Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 2015

     These beloved missionaries have returned to their families and the next steps in their salvation--front: Sisters Killingsworth, Collins, Walker, Peterson, & Flamm, Pres. Eaton, Elders Cairo & Warner; back: Elders Goodell, Anderson, Moses, Carson, Jenkins, Lemmon, Walters, Eliason, & Johnson

     We are excited to welcome these missionaries to Washington--front: Sisters Lewis, Skousen, Northrup, Thurman, Livingstone, Woolsey, Richardson, and Yost; middle: Elders Kim, Scheidell, Williams, Jensen, Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Elders Stucki, Oliva, Larsen, and Drake; back: Elders Hunter, Jackson, Perkins, Partridge, Boyack, Urey, Dalley, Simpson, Cook, and Miner

The Faith to Fulfill Our Purpose

            In preparation for zone training, Sister Eaton and I have asked you to study the examples of faith you find from great men and women in the scriptures.  Whether you choose to study Abinadi or Abish, Mormon or Mary, Ammon or Abigail, ponder their examples with these questions in mind:  
  •  What evidence do you see of their faith?
  • What can you learn from their example about how to exercise more faith to better fulfill your purpose?
  • How can you be more like them as you strive to help others come unto Christ?

             At the risk of spoiling your own scripture study, let me share three of my favorite examples of faith in the scriptures.  First, I love the faith of Joseph Smith.  He wasn’t cocky, but he was confident in the Lord.  When he prayed, expected stuff to happen.  When he went into the grove of trees to ask God a question, he fully expected to receive an answer.  When he prayed again three years later, he said, “I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one” (Joseph Smith History 1:29).  When he and Oliver Cowdery prayed about baptism, they prayed next to a river.  Because of Joseph’s faith, the veil between heaven and earth was thin.  From his example, I learn to pray with faith, knowing that God is real and that he hears and answers prayers.

            Such faith comes, in part, from recognizing how God has answered our prayers and blessed us in the past.  When young David heard the giant Goliath taunting the armies of Israel, he had no doubt that with God’s help he could beat the giant, because with God’s help he had slain a bear and a lion with his own hands in defense of his sheep.  In fact, he seems to have been a shepherd with a bit of attitude.  When a bear took one of his sheep, he caught the bear from behind and took him down.  Knowing that God helped him in the past gave him faith that God would protect him in the future when he was on the Lord’s errand.  As he explained to King Saul:

Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.

            David’s faith was not in his own abilities, but in his God.  So he was unmoved by Goliath’s giant tantrum when the Philistine saw that Israel had sent a mere boy to fight him.  In one of the sweetest bits of inspired trash talking in the history of the world, David responded to Goliath’s taunting with this bold retort:

Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.

            With that, the Philistine giant charged young David, who was armed only with his sling and a few smooth stones.  David could be forgiven if he had dropped back a few steps like a quarterback getting ready to throw as the giant charged him.  To stand his ground calmly and sling his stones would have been remarkable.  But fueled by faith, David did something that was either crazy or evidence of incredible faith: “David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.”  That’s right, David ran toward Goliath, got close enough that his sling would be deadly, and then took down the giant with a single stone:  “David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.”  Game, set, and match—David.  Actually, David would beg to differ.  The battle was not his, he would have said, but the Lord’s.  (Read 1 Samuel 17 for the whole story.)  From David’s example, I learn that when I remember how the Lord has helped me in the past, it builds my faith that he will help me succeed in his work in the future.  And when I remember that the battle is truly the Lord’s, I feel I can do anything as his soldier.

            The final example of faith I will share is of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  These valiant Israelites lived in Babylon as exiles, but through faith, perseverance, and diligence, they prospered.  They gained the trust of King Nebuchadnezzar and eventually were appointed to be governors over a province of Babylon.  Unfortunately, it was there that King Nebuchadnezzar chose to erect a 90-foot golden image.  With all the dignitaries in the land gathered for the dedication ceremony, the king commanded all his subjects to bow down to the image or be thrown into a fiery furnace.

            Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a choice to make: whether to prolong their political careers and their lives by staying in the good graces of the king, or whether to receive eternal life by staying in the good graces of God.  They chose the real God and refused to bow down. Their act of civil disobedience was not lost on their rivals, who quickly pointed it out to the king.  The king was fond of these young Israelites, so he gave them a second chance and pled with them to bow down to the idol like everyone else.  “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 4:14).

            What is especially impressive about the faith that Shadrach and his friends exercised is that what mattered to them was not whether their God would save them, but whether he could.  In fact, they did not know whether he would save them; God had allowed many righteous prophets to be slain.  But they trusted God for the long term, no matter what the short-term result.  Here is how they answered the king:

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

(Daniel 4:17 – 18).  When we talk about but if not faith, this is what we mean.  It is what my daughter exercised when she felt inspired to set high baptismal goals and worked out her heart, knowing God could work mighty miracles, but if not, well, she would have given it her all.  It is the faith to work hard and set goals we care about and serve God whole-heartedly, week after week, even when we are not immediately seeing baptismal fruitFrom Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I learn that great faith requires humble submission and patience, pressing forward and trusting in God with faith in his eternal promises, even if I cannot be sure I’ll get the miracle I pray for in the short run.

            May the Lord bless you as you study your own faith heroes that you will learn, through the Holy Ghost, the principles of faith you most need to help you better fulfill your purpose as a missionary.

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