Sunday, November 27, 2011

Remember Christ

“Jesus is the reason for the season” is more often said than remembered. This Christmas use the following ideas to remember Jesus, for this holiday is in celebration of His birth.
  • Have each family member give a gift to Jesus by writing down a promise to do or not do something, such as helping more, being nicer to a sibling, or not lying. Keep the written promises in a wrapped box under the tree. On Christmas Day, New Year’s, or the following Christmas, open up the box and have everyone evaluate his or her improvement.
  • Set aside one night, such as Christmas Eve, as a holy night of reading from the scriptures the Christmas story and other stories of Jesus’s life and teachings. Sing together or play on an instrument the Christmas hymns.
  • Follow a scriptural advent calendar, reading a scripture about Jesus every night.
  • Involve the family in service: the Savior’s life was all about serving others. There are plenty of opportunities during Christmas.
  • Visit friends, bringing treats and singing holy Christmas carols.
  • Watch religious Christmas programs (such as the First Presidency Christmas Devotional next month), pageants, and choir performances to remember Christ. Even better, participate in one.
  • If applicable, visit the nearest temple to see the Christmas lights and programs.
  • Decorate your home with nativity scenes and favorite pictures of Jesus.
Sharing Time: What do you do to remember Christ during Christmas?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Purpose of Suffering for Sin

Excerpts from "Sin and Suffering," a BYU fireside address by Elder Oaks:

Where there has been sin, there must be suffering.

Let us recall two scriptures: (1) “Repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment” (Alma 42:16); and (2) the Savior said that he had suffered these things for all, “that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16–17).

This obviously means that the unrepentant transgressor must suffer for his own sins. Does it also mean that a person who repents does not need to suffer at all because the entire punishment is borne by the Savior? That cannot be the meaning because it would be inconsistent with the Savior’s other teachings. What is meant is that the person who repents does not need to suffer “even as” the Savior suffered for that sin. Sinners who are repenting will experience some suffering, but because of their repentance and the Atonement, they will not experience the full, “exquisite” extent of eternal torment the Savior suffered.

President Spencer W. Kimball, who gave such comprehensive teachings on repentance and forgiveness, said that personal suffering “is a very important part of repentance. One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. … If a person hasn’t suffered, he hasn’t repented.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, pp. 88, 99.)

The Savior taught this principle when he said that his atoning sacrifice was for “all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:7.) The repentant sinner who comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit has been through a process of personal pain and suffering for sin. He understands the meaning of Alma’s statement that “none but the truly penitent are saved.” (Alma 42:24.)

Why is it necessary for us to suffer on the way to repentance for serious transgressions? We tend to think of the results of repentance as simply cleansing us from sin. But that is an incomplete view of the matter. A person who sins is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day, the tree bends so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we focus only on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Similarly, a person who is merely sorry to be soiled by sin will sin again in the next high wind. The susceptibility to repetition continues until the tree has been strengthened.

When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He also gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to his presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has sinned into a strong person with the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God. We must, as the scripture says, “[become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” (Mosiah 3:19.) This is what the scripture means in its explanation that a person who has repented of his sins will “forsake them.” (D&C 58:43.) Forsaking sins is more than resolving not to repeat them. Forsaking involves a fundamental change in the individual.

King Benjamin and Alma both speak of a mighty change of heart. King Benjamin’s congregation described that mighty change by saying that they had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2.) Alma illustrated that change of heart when he described a people who “awoke unto God,” “put their trust in” him, and were “faithful until the end.” (Alma 5:7, 13.) He challenged others to “look forward with an eye of faith” to the time when we will “stand before God to be judged” according to our deeds. (Alma 5:15.) Persons who have had that kind of change in their hearts have attained the strength and stature to dwell with God. That is what we call being saved.

Sharing Time: Read the entire address. What stuck out to you?

Sunday, November 20, 2011


It is no secret our country suffers from severe ingratitude. We are always wanting something more, newer, or better. We raise our children to be materialistic and high maintenance. We are deep in debt or bankrupt. We consider ourselves poor if we only have one car and a regular cell phone instead of a smartphone. We celebrate Christmas--the season of buying and getting--before Thanksgiving is even in sight. And the only time we momentarily wake up from our selfish lives to be reminded of gratitide is when something tragic occurs: death, natural disasters, crime, and the like. This quickly passes and we go on with our lives, complaining bitterly or wishing wistfully about what we don't have.

But the kind of gratitude we show matters too. There are different degrees of gratitude: there is the obvious gesture of saying thank you, the nicer gesture of doing something in return, and the heavenly attitude of constantly living a thankful life. As President Monson stated in General Conference of October 2010, "My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven." It is the last that Heavenly Father asks of us when He commands us to be thankful.

How do we "live with gratitude ever in our hearts"? We change our attitude. We understand it is not enough just to say or show gratitude. We notice the blessings in everything. We are content with what we have, happy that we have so much, and optimistic of righteous desires we may get in the future. We focus on what we do have and what we can do with it, such as use the blessings Heavenly Father so bountifully gives us to bless others bountifully too.

President Monson advised, "Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His words. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude." And by so doing, we are touching heaven because we are living as Christ did.

Challenge: Live with gratitude ever in your heart.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Scrubbing the Tub

A poem I wrote for my BYU creative writing class. My professor loved it, but the New Era didn't. I hope you appreciate it.

photo by Pam Roth
It’s about time the bathtub was cleaned.
A detailed history of sweaty workouts, first dates, bad hair days,
And all-night cramming stains the puky plastic.
I snow the tub with Comet and let the dam loose,
Warm water crashing down.
I start to scrub.
And scrub.
The tub frowns back at me the same.
I think I’m going to need a bigger brush.

Scritcha, scritcha, scritcha. One layer gone.
Scritcha, scritcha, scritcha. Two. Three.
My wrist is as limp as a doggy ear.
More Comet. More water. More slaving away like Cinderella.
I think I can even hear my evil step-sisters laughing.
If only, if only I had not waited until the grime came, saw, and conquered!
The clock tick-tocks in rhythm with the scrub brush, but it doesn’t harmonize.
Red knees, cramping arms, everywhere wet, wet, wet,
Forehead and faucet dripping.

One last scritcha and I stand up to behold
The fruits of my hard labor.
The tub sparkles gold. Its pages are wiped clean.
It smiles brightly in its new purified state and asks me,
“Why did you wait so long to let me feel this way?
We both would have been happier.”
And then I understand what Alma* meant.
I sigh to myself and decide there is more scrubbing I must do today.

*Alma 34:32–34

Challenge: Follow Alma's counsel.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Marriage: Underrated
This popular t-shirt, TV sitcoms, and movies such as Hall Pass all joke about how awful, boring, unromantic, and overrated marriage is. Marriage is not taken seriously in our culture. Weddings are; marriage is not.

We married people are responsible for changing this terrible attitude toward married life. If all we do is complain about the bad and encourage every negative stereotype about husbands and wives, then that is all people will think of marriage. If we focus on the good and break negative stereotypes, then perhaps more people will want to be like us.

What is it about marriage that changes things? Regular boyfriends and girlfriends work, go to school, have kids, maybe live together--things married people do too--and yet still have time for each other and find their relationships exciting and desirable. I think it is the fact that a legal marriage makes people feel stuck or more accountable. And people like easy exits. The fear of such a high commitment level is the reason such things as renewable marriage contracts are arising. Also, people misunderstand the purpose of marriage. To them it is an option for people who love each other and truly want to be with each other for the rest of their lives.

Marriage was instituted for two reasons: to create families and to give us eternal companions. The significance of the second is often understated. We know we need to be sealed to achieve exaltation, but why? Why is marriage so important?

Heavenly Father knew we would need help in returning to Him. He has given us so many spiritual aids: prayer, scriptures, prophets, the Holy Ghost. He also gave us family and friends, because we need relationships. We need people whom we love, trust, confide in, receive strength from, and experience joys and sorrows with. Marriage gives us a best friend who will fulfill all of the above for eternity, someone who will always be there for us, who cares about our spiritual welfare, who helps us change into a celestial being. Marriage is about working together to make it back to Heavenly Father.

If we show people that side of marriage, it becomes a much more desirable and worthy goal. And in fulfilling the purposes of marriage, we build stronger, more loving families and communities.

Challenge: If you're in a rut in your marriage, remember the reason you got married and your heavenly goal and change your attitude!