hear of Jesus Christ for the first time.  I can not remember a time in my life where I did not know Him.  I was taught in my home and at church from the time I was but a toddler.  Ours has always been a Christ-centered home.

What if it had been different?  What if I had led my life not knowing him at all?  Growing up, playing with friends, going to school, fighting with my siblings -- all the normal things and stages we go through in this life -- but minus Christ in my life.

I can't imagine making it through the trials I did without knowing He was there, loving me.  I can't imagine making it through the darkness of teenage years without being able to cry out for help.  I can't imagine getting married without the peaceful reassurance of the Spirit that this was the one for me.  I can't imagine figuring out those early married years on my own.  I can't imagine -- and I cringe at the thought -- trying to raise my children in this world without His help.  And I can't imagine making it through day after day of this chronic illness without His comfort, His love, His succor.

What a remarkable moment it must have been for King Lamoni to discover that he had a Savior who loved him so much He had died for him.  And then to try the experiment, to call upon the Lord for forgiveness of His sins, and to discover with a full knowledge that Ammon's words were true.  Yes, I can see how overwhelming it would be.  I can see how one might lose strength and be carried away for a period of time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Power In Christ

Alma 17

I've read these chapters many times, delighting in the stories of the great missionary, Ammon.  I wondered if there would be anything new for me to find in it this time.  Silly me, of course there is, because I come to the stories with different needs.

As Ammon faces the enemies, who are numerous, who try to scatter the flocks of the king, I am reminded of my own enemies that threaten my serenity and peace of mind, that try to place me at odds with my eternal King. 

By the power of Christ, Ammon was able to defeat every man who tried to harm him.  As they raised up their arms to smite him with their clubs, he smote off their arms with his sword.  He cut them off at the source of their power, rendering them harmless.

I, too, can turn to Christ to give me power to cut off my enemies at the source of their power, at the very beginning when they raise their weapons against me.  I come unto Him humbly, offering a broken heart and a contrite spirit, making myself worthy to receive the promptings of His Spirit.  Then, He will strengthen me, guide me, refresh me against evil.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remembering Jesus Christ

Alma 7

v. 10 And behold, he shall be aborn of Mary, at bJerusalem which is the cland of our forefathers, she being a dvirgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and econceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. 

v.11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and aafflictions and btemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will ctake upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

v. 12 And he will take upon him adeath, that he may bloose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccor his people according to their infirmities.

I'm lucky it's the Christmas season with so many reminders to remember Him.  I also love how my Heavenly Father gives me just the message I need to hear when I need to hear it most.  A reminder and a testimony that He has taken upon Him my pains and my sicknesses.  That His bowels are filled with mercy towards me.  That He knows how to succor me.
v. 19 For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness; I perceive that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God; yea, I perceive that ye are making his apaths straight.

After yesterday's scriptures which were harsher in nature, calling me to repentance for allowing the ravenous wolves to enter my heart, here is God's reassurance.  He knows that I'm doing the best that I can, that my desires are righteous, that I am keeping the commandments and making progress.  He reassures me that through my faithfulness, I am indeed "His people," and that I qualify for the succor the Savior stands ready to offer me.

His arms are open.  Ask, and ye shall receive.  Go and find comfort there in His embrace.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Conquering Despair

Alma 5

I live with a chronic illness that keeps me pretty much housebound.  It is a constant, daily struggle to remain positive and upbeat.  Despair is waiting, every day, just outside the door.  And sometimes it seeps in and overcomes me.

Such was my day yesterday.  It settled in, and I wallowed in the darkness all day long.  I prayed.  I listened to conference talks.  I tried my mindless pursuits of watching TV and silly computer games.  I prayed some more.

It didn't lift.  I doubted my faith.  How could I keep falling back into despair?  Why was I unable to maintain meek submissiveness like a child?  Why was I not long-suffering and patient.  Why was I unable to carry this burden, shoulder this disease with grace and dignity?

I had no answers, and sleep was a welcome relief by the time night fell.  But I woke up today, and the feelings remained.

As my husband was giving me the sacrament at home yesterday, the words that stood out to me were "always remember him."  I realized that I had not remembered Him at all.  I didn't remember that my Savior had descended below all things, and more importantly, that He had already borne these particular burdens of mine.  Although I had prayed, I did not specifically come unto Christ and ask him to help me with this.

So, today I decided to try to do better.  I started my day with my scripture reading, which is focused on coming to Christ.

v. 6 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in aremembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has bdelivered their souls from hell?

Ah, there's that word again, remembrance.

v. 13 And behold, he apreached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their btrust in the true and cliving God. And behold, they were faithful until the dend; therefore they were saved.

I'm a list kind of girl.  I like to know, step by step, what I'm supposed to do.  I so want a change in my heart, to lift the despair and let peace and joy reside there once again.  How am I to do it?  By 1. humbling myself, 2. trusting in God, and 3. being faithful.

Trusting in God is an important step.  Of course I'm humble, this illness compels me to be humble.  Trusting in God means that He knows the reasons behind this illness, He knows why I have not yet been healed, He knows exactly what I need to become more like Him and to become fit for the kingdom.  He knows the day and the hour of my deliverance.  I need to trust in Him and wait.

v. 16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye ablessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

Well, right now, um, no.  How can my works be works of righteousness when my heart is darkened by despair?  There is no room for the voice of the Spirit to guide me.  There is only wallowing and wandering and a desperate attempt to merely survive the onslaught.

v. 40 For I say unto you that whatsoever is agood cometh from God, and whatsoever is bevil cometh from the devil.

I know the source of my despair.  It is not from my Heavenly Father, who wants me to find joy in every season.  Satan must laugh during days like these, because he has me bound.  I am no good, to myself or to others.

v. 59 For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his aflock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him.

v. 60 And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.

The Lord is my shepherd.  If I come unto Him, He will drive the ravenous wolves out of my heart.  He will not suffer that I be destroyed.
Today I will remember Him.  I will cry unto Him often, asking Him to let me take His yoke upon me, that my burdens will not feel so heavy upon my shoulders.  I will pray.  I will talk to Him.  I will share my pain, my frustration, my sorrow.  I will ask Him to help me drive the wolves away.  I will find some good to do.  I will let Him wrought a mighty change in my heart.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Choose Ye This Day


1 And now, it came to pass that after Abinadi had spoken these words he stretched forth his hand and said: The time shall come when all shall see the asalvation of the Lord; when bevery nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall cconfess before God that his djudgments are just.

The time will come when all men will know that the words spoken by the prophets are true, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and the Redeemer of all mankind.   Denial will no longer be a luxury they can maintain. 

12 Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would anot; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent.
I think of my Savior, His arms outstretched, inviting.  I think about the times I have received His invitation and thrown myself into His arms in tears.  I think about how every time, He has comforted and healed me.  I know that each time I come unto Him, He will comfort and heal me.  And then I think of all the people who "would not."  Those who choose their own willfulness over the rest He offers.  It makes me feel sad. 

The gospel is simple.  The plan of happiness is simple.  Love God.  Turn to His Son.  Do your best.  Love others.  Be happy, be happy, be happy.

Today, I choose to be happy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How Beautiful Upon The Mountains Are Their Feet

Mosiah 15

9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon ahimself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and bsatisfied the demands of justice.

Imagine that you are hearing these words for the first time (perhaps you are).  Jesus Christ, motivated only by love for you, descended below all and redeemed you.  No longer must you be weighed down with sin, for He has already borne them for you.  No more need you fear death, for He has conquered it, and you will live again.  He has offered you peace and joy in this world and in the world to come.

How do you react?  My heart fills with joy, hope, gratitude, and love.  Others -- as we will see later in this section of Mosiah -- react in anger.

Anger?  I do not understand it.  I am glad it is beyond my comprehension, because it means that someone is so deeply entrenched in their sins, that they have chosen evil so many times that they have grown to love it.  I cannot say they are happy in their ways; that is contrary to eternal truth.  But they are addicted to the satisfaction of it, the thrill, the adrenaline rush perhaps.  They choose to remain lost and rebellious.

14 And these are athey who have published peace, who have brought good btidings of good, who have cpublished salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!
15 And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet! 
Thank you to the missionaries who first came to my father's house when he was a teenage boy.  And thank you to the missionaries who came to see my mom when she was a very young mother.  Thank you to my parents who taught me the truths that they knew, and helped me learn to love those truths.  Thank you to the prophets who testify of Him still.  Your feet are beautiful upon the mountains to me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

With His Stripes We Are Healed

Mosiah 14

  3 He is adespised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
  4 Surely he has aborne our bgriefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
  5 But he was awounded for our btransgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are chealed
I can read these verses over and over again.  They make me feel so much love for my Savior.  A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  Sometimes, in my darkest trials, the Spirit whispers to me that there is someone who understands exactly what I'm going through.  Only one.  He alone knows just how painful this is, just how much strength and courage it takes to get through this day, or even through this one moment.  He has already borne this grief.  He knows.

There is something amazingly comforting knowing you are not alone, that you don't have to carry your burdens alone.  It is like being yoked to Him; He takes the weight off your shoulders just enough that you can bear it.  Without Him, it is crushing.  Just too much.

This is what I think about when I try to understand the atonement.  This is how I strive to apply the atonement in my life.  I come to my Savior, Jesus Christ, with my burdens, and I lay them at His feet.  He whispers to my heart, "I know.  I understand.  Follow me, and we'll get through this."  And then the miracle occurs.  I am healed.

I've explained to my children the miracle of the atonement isn't just that Christ has taken away our sins.  It is that He heals us from the pain in our lives that drove us to sin in the first place.  The evil that we do, the sins that we commit are usually a poor attempt to muffle the pain in our lives.  It is because we are healed that we have no more desire to do evil, that we can find joy in doing good continually.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Steadfast and Immovable

Mosiah 5

Description of being born again:

mighty change
no more disposition to do evil
great views
know the Savior's voice
abounding in good works

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beware of Pride

Mosiah 4
Beware Of Pride by Ezra Taft Benson

"Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. (See Mosiah 3:11; 3 Ne. 6:18.) In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby. (See 2 Ne. 4:15; Mosiah 1:3–7; Alma 5:61.)

"Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

"The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means 'hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.' It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of 'my will and not thine be done.' As Paul said, they 'seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.' (Philip. 2:21.)"

It's interesting how, when you are studying a topic, you are led to other sources that help you understand, that deepen the meaning of what you are learning.  I have been wanting to know by what yardstick I can measure my journey in coming unto Christ.  And I think I've been largely on track: I will know if my love towards others is increasing, and it will be evident in the service I render to others.

The article I found on pride reveals the obstacles that Satan places to distract me from that goal.  Pride makes me feel superior to others, justifies me in not reaching out to people who "deserve" their situation.  It keeps me from humbling myself and submitting to my own circumstances, no matter how challenging they may be.  It encourages me to push my own agenda rather than listening to find out what God has planned for me.

Funny, how much you find that needs to change once you decide it's time to change.

Action items:  Pray to be humble.  Ask to know God's will, and accept it.  Pray to see opportunities to be kind.  Identify judgmental thoughts and correct them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Natural Man

Mosiah 3

I was listening to a radio talk show host yesterday, and he mentioned how most people are naturally pessimistic.  It's really easy to focus on the negative things in your life, the miseries, the sufferings, and to let them overshadow the abundance of good that is there, also.  I know that I am torn constantly between the two camps.  I try so hard to be brave, to endure my illness with grace and dignity, to rise above the suffering every single day.  But it is every single day.  That's the nature of a chronic illness.  It's chronic.  It never goes away.  There is a despair that is always lurking just outside the door, waiting for a moment's weakness to creep in and overtake my heart.  I admit that I give in to it sometimes.  Lately, more often than I'd like to admit.  Such is the natural man.

v. For the anatural bman is an cenemy to God, and has been from the dfall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he eyields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a jchild, ksubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

The natural man is an enemy to me, too.  It robs me of my joy, my peace of mind, my sense of accomplishment.  I think I am circling back, as is often the case, to things I already know:  I need to invite the Spirit into my life; I need to hear it and yield to its enticings.  I need to apply the atonement of Jesus Christ more fully in my life.  I need to let Him heal me.  I need to remember to be submissive, meek, humble, patient, and full of love.

v. 7 And lo, he shall asuffer btemptations, and pain of body, chunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can dsuffer, except it be unto death; for behold, eblood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his fanguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

Jesus Christ has already suffered what I am feeling now, and greater.  My pain is not as great as his; my fatigue is not as great, either.  He knows exactly how I feel.  He can succor me, comfort me, show me the way to be able to bear these burdens.  I need to come unto Him, open my heart, humble myself, and let Him teach  me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Mosiah 2

As I started my scripture study this morning, I was thinking about how I could tell if I am "coming unto Christ."  What changes would I expect to see?  How would I be different?  The answer that came to mind would be that I would have a greater love for people.  The way that I would show my love would be through service.

v. 17  And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn awisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the bservice of your cfellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

So, I think that my desire to be kinder, to find ways to act kindly towards others is a step in the right direction.  Another way that I think I can tell if I am coming unto Christ is if I grow in gratitude.

King Benjamin pointed out that we are already indebted to God because He gave us life and all the opportunities that life brings.  Then, God has commanded us to keep His commandments, which if we do, He immediately blesses us.  So we remain indebted still.  I think that coming unto Christ would awaken a sense of that indebtedness.  Especially as I think about the atonement and the great sacrifice that my Savior made for me.  It makes me feel of His love.  It makes my own love grow.

This month, with Thanksgiving approaching, reminds us of the many blessings we are grateful for.  But I don't think I should need a reminder.  I should feel gratitude the way that I feel love for my husband and children, naturally and without force.

Hm.  Something to think about, something to watch.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Enos 1

v. 27  And I soon go to the place of my arest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall brest. And I rejoice in the day when my cmortal shall put on dimmortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the emansions of my Father. Amen.  

I love how this chapter ends.  The chapter begins with Enos's  "wrestle" which he had before God.  He prayed all day and into the night for forgiveness of his sins, and then he heard a voice that told him his sins were forgiven.  Then he continued to pray first for his own people, and then for his enemies. 

After this great experience, he spent the rest of his days laboring for the Lord.  And it wasn't easy.   The people were quick to do evil, hard-hearted.  It took a lot of work, a lot of preaching and testifying to keep them turned to God.  He must have been weary after so many years.  His rest was well-deserved.

I know what it means to yearn for rest.  My illness has taken rest away from me.  I never feel rested, not after many hours of sleep at night, not after my nap during the day.  I wake up unrested, I pass my days unrested, a constant weariness is in my bones.  This is the nature of the disease.  And so this verse speaks deeply to my heart.  Rest.  It is my greatest desire.

But through my suffering, I do find rest in my Savior.  Not a physical rest, but a spiritual and emotional rest.  I love reading the scriptures in the morning.  It lifts me from my morning fog, it helps me over the despair of facing another difficult day.  My burdens do not weigh so heavily upon me.  I am lighter.  I feel loved.  I feel encouraged.

There are many labors, many fights we must fight in this life.  I'm grateful for Enos's testimony of what is waiting for us at the end of it all, if we fight the good fight and stay true. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Doctrine of Christ

2 Nephi 31-33

2 Nephi 31:13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall afollow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no bhypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real cintent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are dwilling to take upon you the ename of Christ, by fbaptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the gbaptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the htongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
The doctrine of Christ is simple, and taught by Jesus Christ himself.  Have faith in Him.  Repent of your sins.  Follow Him into the waters of baptism.  Then receive the Holy Ghost.  Finally, endure to the end.

Many people believe it is enough to stop at the first step: to believe in Christ and His power to save.  They deny themselves the power of the process, the lifetime of healing and growth that He offers us.

The Holy Ghost tells us what we should do next.  It inspires us to live Christ-like lives.  It leads us to do good.  It illuminates weaknesses and inspires us to change.  It turns us to our Savior, the only one who can make the necessary changes to our hearts, to our nature.  Jesus Christ did not save us just once.  He saves us over and over again, as many times as we sin, as many times as we fail, as many times as we fall short of the person He knows we can be.  It is by drawing on that process -- having faith and repenting of our sins and weaknesses -- that we draw upon the power of the atonement.  It is that process that makes us more like Him.

I know that I want to feel the Holy Ghost more powerfully in my life.  Nephi taught the way is by prayer.  Pray always, morning and night, and sometimes in the middle of the day, too.  I know I do this.  A thought comes to mind -- oh, Johnette has a test today -- and I'll say a quick prayer in my mind, "Bless her to do her best."  When I'm suffering, I pray, "Lord, I'm having a really tough time."  When I think about our business struggling, I'll ask him to bless my husband and send an interesting customer to make him happy that day.  When somebody mentions that they or a loved one is sick or having a hard time, I pray in my mind, "Lord, bless them through their afflictions.  Help them like you've helped me."  Just quickies.  But I can make these prayers more frequent, and I can ask for help and invite the Holy Ghost to lead me better.

I want to be kind.  I want to find opportunities to do acts of kindness, even though I am pretty much housebound and isolated from the people I would normally be kind to.  I'll try to remember to say some quick prayers to help me see those opportunities.

Kind of along those lines, I've been praying for the family I don't much like in the neighborhood.  It's helping me to step away from my judgments.  What do I really know about them, anyway?  Only what I've seen from a distance.  My prayers are softening my heart, I believe.  It's a good step forward.

Friday, October 29, 2010

One Step At A Time

2 Nephi 9

v. 41 "Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel."

The path for man is narrow, so narrow that there is only room to put one foot in front of the other, step by step, always moving toward Christ.  It's a journey, this path, and a constant discovery.  I become aware of some flaw in me, at times a very big flaw, sometimes just something small and bothersome.  With faith, I take the first step and acknowledge it.  I want to change.  I believe that my Savior will help me.  I look to His life and see how to do it.  I take a step in His direction.  I feel His love and encouragement.  Encouragement.  Giving me courage.  As I move away from my flaw and toward my Savior, He heals me.  Happiness floods that area in my life where pain used to be.  I am lighter, I am stronger.  I can see clearer.  See another flaw.  Take another step.  Just one step at a time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


2 Nephi 2

v. 28  "And now, my son, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of the Holy Spirit."  (emphasis added)

I like the sequence of that verse.  Look to Christ.  See what He did during his life and ministry.  He set the example.  Learn of Him.  Then hearken to His commandments.  Listen to the counsel He gave during His ministry.  Let His teachings sink into your heart.  And then choose.  Choose to follow Him.  Choose to obey.

How interesting that merely three days into this experiment, I have come upon an opportunity to apply what I'm learning.  We had a minor incident in the neighborhood.  You know, the kind that neighborhoods always have.  And it's not the first time we've had a problem with this particular family.  I feel perfectly justified in my emotions towards them.  The little boy was mean.  I don't like the parents.  I don't like the way they handled things the last time, and I don't like how it's being handled now.  Surely, I can puff my chest out in righteous indignation and feel superior.  Seriously, I'm that sure I'm right about all this.

And yet... I know by how I'm feeling that I'm not handling it right.  I'm not being a peacemaker.  I'm not "loving [my] neighbor."  I'm not forgiving seventy times seven.  I'm certainly not loving my enemies.

There are things I can do immediately that will soothe hurt feelings just a little bit, just enough to not let this boil over into the entire neighborhood.  But I know that, for this experiment to work, I need to go beyond that.  I need to learn to forgive and to change the way I feel about them.  I need to put into practice the most basic of Christ's teachings.

Ah, humility.  It's a hard thing to learn, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turn Their Hearts Aside

1 Nephi 19

I've often thought about what it would be like to have lived in Jerusalem during the days of Christ.  What would I have thought of this stranger, preaching strange things?  What would I have felt?  Would I have followed my heart and followed Him?  Or would I have turned my heart aside, like so many people did back then.  I know what I would like to believe.  We would all like to believe that we would have been numbered among the few who listened to Him, who felt our hearts burn within us, who left everything to follow Him, even to the foot of the cross where He hung and died for us. 

I think the answer lies in my life today.  I read about the Savior, His life, His ministry.  I learn about His great love and long-suffering.  I feel my heart burning with gratitude, with testimony.  But what do I do with these feelings?  I can honestly say that I try, each and every day, to remember Him -- to remember His example, to remember His sacrifice, to remember His love, to remember His friendship.  I want to be like Him.  I strive to be like Him.  I take stock and see my failings.  I repent.  I try harder.

They say that there is no greater love than a man give his life for his friend.  My goal is to always live worthy to be called the Savior's friend.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Come Unto Christ

1 Nephi 10-11

I'm going to try an experiment.  I'm going to read passages of the Book of Mormon that directly testify of Christ and record my thoughts and feelings here.  I'm going to put to test the purpose stated in the Book of Mormon, that it is intended to bring men to Christ.  I'm going to see what, if any, changes that makes on my life.

1 Ne 10
v. 17  Faith on the Son of God gives you power to know truth.
v. 18  The way to return to God was prepared from the foundation of the earth.  We must repent and come unto Christ.
v.  19  If you diligently seek, you may know the mysteries of God.  Going back to v. 17, you must have faith on the Son of God to have the power to know.
1 Ne 11
v.  1  Nephi exercised his faith by 1. desiring to know, 2. believing that God would give him knowledge, and then 3. pondering the things he didn't understand.
v. 6  Only then did Nephi receive the answers he was seeking for.
v. 16 The condescension of God is the love of God.  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son."
v. 22 The love of God is the most desirable, the most delicious, the most joyous feeling to feel.
v. 27 The condescension of God is manifested in Christ's baptism.
v. 28 It is manifested in Christ's ministering and teaching the people.
v. 31 It is manifested in Christ's healing of the sick and afflicted.
v. 33 It is manifested when Jesus Christ was slain on the cross for our sins.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Test

Alma 5:45-46   Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3   John 14:26   Moroni 10:3-5

God has given to all men, everywhere, a gift.  It is not necessary to lean upon our own understanding, to be tossed by the winds of opinion, to be left to our own devices to figure out what is truth and what is deception.  What father would do that to his children?  No, God has given us a very sure way to let us know truth.  If we ask, He'll simply tell us.

When we come to God, humble and sincere, earnestly seeking, He will give us the answers we are seeking.  All we have to do is pray to Him.  Heavenly Father, are you there?  Are you listening?  Do you care about me?  Am I important to you?  I'm trying to do my best here.  I want to be better.  I want to follow the truth.  Can you help me?

He answers us through the Holy Ghost, His comforter.  Oh, how comforting it is when we receive the answers to those questions.  Yes, child, I am here, and I love you more than you can fathom.  You are important to me, and all your questions are important to me.  I'm so proud of the good that you are doing with your life.  I'm happy you want to do better.  I will lead you to the truth.  When you find it, I will light up your heart so that you recognize it, without doubt.  It will be a gift to you, one of many gifts I am waiting to give you.

He is waiting.  Just ask.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Purpose of the Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon Title Page

Some people approach the Book of Mormon as a history book.  Curiosity makes them want to know what happened here, on the American continent, thousands of years ago.  And indeed, the wars and strife are intriguing.  There are good guys and bad guys and stratagem and wonderful victories.  The Book of Mormon is an amazing war saga, a constant struggle between two nations.

Some people read the Book of Mormon looking to disprove Joseph Smith.  They focus on every minute mistake, try to link the tone of the book to this uneducated farm boy, strain to hear his voice on every page.  I wonder what kind of machinations they must go through to convince themselves they've reached their goal.  I wonder if those who reach that conclusion maybe aren't being dishonest, at least with themselves.

Why should anyone read the Book of Mormon?  Well, it's true that the Book of Mormon is the most convincing evidence that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.  If you are a sincere seeker of truth, you will come to realize that his remarkable story is true.  But that's not the real purpose of the Book of Mormon.

The true purpose of the Book of Mormon is revealed by the ancient prophet Mormon himself, written in his own hand so many years ago.  He tells us on the title page, that the Book of Mormon is "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."

Why do I read the Book of Mormon, even now, 37 years after I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?  Because it draws me nearer to Christ, it shows me His love for me, it deepens my understanding of the great sacrifice He made for me, it inspires me to walk in His footsteps and to be more like Him.  That is why I read, and why I love, the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

2 Nephi 3

v. 11-12  One testimony I have of the Book of Mormon as scripture and Joseph Smith as a prophet is how they support and clarify the teachings of the Bible.  They do not contradict or destroy God's word as previously revealed.  They work together to bring the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ into focus, so that there is no mistaking what is expected of us.

v.  13  "And out of weakness he shall be made strong..."  Another testimony I have of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith comes from the very fact that Joseph was an uneducated boy of 14 when he first received his vision.  A lot of people find this to be a sticking point with them.  Why would God call a 14 year old boy to be His prophet?  Yet, to me, it makes perfect sense.  Joseph Smith was young and impressionable, malleable, humble, willing to listen to the Lord and obey in all things.  He was not already jaded or clouded with the teachings of the world.  He did not have his own beliefs and pride to contend with.

I also find it laughable when critics claim that Joseph himself wrote the Book of Mormon instead of being the instrument of translation.  I myself am a writer.  I am 45 years old, I'm college educated, and I have a Mensa-qualified IQ (I say not to brag, but to make a point).  And I struggle with the plot lines of a simple story of a housewife in a mid-life crisis.  Could I have written the Book of Mormon, with all its intricacies, with all its converging story lines, with all its Biblical references, with the many, many different themes that run throughout?  Good grief, no.  The Book of Mormon told simply as a story is epic in scope.  There is no way I could accomplish something like that.  So an uneducated farm boy?  I really don't think so.

v. 19-20  I am always moved by the phrase, "they shall cry from the dust."  When reading the Book of Mormon, I always feel a connection to the different men who share their stories, from the obedience and faith of Nephi, and his suffering when his own brothers turn against him, to Alma the younger who repents and spends the rest of his days trying to fix his wrongs, to Ammon, the great missionary whose joy and zeal in the work is contagious, to the great and righteous warriors, to that Nephi later in the book who sorrowed so much for the wickedness and stubbornness of his people, to the very end where Moroni walks alone, friendless and hunted.  I marvel at the sacrifices they made to record and preserve their words... for me.  To help me in my day to day struggles, to bring me to Christ, to help me know God better.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The First Vision

Joseph Smith - History 1:16-17

As a missionary, I taught the story of Joseph Smith's first vision over and over and over again.  Sometimes, to help illustrate the story, we had a film strip that we would show our investigators.   At one point, we see young Joseph Smith walking to a private place, a grove of trees, where he intends to pray.  The song "Oh How Lovely Was the Morning: Joseph Smith's First Prayer" begins to play.  Each time I heard that melody, even the first bars of the song, my heart would swell and my testimony would grow.  I felt the Spirit whisper to me again and again, more forcibly each time, that this story was true, that Joseph Smith was prepared for this great undertaking, that he had been sufficiently humble and seeking.  And when he asked, in all humility and faith, which church he should join, God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him.  And in that one moment, the world changed.

Imagine for a moment that this is possible.  Think about what it means.  That God loves us as much as He loved the people in the days of ancient prophets.  That He is indeed our loving Father.  That we no longer need to wander blindly, trying to figure things out relying on the wisdom of men.  That He spoke and continues to speak to a prophet who can then help us, guide us, and remind us if we start to go astray.  If your skeptical mind rejects the idea of modern day prophets, look at your heart.  Don't you yearn for it?  Don't you wish it were true?  Wouldn't that be incredible?

I know that Joseph Smith did indeed see God.  He also saw and spoke with the resurrected Christ.  They instructed him and restored Christ's church on the earth through him.  And through him, Joseph Smith, great blessings began to flow to the earth once again.  I've tasted these great blessings, and I know it is true.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Great Apostasy

Ephesians 2:19-20   Ephesians 4:11-14   Matthew 24:9   1 Nephi 11:32-34   2 Nephi 27:5   Isaiah 24:5   1 Nephi 13:26-40   3 John 1:9-10   2 Timothy 4:3-4   Doctrine and Covenants 123:12

"The Church of Jesus Christ is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets.  These leaders have divine priesthood authority.  Through revelation they direct the affairs of the church.  They maintain doctrinal purity, authorize the administration of ordinances, and call and confer upon others the priesthood authority.

"People rejected and killed Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  With the death of the Apostles, the presiding priesthood authority was absent from the church.  Consequently, there was no longer authority to confer the Holy Ghost or perform other saving ordinances.  Revelation ceased, and doctrine became corrupted.

"Even before the death of the Apostles, many conflicts concerning doctrine arose.  The Roman Empire, which at first had persecuted the Christians, later adopted Christianity.  Important religious questions were settled by councils.  The simple doctrines and ordinances taught by the Savior were debated and changed to conform to worldly philosophies.  They physically changed the scriptures, removing plain and precious doctrines from them.  They created creeds, or statements of belief, based on false and changed doctrine.  Because of pride, some aspired to positions of influence.  People accepted these false ideas and gave honor to false teachers who taught pleasing doctrines rather than divine truth.

"Throughout history, many people have sincerely believed false creeds and doctrines.  They have worshiped according to the light they possessed and have received answers to their prayers.  Yet they are 'kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.'

"Therefore, a restoration, not a reformation, was required.  Priesthood authority did not continue in an unbroken line of succession from the Apostle Peter.  To reform is to change what already exists; to restore is to bring back something in its original form.  Thus, restoration of priesthood authority through divine messengers was the only possible way to overcome the Great Apostasy."

From Preach My Gospel, p. 36.  Emphasis added.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Jaccob 4:4-6   Mosiah :13-18   Acts 10:34-43   Amos 3:7

I love how my scripture study has taken me to the topic of prophets right after I have had the privilege and blessing to feast at the feet of true and living prophets through General Conference.  At the conference, they bore testimony several times of the importance of our prophet.  That testimony echoed in my heart.

How grateful I am to have a prophet to guide me through these difficult days.  How grateful I am that God is not a respecter of persons, that He loves me as much as He loved his children anciently.  How grateful I am that He has not left me to grope blindly in the dark, hoping to stumble upon answers that will help me and help my family return home to Him.

I love the scriptures.  I love the words of the ancient prophets.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The gospel never changes.  In the scriptures, I find the commandments that will bless my life, admonitions that will help me, warnings that are still in force.  Still, I need a living prophet.

The words of Adam could not save the people of Noah from the flood.  The words of Noah could not lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  The words of Moses did not save the people of Zachariah from destruction and captivity.  And the law of Moses had no power to save anyone who rejected Jesus Christ.

So it is with me.  I look to the living prophets for words that will save me and my family from the flood of wickedness that is washing over the earth, threatening to come into my home, seeping under doors and through windows.  I need to be aware; I need to be warned; I need to know how to protect myself and my loved ones from the destruction Satan wishes so greatly for us.

I bear you my witness that we do have a living, loving prophet on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson.  I invite you to listen to his words and live.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Nature of Christ

2 Nephi 9:6-7   3 Nephi 12:48   3 Nephi 27:13-22   Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-3   Doctrine and Covenants 130:22   John 3:16-17   1 John 4:7-9

Atoned for us
Bowed his will to the Father
Lifted upon the cross
Draws all men unto him
The Great I Am
Alpha and Omega
The beginning and the end
All knowing
Body of flesh and bone
Only begotten son of God

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Mom and a Missionary

Mosiah 18:18-20   Doctrine and Covenants 43:15-16   Doctrine and Covenants 52:9   Alma 17:2-3; 10-12   Doctrine and Covenants 84:85

When I was a missionary, I was so impressed with the missionary lessons that I vowed to teach them to my future children.  After I had kids, I discovered that they responded better to simpler lessons.  Nonetheless, I taught my children all the principles contained in there.  In fact, I taught them over and over again, reinforcing the plain and precious truths of the gospel.  Oh, I was so confident that I had done enough for their nascent testimonies, that I had created little stalwarts who would never waver in the gospel.  I had done all I could, right?  Truly, I was like the mothers of Helaman's stripling warriors.  I felt safe, and perhaps a tad bit smug.

And then my children became teenagers.  And they were thrown into a nasty dervish of a world.  I hear about the things they face, and I cringe.  My children's testimonies haven't been the safe harbor I had hoped it would be.  They struggle.  They falter sometimes.  They push away, and sometimes they openly rebel.  They kick against the pricks and find out for themselves, by their own experience, that it hurts.

And so I'm a missionary again.  I'm back to teaching the plain and precious truths of the gospel: faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ; repentance; renewing our baptismal covenants through the sacrament; following the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It's a lot harder than when they were just little.  These are bright kids with deep thinking minds.  This time, it's not enough just to know the gospel.  I have to find a way to challenge them to live the gospel, to help them take one step, to take one bite of this precious fruit, to try the experiment, and then to take the next step.

I like the comparison to the sons of Mosiah.  My kids can be every bit as daunting as the Lamanites.  I take comfort in the Lord's words to them in Alma 17:10-12:
"And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted.  And they were comforted.
"And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Closer Look

2 Nephi 31:20  "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, with a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."

I've chosen this scripture for memorization this week, and for a deeper look.  The words I've highlighted are words that stick out to me, inviting me to look further and understand better.

Steadfastness -- The footnote references the topical guide topics commitment, dedication, perseverance, steadfastness, and walking with God.  It is interesting to me that waking with God was included.  That's a bit of imagery I want to think more about today.  Am I walking with God?  Or am I walking away from Him?  Again, the reminder to be guided by the Spirit plays an important part.

The dictionary defines steadfast as:
fixed in direction; steadily directed: a steadfast gaze.
firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, etc., as a person: a steadfast friend.
unwavering, as resolution, faith, adherence, etc.
firmly established, as an institution or a state of affairs.
firmly fixed in place or position.
I like to think that I am a steadfast friend to the Lord.  That I am steadily directed.  I'm old enough to be firmly established; I've been a Mormon for 37 years now.  I ought to know what I'm doing by now, right?  I do not waver.
Perfect brightness of hope -- Again, it helps to turn to the dictionary.
conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type.
excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.
exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose.
entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings
accurate, exact, or correct in every detail.
thorough; complete; utter.
pure or unmixed
unqualified; absolute.
expert; accomplished; proficient.
So, my brightness of hope is exactly fitting to my needs and purposes.   It is accurate, thorough, complete.  It is pure, not mixed with any hint of despair.
I must have a love of God and ALL men, not just the ones I get along with.
Feasting --   "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Matt 5:6
Endure --  
to continue to exist; last.
to support adverse force or influence of any kind; suffer without yielding; suffer patiently.
So, I must first of all continue to exist, and I must outlast my adversary.  I must suffer patiently without yielding.
Eternal life --  "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3
Whew.  That's a lot for today.  Now back to more pondering.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Apply and Live

2 Nephi 31

Am I humble?
I have promised to be obedient to His commandments.  Am I?
I have received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Do I follow the promptings I receive?
Do I follow Christ with full purpose of heart?  Without hypocrisy?  With real intent?
Do I repent of my shortcomings?
Am I really willing to take His name upon me?  Do I honor His name by my thoughts and actions?
Am I effectively enduring to the end?
Am I pressing forward?  Or am I stagnant?
Am I steadfast?
Do I have a perfect brightness of hope?
Do I love God and my fellow man?  How do I show it?
Do I FEAST upon the word of Christ?

I can give an answer to each question, glibly perhaps, off the top of my head.  But I think I'll make this an exercise in pondering and prayer today.  Where am I weak?  How can I improve?

Monday, September 20, 2010


1 Nephi 10:17-19   Doctrine and Covenants 11:21-22   Doctrine and Covenants 50:19-24   Doctrine and Covenants 88:118

In many churches, the mysteries of God are considered unknowable by man.  In our church, this is not the case.  A mystery is any doctrine or principal that you do not yet understand.  Heavenly Father doesn't want to withhold information from us.  He wants us to learn always.  That is why we have the scriptures; that is why He has commanded us to study them, no not just to study them, but to FEAST upon the scriptures.  He wants us to be hungry for the knowledge, the mysteries contained in them, and He promises to fill us according to our desires.

There is a caveat, however.  Gospel knowledge is given "line upon line, precept upon precept."  (Isaiah 28:10, 13; 2 Nephi 28:30)  You cannot expect to receive revelation about all the worlds created if you haven't yet developed the faith to pray.  You cannot expect to understand the atonement if you don't have the faith to repent.  Heavenly Father has promised to give us milk before meat.  (1 Corinthians 3:2)  Don't ask for something you're going to choke on.

And that is the beauty of reading the scriptures over and over again.  I approach the scriptures each time with different needs and a different level of understanding.  It becomes a personal conversation, as the Lord reveals to me exactly what I need exactly when I need it, to lead me towards personal growth, comfort, and knowledge.  And always, the scriptures lead me to Christ, they lead me to act, and they lead me to become a better person.

Friday, September 17, 2010


2 Nephi 32:5   John 14:26-27   1 Corinthians 2:9

I have some Big Decisions looming on the horizon, and I have to admit that I have been fearful and emotional lately.  The Lord knows the secret feelings of my heart, and so He whispered words of comfort to my soul:

The Holy Ghost..."will show unto you all things what you should do."

How wonderful that Heavenly Father wants me to know that I don't have to make these decisions on my own.  I don't have to rely on my own understanding.  I don't have to worry that my fears and insecurities will cloud my judgment.  I don't have to worry that my decision will have tragic consequences, because the Lord would never allow that.

Then, my study led me to John 14:26, but my eyes strayed further to the following verse, just as it did a few days ago.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Hush, child, everything will be all right.  There, there, I'm here, and I always will be.  I'll take you by the hand, and we'll face this storm together.  You are not alone.  Peace.

And finally, this promise:

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

I do love Him, and He knows how deeply I love Him.  Now it is time to turn my fears over to Him, having faith that my life is in His hands.  Come what may, there will be great blessings in store.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Feasting on the Words of Christ

2 Nephi 4:15-16   2 Nephi 32:3   Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28   Doctrine and Covenants 88:118

I've had this particular set of scriptures since the Christmas before I served my mission back in 1986.  My maiden name is engraved on the front.  There's a loving inscription from my father on the inside cover.  One page is torn -- Ephesians 6 on one side, Phillipians 1 on the other.  The page is poorly mended, so it sticks out at the edges.  The outer leather cover is starting to pull away from the binding; it's barely holding on at the back of the book.

When I thumb through the pages, they are brightly colored.  Lime green for promised blessings, purple for warnings and curses, blue for passages that sing to my heart, orange for linking topics together, dark green for definitions, red for testimony of Christ, peach for reference to other scriptures, brown for significant deaths, and yellow for my missionary scriptures.

As I stop to see what has captured my attention over the years, I see my spiritual journey.  I see that I longed for peace, that I wanted to repent and improve, that I wanted an orderly home for my family, that I desired spiritual healing long before I desired physical healing.  I see how a particular scripture has grown in depth of meaning, marked by additional colors, changing according to my changing needs.

I can see now, that when I wanted to develop a certain Christ-like quality, that the scriptures were my encouragement and cheerleader, that they helped me chart my progress, that they whispered peace to my soul as I came closer and closer to my goal.

Perhaps the greatest blessing I find in these pages is the developing relationship I have with my savior, Jesus Christ.  I came here to learn of Him, to love Him, to become His friend.

Ah, yes, my soul delighteth in the the scriptures.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Holy Ghost: The Greatest Gift

3 Nephi 19:1-13   Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-57   John 3:5   John 14:26-27  Galatians 5:22-25

Why is the Holy Ghost the greatest gift?

The Holy Ghost teaches you the truth of all things.  It allows you to discern between truth and error, good and bad, that you will not be deceived.  It is your personal guide to a life of happiness.  By following the Spirit, you are led to develop Christ-like attributes, and you are then blessed with the fruits of the Spirit, which are numerous.

I like how the 14th chapter of John begins, "Let not your heart be troubled."  These are troubling times, and I am besought with troubling challenges.  How do I face them, in a world like this?  Verse 26th gives me the answer:  "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  I turn myself and all my troubles and cares to the Lord, and through the gift of the Holy Ghost, He sends me peace.

The fruits of the Spirit are:

And this reminds me of another of my favorite scriptures, James 3:17-18:
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
"And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."

I use this scripture as a yardstick to see how well I'm following the Spirit.  It shows up first in the home.  If I am gentle, easy to be intreated, and merciful in the home, then our home is peaceful, and I know I'm on the right track.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Alma 29:1-4   Alma 42:31   Alma 62:45   Doctrine and Covenants 14:8   Doctrine and Covenants 15:6   Doctrine and Covenants 16:6

"Oh, that I were an angel," cried Alma, "and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!"

And why did he wish to be an angel?  For glory, for power?  No, it was "that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth."

As a mom, I sometimes wish that I could speak with a voice that would shake my children.  "Look.  You're not happy.  This is the way."

When I was growing up, whenever repentance was taught in church, the lesson was accompanied by a picture of a man in agony on his knees.  Perhaps you remember this picture.  It was heart wrenching, and you could see the man was in great pain.  It taught me that repentance was hard, and it was painful.

Once I had learned to repent, however, I realized that this picture was wrong, wrong, wrong.  Sure, there's a measure of difficulty and pain involved, but it comes from the sins you are forsaking, not from the repentance process itself.

The picture that comes to my mind when I think about repentance is my old home teacher, a relatively young man with tattoos up and down his arms that peeked out from the sleeves of his white shirt, who taught with humility and love, and when he looked at you, he looked you in the eyes with a clear, blameless gaze.  He talked about the life that Christ saved him from.  I felt the gratitude in his voice.  He was happy.  He was free.

You can see a person's burdens in their eyes, in the corners of their mouths, in lines burrowed in their foreheads, in shoulders bent and arms hanging down.  You can see repentance in the twinkling of their eyes, the smile of their mouths, their shoulders back and strong, their arms reaching out to others.

Oh, that I were an angel, and could give this gift to others, that there would be no more sorrow in the world.