Monday, June 2, 2014
God Be With You Till We Meet Again
June 2, 2014
Friends and Family,
I will be speaking on the 8th of June, this upcoming Sunday, at the Cougar Mountain Ward, at 11am PDT.
15205 Southeast 28th Street
This will be the final message I give as a full time representative of Jesus Christ, called to the Salt Lake City South mission. I was placed here through revelation, meaning divine communication, from God's ordained servants. An Apostle of the Lord, with Priesthood power, the power to act in God's name, and the appropriate authority to do so, assigned me to this mission. Under those same keys, my mission presidents, President Miller and President Chambers, have assigned me to various fields of labor.
I know that Jesus Christ lives. We remember his Resurrection, and his glorious life. He is my redeemer. He is my King of Kings, my Lord of Lords. He broke the bands of death, taking up his own body after it lay dormant for three days in a borrowed tomb. He overcame our sins when he suffered in Gethsemane and on the Cross of Calvary. He offers us atoning grace, salvation and exaltation IF we endure to the end, faithful to His name and His work. I am a spiritual Witness of Him. I gained this witness through the power of the Holy Ghost. God the Father, and Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith to answer his humble prayer. He was later called as a prophet of God, fulfilling prophecies given almost 2000 years ago (Acts 3:19-21). The Book of Mormon is 531 pages of evidence of Jesus Christ's mission, and through its testimony of the Savior, proves Joseph Smith's call as a prophet of God. Thomas S. Monson is the current holder of all Priesthood keys given to men in Christ's church to administer the saving ordinances of the Gospel. I give this humble testimony, with my mission as a witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Monday, May 26, 2014
May 26, 2014
Time is Short
Family and Friends,
The time I have till my return is short. This is my last full week of working as a missionary, and I'm going to make it count!
Family and Friends,
The time I have till my return is short. This is my last full week of working as a missionary, and I'm going to make it count!
To review some events from this week, we had the opportunity to have former Elder Franco of the Seventy speak to our ward in Spanish. He was just released as an Area Authority and is preparing to serve as a mission President in Argentina. He and his wife speak excellent Spanish. They spoke of the importance of missionary work and how "these two missionaries," referring to Elder Tamacas and I, cannot do it alone! He also spoke of the privilege it was to have Andres Alvarado Flores confirmed in the same meeting.
Andres was confirmed by the power of the Priesthood, and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the Laying on of Hands, just as Christ established through his Apostles (Acts 8:17). I had genuine tears of joy come to my eyes as i thought of the sacrifices that Andres has made to join the church. His life is literally in shambles, but he has seen a light break through the darkness, and penetrates his heart through the Gospel. He will make a strong follower of Jesus Christ!
The experiences and people who have stayed closest to me during my mission would have to be the remarkable members of the church here in Utah. The Hispanic saints give up everything and anything for the Lord. They made me feel welcome, even though i was in a foreign culture and language. I've learned a lot from them and their hospitality. A Specific example would include the Rojas family, from Venezuela, who left the church for a short time, but came back with full force. Brother Rojas could be found every night magnifying his calling as Ward Clerk at the church building. He made sure that we had everything we needed as missionaries and fellowshipped all investigators we brought and made an effort to find us people to teach. I'm grateful for his example, and will remember his hospitality!
I have been learning a lot about the Savior lately, and about his Atonement. This study comes a great deal from the modern Prophets and Apostles. One testimony that i read today by Elder Bruce R. McConkie is something I’d like to share with you all. This Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ has already passed away, but his testimony remains forever in Ink and in the Hearts of those he touches.
The Purifying Power of GethsemaneBruce R. McConkie
“I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.
Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.
And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory.
In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.
True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word.
Two thousand years ago, outside Jerusalem’s walls, there was a pleasant garden spot, Gethsemane by name, where Jesus and his intimate friends were wont to retire for pondering and prayer.
There Jesus taught his disciples the doctrines of the kingdom, and all of them communed with Him who is the Father of us all, in whose ministry they were engaged, and on whose errand they served.
This sacred spot, like Eden where Adam dwelt, like Sinai from whence Jehovah gave his laws, like Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many, this holy ground is where the Sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance.
We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.
We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death.
We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.
We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.
We know that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal, and we suppose it was mighty Michael, who foremost fell that mortal man might be.
As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies—this suffering beyond compare—continued for some three or four hours.
After this—his body then wrenched and drained of strength—he confronted Judas and the other incarnate devils, some from the very Sanhedrin itself; and he was led away with a rope around his neck, as a common criminal, to be judged by the arch-criminals who as Jews sat in Aaron’s seat and who as Romans wielded Caesar’s power.
They took him to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate. He was accused, cursed, and smitten. Their foul saliva ran down his face as vicious blows further weakened his pain-engulfed body.
With reeds of wrath they rained blows upon his back. Blood ran down his face as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow.
But above it all he was scourged, scourged with forty stripes save one, scourged with a multithonged whip into whose leather strands sharp bones and cutting metals were woven.
Many died from scourging alone, but he rose from the sufferings of the scourge that he might die an ignominious death upon the cruel cross of Calvary.
Then he carried his own cross until he collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.
Finally, on a hill called Calvary—again, it was outside Jerusalem’s walls—while helpless disciples looked on and felt the agonies of near death in their own bodies, the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.
With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.
Then the cross was raised that all might see and gape and curse and deride. This they did, with evil venom, for three hours from 9:00 A.M. to noon.
Then the heavens grew black. Darkness covered the land for the space of three hours, as it did among the Nephites. There was a mighty storm, as though the very God of Nature was in agony.
And truly he was, for while he was hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3:00 P.M., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred.
And, finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll—when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things—then he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the ghost.
As the peace and comfort of a merciful death freed him from the pains and sorrows of mortality, he entered the paradise of God.
When he had made his soul an offering for sin, he was prepared to see his seed, according to the messianic word.
These, consisting of all the holy prophets and faithful Saints from ages past; these, comprising all who had taken upon them his name, and who, being spiritually begotten by him, had become his sons and his daughters, even as it is with us; all these were assembled in the spirit world, there to see his face and hear his voice.
After some thirty-eight or forty hours—three days as the Jews measured time—our Blessed Lord came to the Arimathaean’s tomb, where his partially embalmed body had been placed by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea.
Then, in a way incomprehensible to us, he took up that body which had not yet seen corruption and arose in that glorious immortality which made him like his resurrected Father.
He then received all power in heaven and on earth, obtained eternal exaltation, appeared unto Mary Magdalene and many others, and ascended into heaven, there to sit down on the right hand of God the Father Almighty and to reign forever in eternal glory.
His rising from death on the third day crowned the Atonement. Again, in some way incomprehensible to us, the effects of his resurrection pass upon all men so that all shall rise from the grave.
As Adam brought death, so Christ brought life; as Adam is the father of mortality, so Christ is the father of immortality.
And without both, mortality and immortality, man cannot work out his salvation and ascend to those heights beyond the skies where gods and angels dwell forever in eternal glory.
Now, the atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths.
Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life.
But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.
May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.
We must cast aside the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.
We must search the scriptures, accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord and the very power of God unto salvation.
As we read, ponder, and pray, there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God—the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.
In Eden we will see all things created in a paradisiacal state—without death, without procreation, without probationary experiences.
We will come to know that such a creation, now unknown to man, was the only way to provide for the Fall.
We will then see Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, step down from their state of immortal and paradisiacal glory to become the first mortal flesh on earth.
Mortality, including as it does procreation and death, will enter the world. And because of transgression a probationary estate of trial and testing will begin.
Then in Gethsemane we will see the Son of God ransom man from the temporal and spiritual death that came to us because of the Fall.
And finally, before an empty tomb, we will come to know that Christ our Lord has burst the bands of death and stands forever triumphant over the grave.
Thus, Creation is father to the Fall; and by the Fall came mortality and death; and by Christ came immortality and eternal life.
If there had been no fall of Adam, by which cometh death, there could have been no atonement of Christ, by which cometh life.
And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.
But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.
God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.”
Official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
© 2014 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All Rights Reserved
© 2014 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Friends and Family, I add my own testimony of Jesus Christ that he was born in Bethlehem, was raised in Nazareth, taught in Jerusalem, suffered in Gethsemane, died on Calvary, and was resurrected from the Garden Tomb near the place of his Death. He conquered death, sin and hellish darkness. He is the light of my life, my Savior, my Guide, my King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Through him we can be "supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions." In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
May 25, 2014
Well first of all I pray that everything is going great over there and that your area, companionship, investigators your testimony and everything is growing and getting stronger in the Gospel. Se lo didicil que es este tiempo para usted, pero no tengo duda que usted ha dado su mayor esfuerzo en este tiempo de servicio único al Señor. Tal ves hay algo que no le he dicho, pero estoy muy agradecido por la oportunidad de haber servido junto a usted y por lo mucho que me ayudo a crecer y aprender lo que el Señor quería para mí.
You know, this week I have learned a lot, not only from the Book of Mormon but as well, from the things the Lord puts on my way, as simple as a Prayer or as hard as Studying Isaiah it is incredible how much love our Father has for each one of us, and how much He knows us and our needs, but the only thing He is waiting for us to do is to talk to Him and draw closer by doing the things that can help us and give us the answers we need for our learning and growing in this mortal life.
Una de las cosas por las cuales oro todos los días es por la compañía constante del Espíritu y la fuerza para continuar en el día, que Él me permita poder ayudar a alguien a venir a Cristo y con ello olvidarme de mis problemas y desafíos. Hice un ayuno este wknd y la respuesta vino a mi in such a way I didn't expected, I believe it was one of those days that during your prayer you leave everything with Him and let go those burdens that can make the path heavier than what it is.. after talking to Him for who knows how much time, Russ, I felt so much peace and happiness and knew it was not the right time yet, but that everything would be alright.
I know He lives and that He knows me by name as much as He knows each one of His Children, I know with all my heart that He can be our best friend if we let Him be, He is always there for us, extending HIs arms of mercy, just waiting that we come to Him and take His hand in order to feel the power of His infinite love for us, and the enabling power of HIs atonement. I am so grateful because of that and because it is only through Him that we can enjoy this life and learn how to become like Him and our Father.
Brother, I wish you the best success this week and for this the last part of your mission... don't look back just keep going and give everything to Him. May the Spirt always light your way and help you discern those who Him has prepared at this time and that are ready to receive and accept the message.
Love, and warm regards..
Monday, May 19, 2014
Time is short, but not my work ethic!
May 19, 2014
|Andres baptized by his son Miguel|
Friends and Family,
This week was fantastic. It started last Monday when Elder Tamacas and I went golfing. It was deceivingly cold, even though the sun was out. We had some fun whacking the grass more than the ball.
Monday night Andres said the final Yes to baptism this past Sunday! He's the one on the left dressed in white in the picture, his son Miguel was the one who baptized him, having received the Aaronic Priesthood a couple months back. It was a sweet service, with a special spirit. I had the opportunity to play the piano for the songs, and for the first time, the congregation sounded great as they sang!
I'm short for words, as well as time, but I love this work and I’m going as hard as I can until the end. I’ll be back on the 5th of June.
Monday, May 12, 2014
May 12, 2014
Friends and Family!
What a wonderful Mother's Day! One never truly appreciates their family until they haven't been with them for two years. Seeing Mom and Dad and Mary and Christie was such a treat, i look forward to being re-united with them once again in three weeks. Elder Tamacas and I got to do some quick service for a mother who works very hard for her family, the couple you see in the picture is the Navarro family, they are the ones who set up the service. We did the service for sister Quispe.
This past week was excellent. At the close of Saturday, we were able to teach a new family, the Orozco family. They consist of a Mom, Irma, and three kids; Tito, Omar and Pati, ages 11, 10 and 12. Their father passed away from Colon Cancer just 10 months earlier. Elder Tamacas and I had the privilege of teaching her how to communicate with her Father in Heaven, and then watched her offer a sincere prayer. After asking her how she felt, she said "triste" or sad, because she didn't know what was going to happen to her Husband. We offered her the glorious hope of being with her loved ones again through the Gospel of Christ. She and her family responded hesitantly to the invitation to be baptized, but we've only taught them once. We're going back on Tuesday to continue instructing them and helping them feel God's love and understand His plan for themselves.
Andres is getting closer to baptism, not sure if he's going to get baptized this weekend as scheduled, but it's a choice he has to make, not us!
This is a marvelous work, and i know it's God's. I'm short for words, but full of emotion. I love you all!
Monday, May 5, 2014
May 5, 2014
Happy Cinco de mayo
Friends and Family,
It's Cinco de Mayo!!! What does that mean? Relatively nothing for Mexican culture, but it means a lot of Tacos and yummy food for the rest of us! We're all heading up to the city of Kearns to celebrate. Yesterday i had "Mexican hot dogs" made by Hermano Leon. They're just hot dogs wrapped in bacon, and then you put on top of them everything you would put on a taco. It was great!
I mentioned about Andres Alvarado last week, he did not end up getting baptized, due to the fact that he was working in Park City all week and was unable to meet with us. He's now working toward the 17th. He came to church again, and as always, receives strong spiritual confirmations that he's in the right place. As for Lorenzo Navarrete, we're trying a different approach with him now. Pushing him toward a date doesn't seem to work, so we gently taught him about agency, the ability to choose for himself, and taught him how he can choose eternal life, according to Jesus Christ, or choose death and captivity by following the Devil (2 Nephi 2:27). He's free to choose! We constantly remind him that God loves him, and wants him to be a member of His church. Through this method, Lorenzo ended up coming to church and has been responding well. I can only pray he chooses eternal life before i leave in June.
I'm excited to hear that Scott Corbitt received his mission call to the Salt Lake City West Mission, Spanish Speaking, just to the north of my mission. I know his city is full of Hispanics, so he won't have a problem there!
There is a new emphasis in our mission on the Atonement of Christ. As i've taught before, the Atonement of Christ includes his suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, Death on the Cross, and resurrection. We learn that Christ paid the price in full, and that we need his grace to make it into heaven. A wonderful article from the Ensign about grace explains it in this way:
"How does God’s grace really work?
A young woman once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”
She said, “I just don’t get grace.”
I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”
She said, “I know I need to do my best, and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”
I said, “The truth is, Jesus paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”
She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”
“Oh, no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to pay that debt. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence to be judged. What is left to be determined by our obedience is how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and what degree of glory we plan on receiving.”
Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).
Grace Transforms Us
Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with Mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19); “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask, maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way , 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of the child pianist: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but no unchanged thing will even want to.
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Heavenly Father and His Son did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If the Father and the Son did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Heavenly Father and His Son did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become Saints.
“But don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?
Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they continually feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.
There should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).
Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.
The grace of Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27; D&C 17:8)—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks (see Philippians 4:13). Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37).
God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’s grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, you will feel the enabling power and divine help we call His amazing grace."
I add my own testimony that only through obedience to God's commandments can we qualify for Grace. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.