Good Thursday

As I was readying bible stories with my daughter tonight, I was pondering on how we as Christians often focus so much on Good Friday and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that we forget what happened to Him the day before that all-important day. In some ways, perhaps, what happened on “Good Thursday” was even more important than what was to follow on Friday. Jesus Christ had two primary missions to accomplish on this earth that related to our eternal salvation: to overcome sin or spiritual death, and to overcome physical death. Through His death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday, He overcame physical death and made it possible for all of God’s children, each of us, to return to the presence of God one day. However important and transcendent the resurrection of the Savior was, that miracle would have been incomplete without the miraculous atonement that He began on Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane and completed through His suffering and death on the cross.

Jesus praying in Gethsemane
Jesus praying in Gethsemane

In the garden on that all-important night, Jesus Christ, the Son of God willfully took upon Him the sins of all living persons.

“The Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance.” (Alma 7:13)

lost-lamb-art-lds-425852-tabletThe Savior Himself described the experience this way:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (Doctrine & Covenants 19:18-19)

 

In addition to taking upon Himself the sins and transgressions of all people, He also suffered the pain and afflictions of all men. Because Christ completed His atonement, He is perfectly able to succor each of us in our times of trial.

“He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of 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 succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)

I know that the atonement of Christ is real. I am far from a perfect person, but I have felt the effects of the atonement in my life when I have repented of my sins and tried to follow Christ’s teachings. I have also felt the power of the atonement helping me through some of the darkest and most trying times of my life. I am grateful that Christ completed His mission both on Thursday and on Friday so that our sins can be forgiven and so that we may return to live with God after this life is over.

Christmas Eve 1968

On December 24, 1968 the crew of Apollo 8 were about to come back to earth after being the first humans to orbit the moon. As they came around the moon they caught this beautiful image of the earth rising above the horizon of the moon.

As they approached their final lunar sunrise before returning to earth, they shared a brief Christmas message. I love the message that they shared from that orbit. They quoted Genesis and the story of the creation of the earth. On this night, when we remember Christ who came to earth to save us from our sins I hope that you enjoy this little clip.

And as they ended their broadcast, so I also wish you a “Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth”

The Christmas Spirit

Intentionally focusing on the true meaning of Christmas draws us to Christ

ChristmasTree2013

I must admit, I’ve been struggling with this a bit this year. I’ve had a lot on my mind these last few days and have been feeling discouraged about what I see going on in the world. I’ve been concerned with the reaction of A&E to the “Duck Dynasty” guy. I’ve been a bit upset about the actions of a federal judge in Utah declaring that same-sex marriage can occur in the state. I worry about the erosion of religious liberty that I keep seeing around the world. Many of you know how I stand on issues such as these, but I was thinking about my attitude tonight and decided that I don’t want to let these issues distract me from what is really important about this season of the year.

I got to spend the day at home with my beautiful family today. I want them to know me as a Christian that lives his beliefs, and I want them to know how important Jesus Christ is to me in my life. I don’t know everything, but I wanted to share a few things that I do know and that I want to focus on (despite the news) this Christmas season.

The whole point of this season of the year is to remember Christ’s birth. His birth is important because of how He lived, what He taught, what He showed by His example, and most importantly, what He did for all of us by performing the atonement in Gethsemane and on Golgotha. I think that the statement at the end of this video says it perfectly.

To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ. — Thomas S. Monson

At this busy season of the year may we try a little harder to feel and show the spirit of Christ. May we be more kind to those around us. May we show more love to our families. May we serve those that are in need. May we strive to better understand and apply the atonement in our lives. May we pray for the heavenly gift of Charity — perhaps the most important characteristic of Christ.

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—but charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ. — Moroni 7:44-48

I know that Christ lives. I know that He came into the world to fulfill the will of His father. I know that He loves and knows each one of us individually. I know that through His atonement I can be forgiven. I know that it’s not always easy to follow Him, but I know that when we do we are happier and live more fulfilling lives. I am grateful for this Christmas season that helps me to remember Him better. I hope and pray that I can be a better follower and a better Christian.

MerryChristmas

O Come, O Come Immanuel

Immanuel (or Emmanuel) means God with Us. The birth of Jesus Christ the son of God was prophesied centuries before He was born of Mary in Bethlehem. The prophecies of Him, fortold his virgin birth, His life and His atoning sacrifice. Christ, as a member of the Godhead and therefore as a God himself, literally fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that God would be with the people through Him.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. — Isaiah 7:14

This great video shows some of the story of Christ’s life. I testify that Christ is the son of God. I’m grateful for this Christmas season where I can focus better on remembering His life.


Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. — Matthew 1:18-23

Ten Years

I assumed that first period AP Chemistry class that day would be just as it had been for the first few weeks of school. When I walked into the classroom, however,  I knew that something was wrong. The TV was on and I saw that the first tower of the World Trade Center was on fire. I didn’t really know what the twin towers were but I knew that something very bad had happened. As my class sat there in kind of a stunned silence, we watched a second plane explode into the second tower. Then we really knew that things were changed forever. As the rest of the day unfolded and we learned about planes crashing into the Pentagon and into the field, an almost deadly silence settled over our school and over the country. The suspense and fear was palpable. The first thought on the mind of most of my peers was, “What does this mean for the rest of my life? Will we go to war? How will our generation grow up in this new environment?”

Shortly after we learned about the Pentagon being hit the school forced us to turn off the TVs and “go about our normal business.” This infuriated me. This was my country that was under attack. This was my new reality. Yesterday’s “business as normal” was not normal any more. I could not believe that the school administrators thought that we were so immature that we shouldn’t know about what was happening to our country.

After school I went home and attended my mom’s home school English class and LaDawn Jacob’s history class. The class was full of very patriotic young men and women and we spent the whole 3 hours watching the news and talking about what this meant for our country. I remember standing on the front porch with some of the guys and talking about the possibility of our having to change our life plans and having to go to war.

That evening I had to go to work. I worked at a fast food place where business was dead the whole night. Only one gentleman came in, and I talked to him for half an hour. He was an old cowboy from Lehi, Utah, and had seen a lot in his life. He talked about how shocked and angry he was and how he wanted to get revenge on the terrorists.

As the images and stories of heroism surfaced over the next few weeks, I was touched by the greatness of the American people. I respect and honor the firefighters and police officers that risked and gave their lives for those that had been directly attacked. They are examples of the unconquerable Spirit of America and of the courage and bravery of our people.

That day ten years ago changed my life and my world forever. I had grown up with a great pride for America and with the belief that this country was founded by God and that God watched over the welfare of this country. I still hold to that belief. I believe that America is a land favored by God and that He will protect us. My religious belief teaches that God established this country as a place where people would have freedom.

“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. . .  That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” — D&C 101:80

While I mourn and commemorate the events of September 11th, 2001, I also fear that our country has moved itself from this fundamental role of protecting freedom. We have worked so hard at making ourselves safe that we have lost the freedom that our forbears sacrificed and gave their all to build. We don’t want to see airplanes become weapons again, and so we have voluntarily given up our privacy to what once would be considered an unlawful search at airport security checkpoints. We want so badly to catch terrorists that we allow the government to monitor our phone and other conversations without a warrant. We are so afraid of Muslim extremism that we have sometimes denied basic religious freedom to our Muslim brothers and sisters here at home. These and other examples should concern all freedom-loving Americans and cause us to reflect on the cost of this increased “safety.” Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as having said,

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Our founding fathers pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in pursuit of freedom from oppression and tyranny. As we strive to increase our security and safety, we must remember that freedom is paramount. As we remember this anniversary, let us pledge and commit ourselves to not only fight terrorism and tyranny where we find it but also to strive to protect freedom and liberty here. Let us retain the greatness that we have enjoyed by continuing in the goodness upon which we were founded.

It is for Us the Living

On this Memorial Day we remember those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve and protect our sacred freedoms. Those brave men that have gone before us deserve our honor and respect. They also deserve our continued vigilance to preserve freedom and the Constitution of the United States. As Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” We have the duty and responsibility as citizens of this great country to make our voices heard in defense of liberty and freedom.