Thursday, December 28, 2006

God’s Ways Are Higher than Our Ways

We are our Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters, and more than anything else, He wants us to come home to Him. At night I used to stare at the stars and wonder where our heavenly home was. The beauty and vastness of space filled me with awe for God and His creations. Still what we can see is just the beginning: there are more stars in the heavens than there are grains of sand on the earth. (See Neal A. Maxwell, “How Choice a Seer,” Ensign, November 2003, 100.) Yet despite the vastness of His creations, our Father in Heaven has numbered the very hairs on our heads! (Matthew 10:30.)

Little wonder that when Moses saw our Heavenly Father’s creations he exclaimed, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10.) Comparing man’s greatest accomplishments in technology, literature, science, government, medicine, philosophy, and like disciplines to God’s accomplishments, is like trying to compare a lightbulb to the sun. There is no comparison. Consequently, God’s superiority assures us that we can trust Him, even when things seem to go horribly wrong.
While the infinite works of God may be incomprehensible, our Heavenly Father, mercifully, is knowable. Before leaving His Apostles for Gethsemane and Golgotha, Jesus prayed and revealed one of the most simple and powerful doctrines recorded in the scriptures: “And this is eternal life, that [we] might know [Heavenly Father] the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] has[] sent.” (John 17:3.)
Thus, knowing the only true God must be the focus of our mortal sojourn. For if we know Him, we will be like Him, and if we are like Him, we will return to Him. (Moroni 7:48.)
And Heavenly Father will help us to know Him and His Son. Moses’ vision did not close with his sobering realization of mankind’s inferiority. Rather, Moses asked God a question, “Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?” (Moses 1:30.) And God answered:

For my own purpose have I made these things. . . . And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. . . .

The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:32-33, 37-39.)

This answer confirmed Moses’ recognition of mankind’s nothingness and refuted it. In essence, the Father told him: While compared to Me, mankind is nothing, to Me, mankind is everything. His eternal concern focuses on us.

And because His concern centers on us, God tailors all of His creations, thoughts, and actions for our salvation. How easy it should be to love and serve the God whose energy focuses exclusively on us, His children!

The Father and the Son

Certainly, knowing that we are children of God explains why our Heavenly Father does what He does. How else could He send His Only Begotten Son to suffer, bleed, and die for us? And why else would He, time after time, “gather [us] as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings”?(3 Nephi 10:4-6.) And how else could He look on our iniquity and “spare [us] a little longer” (Jacob 5:50-51) hoping that we will repent and return to Him. After all, our time on Earth is but a “twinkling of an eye” to God, and the veil doesn’t retard His memories of our lives with Him in our heavenly home.

If we could glimpse, for a moment, our lives in our heavenly home, we would lose all desire to sin. But for us to keep our second estate and prove that we will keep all of God’s commandments simply because we trust and love Him, our first estate must remain a mystery to us. Thankfully, the scriptures and modern prophets under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost have given us glimpses of the premortal existence. Jeremiah learned that before he was formed in the womb, God knew him and called him to be a prophet. (Jeremiah 1:5) Abraham saw the spirits who lived with God before the world was created. (Abraham 3:22.) Moses saw the council in which we were all present when Heavenly Father presented the Plan of Redemption and when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. (Moses 4:1-4.) Modernly, President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us." (Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Speeches of the Year, 1974, 1975, 313.) We lived with God for a long time before we came here, and all He wants is for us to come home.
You and I have felt Heavenly Father’s desire for us to come home. I feel it as I search the scriptures and when I pray, not some superficial prayer, but prayer which necessitates “groanings” because words fail to express what I feel. Maybe a particularly beautiful piece of music, a sunset, or the birth of your child made you “long for home.” (Phillip Paul Bliss, “More Holiness Give Me,” Hymns, 131.) There are many ways that we feel Heavenly Father calling to us, but because He loves us, He will never force us to come. He loves us too much.
Heavenly Father’s plan is a plan of growth. Imagine receiving all that He has as we are right now! (See D&C 84:38.) The roots of Divinity would certainly overcome the tender branches of our capacity. (See Jacob 5:65.) Thus, He must nurture us as we cultivate our talents, attributes, and abilities to become “even as [He] is.” (3 Nephi 27:27.)
And Father sent a master Gardener to bring us into His garners. (Jeffery R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 15.) After all, the angels had good reason to sing that first Christmas night. In a vision explaining his father’s dream of the tree of life, Nephi saw the “most beautiful and fair [of] all virgins” holding the Son of God. (1 Nephi 11:15-22.) Instantly, Nephi recognized that the tree of life symbolized Christ and knew that the baby born in Bethlehem was the embodiment of God’s love for His children. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.)
And God’s love abounded as Jesus walked among men. As Jesus healed and served, He testified that He merely did the works of the Father. (John 14:10.) That is, if Heavenly Father had been in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, He would have healed the sick, raised the dead, caused the blind to see, and lifted the sinner. For it was “God’s love [Jesus was] showing [us].” (Jeffery R. Holland, “The Grandeur of God,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 72.) The same sorrow which filled Jesus as He lamented over Jerusalem filled Heavenly Father, as did the same compassion which Jesus showed to sinners, even to a woman caught in adultery. How can we imagine a stern and unforgiving God when He refused to condemn one guilty of the heinous sin of adultery? (See John 8:1-11.) True, God cannot “look upon sin with the least degree of tolerance,” and “no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.” But He wants us to repent of our sins, and when we do, immediately, He will extend the blessings of the plan of redemption to us until “He takes us on His shoulders and casts our sins behind His back.” (Alma 34:31; Holland, The Grandeur of God, 73.)
Thus the greatest manifestation of God’s love for us was the offering of His Son as the “great and last sacrifice” for sin. (Alma 34:10,13-14.) None of us compared to Christ premortally. The prophet Joseph Smith taught that many years will pass after our deaths and resurrection before any of us attain perfection. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 348.) Yet Jesus continued “from grace to grace” (D&C 93:14) until He attained Godhood many billions of years ago, enabling Him to create all things. (Moses 1:32-33.) Despite His premortal perfection, Jesus yielded Himself as a willing sacrifice to the will of the Father. No one deserved greater praise, glory, and honor. Yet no one suffered more. (D&C 19:15-18.) Still, to glorify the Father and to exalt us, Jesus “descended below all things.” (D&C 122:8).
Yes, the angels sang that first Christmas night because over Christ’s manger bed loomed the shadows of Gethsemane’s trees and of Golgotha’s cross. And the silence of that night portended the silence of the empty Garden Tomb.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”(Luke 2:14.)
I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who suffered the pains of death and hell to bring us home. And I know that the life and sacrifice of our Savior attest to our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

Born Again

While Jesus is the Son of God, He is also the Father of all those who are born again through His atoning sacrifice. (Mosiah 5:7; 15:2-8.) And we all must be born again to be worthy to go home. Like our physical birth, our spiritual rebirth requires conception and gestation before we emerge as new beings amidst blood, water, and spirit. Because we are children of God, there is a seed of divinity within us. When it’s fertilized by the preaching of the gospel, it will begin to “swell within [us].” (Alma 32:28.) Soon we will have a testimony that the seed is good, but will need much more growth and development, for merely receiving a testimony of the truth is not rebirth.

This was never more obvious than it was with Peter. Peter had a powerful testimony of Jesus and His atonement. He had witnessed his Master heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water, calm the troubled sea, feed the multitudes with limited food, and cast out devils. And being present at these miracles allowed Peter to believe until he received from Heavenly Father the perfect knowledge that “[Jesus is] the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16.) Notwithstanding Peter’s powerful testimony, Christ, at the last supper, admonished him, “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32.) Peter was still in gestation despite his deep love for and desire to follow the Savior. It was not until after sore repentance—necessitated by his denials of knowing Jesus—and the day of Pentecost when the gift of the Holy Ghost fell upon him that Peter became the rock who defied the leaders of the Jews and continued “speak[ing] the things which [he] had seen and heard” (Acts 4:20) when just a few months before he feared to confess his association with Jesus as he spoke to a common maid and two anonymous men. (Luke 22:54-62.)
While all the details of Peter’s spiritual rebirth remain concealed by history, we see that faith in the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, sincere repentance, and obedience to the commandments allowed the Holy Ghost to work in Peter until he “[became] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” (Mosiah 3:19.)
Without Christ’s atoning blood, entering into the waters of baptism and keeping the covenants made therein, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, none of us can become saints. These three elements intertwine:
“By the water[s] [of baptism we] keep the commandment[s],” (Moses 6:60) thus placing us in the “power of the Redeemer.” (Helaman 5:11.) In short, as we forsake our sins, we submit our wills to the will of the Father. Without such submission, God cannot save us because He will not interfere with our agency. (Alma 42:13, 27.) And as we submit our wills to God’s, we allow the Holy Ghost to be with us always.
“By the Spirit [we] are justified.” (Moses 6:60). Because He is a member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is God. And “no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.” (3 Nephi 27:19.) Therefore, to feel the Spirit, He must first purge us of our sins. His justifying influence actually cleanses us like the garments of the Nephite disciples who prayed to receive the Holy Ghost. (See 3 Nephi 19.)
“By the blood [we] are sanctified.” (Moses 5:60.) We constantly stain our clothing with sin. But through the atonement, the Holy Ghost offers us a change of clothes so that we can enter His presence and He can speak to us and direct us. Two things can happen with our soiled clothing: either the Holy Ghost will take them to the Savior to be “cleansed from all stain through the blood of [Jesus Christ],” (Alma 5:21) or He will return them to us still soiled and stained because we would not let Jesus cleanse them. Obviously, our clothing will need washed many times throughout life. But we can know that we have been born again when we have lost the desire to sin (Mosiah 5:2) and when any stains on our clothing come from inadvertent stumbles and slips—which leave grass stains on our elbows and knees—rather than from wallowing in the mire of the world.
Very few of us, myself included, have truly been born again. I still have my favorite sins. Thankfully, they are not as serious as Corianton’s, but I still struggle, like Shiblon, with pride and with bridling my passion. (See Alma 38-42.) Yet I know that I must give away all my sins to truly know God (Alma 22:18) and find solace in the promise that as I strive to repent and submit to the Savior, immediately He will begin sanctifying me through the blessings of the atonement. (Alma 34:31.) One day, I will be born again; my heart will be changed, and I will be ready to go home.

Sacrifice in Similitude
There are many men and women who have been welcomed home. And all of them are worthy to be there because they “[have] offered sacrifice in similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and [have] suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name.” (D&C 138:13.) To say they have offered a sacrifice of the same magnitude of the Savior would be blasphemous, but the personal magnitude of each’s sacrifice has similar eternal significance.

Speaking in the broadest terms, Jesus’ sacrifice was that of His will. By allowing His will to be “swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7), Jesus shrunk beneath the burden of sin, death, and sorrow but finally overcame them. Thus descending below all things, Jesus can lift us above all things. And as He lifts us, we will become “even as [He] is. (3 Nephi 27:27.) Yet during the exalting process of redemption, Jesus requires us to give Him our hearts, even our whole souls, just as He gave His Father everything as He prayed, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39. See also 3 Nephi 9:20; Omni 1:26.)

But giving our whole souls to the Lord isn’t easy. All of us have our favorite sins, and we aren’t quick to let go of them. When King Lamoni’s father offered to give away all his sins to know God, I used to think, “Well, duh!” (Alma 22:18.) After all, sins are bad and only bring sorrow. But as I have matured, I recognized that it feels good to sin. Yelling at an inattentive or reckless motorist feels good after he’s cut you off. Inappropriate movies are entertaining. And bad music, nevertheless, often has a good beat. The fact is, we enjoy sin. Like Esau, we are willing to sell our birthright for a mess of pottage. We must let go of our own respective messes of pottage; otherwise, such Esau-like lack of perspective will keep us from returning home. As pleasurable as our favorite sins may be, they’re not worth our eternal birthright. (See Genesis 25:29-34; Romans 8:16-17.)
Yet to succeed to our eternal inheritance, the cost is much more than pottage. God wants our everything. But what do we really have to give when even the air we breath is on loan? (Mosiah 2:21.) “[O]ur wills constitute all we really have to give God anyway. The usual gifts and their derivatives we give to Him could be stamped justifiably ‘Return to Sender’ with a capital S. ” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, May 2002, 38.)
Yielding our agency to the will of the Father means loving Him with all our “heart, might, mind, and strength.” (D&C 59:5.) For if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (John 14:13.) Thus, those who offered sacrifice in similitude of the sacrifice of the Son of God simply obeyed God’s commandments, even if that meant letting go of their lives or the life of a beloved son. (Genesis 22:2.) Still, even as they let go, they trusted Jesus’ promise: “every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29.)
And inasmuch as everlasting life means knowing God and Jesus Christ, our submission to God’s will acquaints us with Them. For we are doing exactly what They have done. Our Heavenly Father gave His only begotten Son for our salvation; Jesus gave His life, thus showing us there is nothing more important to Them than our eternal salvation and joy. How is it that we cannot give away all our sins, including our favorite sins, so that we can receive the blessings they most earnestly want us to have? If we let go of our sins and cling to the commandments— even until our wills are swallowed up in the will of the Father—when Jesus comes to take us home, “we will be like him, . . . purified even as he is pure.” (Moroni 7:48.) And we will know Them, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] has[] sent.” (John 17:3.)

Home at Last
As eagerly as I wanted to clasp Micah in my arms and bring him home from the hospital, my yearning could not approximate our Father and our Savior’s desire for us to come home. Sooner or later, we will recognize that sin is nothing more than swine’s husks and there is “bread enough and to spare” in our Father’s house. (Luke 15:17.) And when we turn ourselves and begin the long journey home, our Savior will walk beside us, lift us, and “succor [us] according to [our] infirmities.” (Alma 7:12.) The path may be difficult, but in the end, it will lead us to the gates of our eternal home. Then, as we pass through those gates, our Father will run to us, gather us in His arms, and give us the ring, robe, and shoes of our eternal inheritance. (Luke 15:20-22.)

We will have come home.

Another Response to "I'd Like to Know"

I have received another response to my request to know what you believe. Please click here to read it.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Blessing

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, the Lord, through the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr., directed, “Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.” (D&C 20:70). This ordinance is similar to circumcision and christening in that as the elders of the Church bless the child, they also give him his name. But unlike circumcision and christening, the child is neither circumcised nor baptized. And the ordinance of blessing a child also serves the functional purpose of enrolling the child on the records of the Church.

I give this background because today I had the privilege of blessing my son. Because I am an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (all worthy, adult male members of my Church are), I was able to perform the ordinance.
My wife, daughter, son, and I returned to Utah last night. And since the majority of our family lives in Utah, we decided to bless my son here. Although not everyone could come, it was good to see so many of our family.
My son was adorable in a white, mini-tuxedo with tails which my mother-in-law insisted that he wear. He had just nursed and was asleep when my dad, a Bishop in the Church in Tooele, Utah, invited me to stand and perform the blessing.
I held my son while the men of my family who were present placed their right hands under him while they rested their left hands on the shoulder of the person to their left. My heart pounded before I began, but when I started the ordinance, I felt the power of the Priesthood flow through me. The blessing was simple and sacred, and I would share the details of it if I could. All I can say is that I felt the power of God bear witness that the things I promised my son would come true.
How blessed I feel to be a father!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A los de ustedes que hablen castellano

Otro testamento
Se sentó en la entrada de su casa con un libro muy cerca de su cara. Lo habíamos visto en las calles, esforzándose a caminar con dos bastones, uno por mano. El artritis en sus rodillas había de ser horrible. También, hubo algo familiar acerca del libro que leía. Aunque el título en la tapa azul hubo perdido el color, su grosor y tamaño me recordaron de un ejemplar viejo del Libro de Mormón.

Pero el enfoque del hombre mientras leía me hizo dudar que fuera el Libro de Mormón. Nunca lo vimos al hombre en la iglesia, y las personas mayores de Cayambe normalmente no les hablaban a Mormones, ni tampoco aceptaban ni leín uno de nuestros libros.

"Élder Pankratz," dijo mi compañero, "pienso que lee el Libro de Mormón."

"Sí, hablémosle," dije.

Ni se movió cuando le saludamos. Pero cuando nos miró, me pregunté como nos podría ver. Cataratas gruesas cubrieron la mayoría de sus ojos, y usó un pedaso de cuerda para sujetar un par de anteojos rotos con lentes gruesas y monturas negras. Mas tuvimos razón: leía de Mosíah.

"¿Disfruta usted el libro que lee?" le pregunté.

"¿Qué?" dijo el hombre viejo.

"¿Disfruta usted el libro que lee?" le pregunté, tratando de no gritar.

"El libro habla de Dios, y me gusta," contestó.

"El libro es de nuestra iglesia," dije.


"El libro es de nuestra iglesia," dije, trantando de no gritar, "y nos gustaría hablar con usted acerca de lo que enseña."

"Joven, soy miembro de la Iglesia Católica Apostólica Romana. Me nací Católico y moriré Católico."

Tratamos de hablarle más, pero o no nos pudo oír o no nos hizo caso. Salimos, y volvió a su lectura con el mismo enfoque de antes.

Hay días cuando me pregunto si nosotros, como miembros de la Iglesia, somos como aquel hombre viejo. Aceptamos que el Libro de Mormón es la palabra de Dios, pero no reconocemos la plenitud que el libro nos ofrece.

La invitacion

Como misionero, mis visitas primeras con investigadores siempre terminaron al leer con ellos la promesa que se da por Moroni. (Véase Moroni 10:3-5). Quería tanto que ellos supieran que el Libro de Mormón es verdadero. Es verdad que esa promesa es esencial en obtener un testimonio del Libro de Mormón, yo quisiera que yo les hubiera enseñado más sobre la invitación que Cristo dio a los habitantes de América antigua cuando se les apareció porque saber que el Libro de Mormón es verdadero es sólo un paso en conocerle a Jesús. En el templo de la tierra de Abundancia, Jesús dijo:

Levantaos y venid a mí, para que metáis vuestras manos en mi costado, y para que también palpéis las marcas de los clavos en mis manos y en mis pies, a fin de que sepáis que soy el Dios de Israel, y el Dios de toda la tierra, y que he sido muerto por los pecados del mundo.

Uno por uno, cada persona vino a Jesús y recibió un testimonio perfecto de la divinidad y
el amor redentor de Jesús. (3 Nefi 11:14-15.)

La invitación de Cristo no fue solamente para los Nefitas y Lamanitas. Se nos extiende hoy. Pero solamente podemos contestarla por el Libro de Mormón.

Ayudado a aceptar

Mis padres me ayudaron a aceptar la invitación de Jesús cuando yo tenío ocho años, pero no porque yo era un niño angélico. Después de muchas amenanzas que yo iba a matárme o que yo iba a escaparme de la casa o que yo odié a todos, mis padres no sabían que hacer. Llegó al punto que mi padre me dijo que el dudaba si yo estuviera listo para bautizarme.

Sin embargo me bauticé aún que no cambié mi comportamiento. Y después de tiempo mi padres me compraron mi propio Libro de Mormón. No me acuerdo por que, pero empecé de leerlo, y se hicieron cambios con mi comportamiento.

Palpando las marcas

Mas importante que la manera que cambió mi comportamiento, el Libro de Mormón me trajo a Jesús y me dio un testimonio perfecto que el es mi Salvador. Pero mi testimonio de Cristo no me vino de una manera tan dramática como lo de los Nefitas y Lamanitas. Como un niño de nueve años, no entendía mucho de lo que leí, pero los cuentos del Libro de Mormón me encantaban: cuando Nefi obtuvo las planchas de bronce (1 Nefi 4), cuando Ammón salvó los rebaños del Rey Lamoni (Alma 17), cuando Enós oró todo el día y la noche (Enos 1), y cuando el Capitán Moroni defendiendo la libertad con toda su fuerza (Alma 43-62). Pero mi cuento favorito era cuando Jesús sanó a los enfermos y bendijo los niños al templo de la tierra de Abundancia. (Nephi 17). Pero no me di cuenta que Cristo había empezado bendiciéndome y sanándome a mi.

Como joven, lloré con Jesús cuando contrasté la manera que los Nefitas y Lamanitas trataron a Jesús con la manera que los Judíos lo trataron. En Jerusalén, la mayoría de la gente le le rechazó, pero en Abundancia, todos lloraron cuando pensaron que Jesús se iba. En Jerusalén, Jesús probó el rechazo y el odio de los que anhelaba sanar. Quisás sintiera que su sacrificio fue en vano. En Abundancia, todos se regocijaron y vinieron a Él. Y su gozo fue completo cuando vio que su sacrificio los hubo salvado a tantos. (3 Nephi 17:20 ).

Al continuar leyendo, el Libro de Mormón me enseño la doctrina de la expiación, y mi amor para Jesús creció. Por el libro, sentí el amor perfecto de Dios que le mandara a su Hijo Unigénito a sacrificarse por nosotros y el amor de Jesús que el descendiera debajo de todo para alzarme a la vida eterna. Reconocí que Jesús satisfizo "las demandas de la ley" (2 Nephi 2:5, 10) por mi cuando el bebió "la copa de la ira de Dios" y sufrió las penas de los condenados (Mosíah 3:25-27). Me salvó a fin de que yo no nesecitara sufrir lo mismo, y anhelé "ser recibido el los brazos de Jesús" (Mormón 5:11).

Y aprendí mi responsibilidad en el Plan de Salvación. Yo nesecitara "fe para arrepentimiento"(Alma 34:17). Y si no me arrepintiera, Jesús no podría salvarme "porque a menos que fuera por [las condiciones del arrepentimiento], la misericordia no podría surtir efecto, salvo que destruyese la obra de la justicia" (Alma 42:13). Y el arrepentimiento llegó a ser más que dejar de hacer cosas malas; llegó a ser la manera por la que mi voluntad podría ser "absorbida el la voluntad del Padre" (Mosíah 15:7) para que yo pudiera "[seguirle a Cristo y hacer] las cosas que [hube] visto [Jesús] hacer" (2 Nefi 31:12), incluyendo ser bautizado, recibir el Espíritu Santo, y obedecer los mandamientos del Padre. Sin esa sumisión, Jesús no tendría poder "para redimir[me] [a mi] de [mis] pecados" (Helaman 5:11) porque Él no me forzara recibir la salvación (Alma 42:17).

De veras, Jesús ha satisfecho "las demandas de la ley, por todos los de corazón quebrantado y de espíritu contrito" (2 Nephi 2:7). Y no hay "otro nombre, niotra senda ni medio, por el cual la salvación llegue a los hijos de los hombres" (Mosíah 3:17). Cristo ya pagó el precio del pecado y nos salvará si le permitimos.

Hoy, es una maravilla que Jesús no sólo sufriera por mis pecados pero por mis "dolores, aflicciones y tentacions . . . ; [y mis] enfermedades . . . , a fin de que según la carne sepa cómo socorrer[me] [a mi] de acuerdo con [mis] enfermedades" (Alma 7:11-12). No comprendo que, mientras sufro, no sufro solo. Testifico que Jesús nos socorrerá. He tenido experiencias demasiadas numerosas y sagradas para mencionar cuand, después de sentir listo de entregarme a las pruebas y aflicciones de la vida, Jesús me consoló y me susurró que todo saldría bien.

Sé que Jesucristo vive y es el Salvador de mi alma. A pesar de que no lo he visto, espero el día cuando me arrodillé delante de Él. Pero por el Libro de Mormón, yo ya lo conozco. Si el velo se partiera hoy y yo le metiera la mano en su costado y palpara las marcas de los clavos en sus manos y pies, no sabría mejor que ya sé que Jesús es el Cristo, el Hijo del Dios viviente porque yo he palpado, de una manera muy real, las señales de su expiación por las enseñanzas del Libro de Mormón.

Levantaos y venid

Y todos pueden conocerle a Jesucristo en una manera poderosa y perfecta. La invitación que Jesús les puso a los Nefitas y Lamanitas se nos extiende hoy. Pero tenemos que contestarla. Debemos "[sacudirnos] de las cadenas con las cuales [estamos] sujetos, [aún las cadenas del pecado], y [salir] de la obscuridad, y [levantarnos] del polvo" (2 Nefi 1:23).Y tenemos el Libro de Mormón y su plenitud para ayudarnos. ¿Lo leerás y lo escrudriñarás para encontrar la plenitud que contiene? Si lo haces, testifico que lo encontrarás a Jesús esperando "con brazos abiertos para recibirte" (Mormón 6:17). Él te conoce. "Él ha llevado [tus] pesares y sufrido [tus] dolores . . . ; y con sus llagas [puedes ser] sanado" (Mosíah 14:4-5).

A pesar de que aquel hombre viejo en Cayambe no nos escuchó, él contestaba la llamada de Jesús, y no me preocupo mucho por él. Cualquier persona que lee el Libro de Mormón con la misma energía y enfoque como el hombre viejo recibirá todas las bendiciones que el libro ofrece. Tal vez, después de morir, el hombre viejo y yo nos encontraremos otra vez y nos regocijaremos mientras compartimos uno con otro nuestro amor por el Libro de Mormón porque nos habrá traído a Jesús.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Learn a Little More About Me

PBS is broadcasting a documentary about my ancestors called "Sweetwater Rescue." If you live in the Waco area, it will be on tonight at 8:00 p.m. on KWBU.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Tragedy of the Pharisees

The Pharisees and their followers were tragic characters. After centuries of captivity, the nation of Israel had dwindled in size and influence until it existed only by the grace of foreign powers. At the time of Christ, Rome ruled Judea and the remnant of Israel that had returned from ancient captivity. And the Pharisees waited for King Messiah to liberate them. But their focus on physical freedom caused them to "look beyond the mark" when He came. (Jacob 4:14).

This spiritual over-sightedness resulted from centuries of misinterpretation of their scriptures. The greatest scribes and lawyers had analyzed ancient prophesies and the Mosaic law, and with their own learning and wisdom, they established their interpretations as the law. And anyone who dared to challenge their interpretations was labeled a blasphemer and a heretic.

Thus, they exalted their interpretation of the scriptures over the Word.

In the fulness of times, "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among the [Jews and the Pharisees]." (John 1:14). And had they focused on the prophesies of the scriptures, the Pharisees and their followers would have recognized Jesus for who He was. Certainly, the Magi of the East were not the only ones who saw the new star which attested to the birth of the Messiah. But the Bible is silent as to whether anyone else followed it to the Christ child or was even looking for it. The Pharisees’ failure to recognize the signs of the birth of the Messiah caused them to miss one of the most wondrous nights in history.

And when Jesus’ ministry began, the Pharisees still failed to recognize the coming of their Redeemer. Here was the Son of the wife of a carpenter, a Nazarene. And throughout His ministry, He openly contradicted Pharisaic traditions. Instead of stirring insurrection to liberate Israel, He proclaimed peace. Rather than submitting to Pharisaic law, He taught the Higher Law of the Father. He healed on the Sabbath. And He had the audacity to teach that He was the I AM who gave the law, would fulfill it, and would give a new, higher law. Surely, this couldn’t be the promised Messiah.

This is the greatest tragedy of the Pharisees: Jesus was Jehovah incarnated, even the God whom the Pharisees claimed to worship, and they took their God, hated Him, rejected Him, persecuted Him, and crucified Him, all because Jesus didn’t fit within their messianic mold.

And like the prodigal son’s older brother, the gates to their Father’s house stood open, but they refused to enter because their rules weren’t being kept.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Faith Journey (Response to I'd Like to Know) by Prof. Mark Osler, Baylor Law School

I'm giving a talk to the Christian Legal Society on Tuesday of next week, and probably will discuss my faith journey some at that time. But here is a bit of it--
The idea of God has always been the most compelling idea of all to me. The very idea of Him is humbling and true and real, and that is something I feel more than I know. To say that my faith starts with a belief in God is, to me, not simple-- it is profound and world changing. The very acknowledgment that there is a God, and that it is not me, places me in a defined place in the universe-- below a God who created me.
From that, I realize that if God is great and I am small, there is much about His creation I won't understand. My knowledge is a thimbleful out of the ocean. My faith leads me to uncertainty more than certainty.
That said, my faith also allows me to believe that the teachings of Christ are revelations from God. That is why the Bible is so important to me. Again, this is humbling, because Jesus constantly taught not to do the things we want to do. My instinct, for instance, is to be a modern Pharisee, a teacher of the law who is so full of himself he would not recognize the Messiah. One of my other great sins is that of wealth-- I have not done a very good job of answering Christ's call to give to the poor at our own sacrifice. In short, my reading of the gospels leads me to self-criticism rather than the righteous criticism of others.
More than anything, what is at the center of my faith is also my great failing-- the call to humility. I see that in all that Christ did, from his birth in a stable to his death on a cross.
-- Mark Osler

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Christmas Article

I just read this article, and thought you might want to read it.

I'd Like to Know

I must confess something: Before I moved to Waco, I looked forward to having religious discussions with others here, but, disappointingly, I have only had a few. And those have generally been with non-Texans. Perhaps knowing I'm a Mormon has led others to avoid discussing religion with me.
And I wouldn't blame anyone. Although I don't know much of what Texans believe about my faith, I have heard that Mormons and Mormonsim are frequent topics among the various denominations throughout Texas. And I must say that I feel at somewhat of a disadvantage because I am left to generalize about what others believe.
So, in an effort to promote understanding---principally mine---I would like to know what you believe. But before I open up my blog to religious discussion, I do have a few rules when discussing religion. (I've adopted most of them from men and women much wiser than I).
1. Never attack someone else's beliefs.
2. Declarations of sincere belief are always welcome. And if you wish to rebut someone else's belief, then do it by expressing what you believe. NOT by pointing out which points of doctrine you find to be silly, erroneous, or misguided.
3. If you want to know what members of another religion believe, go to them and not to their enemies.
4. Never judge a church by its worst members. Those who fail to live according to the tenets of their religion are not representative of that religion.
5. Leave room for divine envy.
6. Everyone has the right to believe or not what you are saying.
7. Listen (in this case read) for understanding, not to plan on what you will say to refute what the other is saying.
Now that these rules are established, I want you to know that I hold everyone's right to worship God, or not, according to the dictates of her conscience as sacred. But, as you know, I also believe that we should express our convictions to others.
I have found that as others share their beliefs with me, I am more introspective about what I believe. At times, I have struggled with doctrines and have spent hours in prayer and scripture study to determine what is right. Often, I find that my understanding was incomplete, and at other times, my beliefs are reaffirmed.
But without listening to others, I would never have had such experiences. And I sincerely wish to understand your faith.
So, what do you believe?
I eagerly await your response.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Christmas Gift

This Christmas season, we wish to give you the most precious gift that we have ever received: a knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that He has restored His Church so that we may know Him and receive all of the blessings which He wishes to give us. You may also know these things through the teachings of the prophets of the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is true. It stands with the Holy Bible as a witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior and the Son of God. Through it, you will come to know Jesus in a way you have never imagined. The Book of Mormon invites us all to ‘arise and come forth unto [Him] that [we] . . . may feel the prints of the nails in [His] hands and in [His] feet, that [we] may know . . . that [He] is the God of the whole earth, and [has] been slain for the sins of the world’ (3 Nephi 11:14, p. 428). Although we have not seen Jesus, in a way we have felt the prints of the nails in His hands and feet as we have read the Book of Mormon, and we know that He is the God of the whole earth.

But we hope that you will not simply rely on our word. We invite you to read the Book of Mormon to test us. And we promise that if you will read it, ponder its teachings, and ‘ask God . . . in the name of Christ if [it is true]’ (Moroni 10:4, p. 529), God will answer your prayer.
Please click here to order a free copy of The Book of Mormon.
Merry Christmas!

May The Book of Mormon bring you nearer to Jesus, whose birth we celebrate.
The Pankratz Family

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Fall Storm

The Brazos is a sullen mirror, a darkened glass reflecting Fall's penumbras. As I sit, accompanied only by the chattering of the rain against the window, mist rises from the river and rushes along with the current. I hardly notice the webs clinging to the edges of the window which the rain has failed to clean.

The family of turtles I saw a few days ago sunbathing on a log jutting from the shore isn't there today. Likely, they're huddled together in some hidden lair. But alone, I'm at peace, enjoying the storm properly---warm and reading.

Recently, a journal came out with a list of the most influential Americans of all time. I read Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were both listed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I've noticed that since I posted my article about the Book of Mormon on Sunday that my blog has received several dozen hits. Perhaps my counter is acting up, or maybe the novelty of having access to an actual Mormon has stirred up interest. Anyway, I want you to know that I am open to questions about my Church. But know that I have no authority to speak on behalf of my Church. I can only share my feelings and insights.

Regardless, feel free to send a question through the comments links. If you don't want the comment posted, tell me, and I won't post it. If it's a question I know the answer to, I'll write a general response and post it on my main blog page.

And it also takes a lot for me to get offended; so even if you feel your question may be offensive to an average Mormon, you can ask me.

Regardless, I'll continue sharing my poetry, essays, and short stories with you all.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Pure Religion

Last night, I watched the news and was touched by the reports of several establishments throughout Central Texas which provided Thanksgiving dinner to the poor and needy. Is there a better definition of Christianity?

Jesus taught the people of ancient America, "Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up---that which ye have seen me do." (3 Nephi 18:24).

I am certain that if Jesus were among us today, His Thanksgiving holiday would've been spent lightening the burdens of those around Him. But He isn't here, so we must do what He has done and would do.

May God bless all those who spent their holiday serving others, whether in the community or within their own homes.

The following are a few of my favorite scriptures about pure religion:

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27).

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath annointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." (Isaiah 61:1-3).

"And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our father, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish . . . .

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?" (Mosiah 4:14-16, 19).

"[B]ear one another's burdens, that they may be light ; . . . mourn with those that mourn; . . . comfort those that stand in need of comfort, . . . stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in, even until death . . . ." (Mosiah 18:8-9).

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Andean Home

Utah’s mountains are rarely green, but after spring’s warmth begins to melt winter’s snow, the mountains’ soil becomes saturated with life-giving moisture, and flowers and grasses adorn the mountainside. And when it rains, a misty line of clouds hovers over the hills, obscuring all but the the mountains’ bases. Storm-subdued greens compliment the clouds’ soft gray tones while the rain falls. During such spring storms, I feel like I’m in Cayambe, Ecuador.

Rainstorms in Cayambe always came suddenly. The sun would often rise on a beautiful day with a sky unblemished by clouds, and, hours later, grayness would seep from the canyons of the surrounding mountains and hang over the valley. With a loud thunderclap, the sky would erupt with rain. If I was in a home with a tin roof, the pounding rain would reverberate through the house, and I couldn’t hear what my companion and those we taught were saying. During one storm, Cayambe’s streets turned into canals. We needed to cross the road, so I stepped in. Dirty rainwater reached my calves as we made our way to our appointment.

On Sundays, storms would often come one-half hour before church services started, and people wouldn’t come; they blamed the rain. But I understood. When your only means of transportation is your feet, walking fifteen minutes in a downpour to sit through three hours in a cold church isn’t very enticing.

After the rain stopped, it was usually dusk, and sunsets after a storm were gorgeous. There are two things in nature that will electrify colors: when the clouds part after a rainstorm, the humid air deepens the hues of every leaf, tree, and blade of grass, and when the sun is low in the sky, either in the morning or the evening, its rays glaze everything they touch with gold. When the two of them combine, like they did in Cayambe, the effect is magical. The mountains were vibrant greens, the valley glistened, and the pastel colors of Cayambe’s Spanish-colonial, adobe homes and buildings seemed more springlike. So when Utah’s rains mimic Cayambe’s, I close my eyes and return to Cayambe, a small, Andean city in Ecuador’s northern highlands.
An hour by bus from Ecuador’s capital, Quito, Cayambe rests on the east bench of Ecuador’s Valley of the Sun. Hundreds of years ago, the Cayambi Indians cultivated the valley, and when the Spanish conquistadores discovered it, they took the land, built haciendas, and subjugated the natives. Today, the Cayambis no longer exist as a people. Their Quichuan dialect has almost disappeared, and most Cayambeños are the decedents of Spanish and Native American progenitors. But in the mountain villages surrounding the valley, thousands of natives farm and live much like their ancestors, and their rectangular fields still ascend the slopes of green mountainsides to the east, north, and west of the valley.

And towering to the east of Cayambe is an extinct volcano: the Nevado. It gently rises from the city and gradually ascends to heaven. At fifteen thousand feet, its rich green foliage surrenders to shimmering snow. The mountain climbs several thousand more feet before the snow becomes sky. From Cayambe, the Nevado looks like a symmetrical, white bell skirted by green velvet. On clear days, the glacier would reflect sunshine, and the snow’s whiteness would intensify until its brightness seemed celestial. I have never seen anything so brilliantly white.

And when sunset would bathe the valley in its rosy hues, the Nevado would blush. Even after the sun had descended, the glacier would resonate pink for several minutes while shadows blanketed Cayambe and its countryside. But the Nevado’s beauty was not obscured with nightfall. When the moon was full, bluish moonlight would reflect from the glacier, and the mountain would glow.
Beneath this massive volcano, Cayambe and the Valley of the Sun blossom. They are the flower of Ecuador. Three minutes longitude north of the equator, Cayambe’s elevation determines its climate. And at 8,000 feet above sea-level, spring is eternal in Cayambe. The valley’s fertile soil is ideal for farming; green acres of alfalfa and corn and golden wheat fields checkerboard it.
Twenty years ago, Cayambe and its sister village Tabacundo were small settlements occupied only by those whose ancestors had lived there for centuries. But after someone discovered that the valley’s soil was perfect for cultivating flowers, the Valley of the Sun bloomed. Today, hundreds of plastic-covered greenhouses are interspersed among grain and alfalfa fields and glisten in the Ecuadorian sun. Flower cultivation is a multimillion dollar enterprise, and Cayambeño roses are exported throughout the world. If you watched Princess Diana’s funeral several years ago, you saw flowers grown on the Valley of the Sun’s plantations. And because one dozen roses only costs fifty-two cents within the town, Cayambe is the ideal residence for romantics and husbands who are in the "dog house."
The plantations also provide steady work and have attracted thousands of Ecuadorians hoping to encounter steady work in an economically troubled country, and Cayambe’s population is as diverse as the Valley’s flowers: Indians work beside Costeños (coastal people), Serranos (Mountain people), and Ezmeraldeños—decedents of African slaves who overpowered their ship’s slave traders off the coast of Ecuador and gained their freedom on the shores of South America.

Most people wouldn't let us into their homes, so we talked to many of them in Cayambe's streets. Old men in dingy, dark sweaters and tailor-made slacks with either adjust-to-fit caps or narrow-brimmed hats which seemed to be from classic, black-and-white movies often sat together talking. I don’t know what they discussed; they never let missionaries near them. If we tried to talk, they simply reminded us that they were Católicos.

Old women, on the other hand, scared me to death. When we tracted, I prayed that an old woman wouldn’t open the door at every house we knocked. Whenever, a door opened and I saw a woman in a cardigan with silver hair pulled back into a braid, I braced myself. I considered myself lucky if I could spit out my companion’s and my name before the door would slam. It’s not that old women were mean people. They were only mean to LDS missionaries, and I never understood why. I always wondered why those women’s grandmotherly instincts didn’t kick in when they saw two young men, boys really, standing at their door. I’ve since thought about it, and I’ve realized that they didn’t reject us because of who we were; they rejected us because of what we represented: change. I’m certain that if they would have listened, we would have become friends, and they might have accepted our message. But they were trying desperately to maintain their way of life in a town which was becoming more different daily. I don’t blame them for wanting to hold onto what they loved the most.

Even though we experienced rejection from Cayambe’s elderly, younger couples would listen to us. When I was with my first companion in Cayambe, Elder Ortiz, whenever an appointment fell through, he beeped like a radar until he spotted a couple. At times, it was difficult to discern which were families and which were simply sweethearts. But if a young man or woman carried a baby or if a couple was holding hands, we would approach them.

Normally, the novelty of speaking with a gringo would hold their attention for a moment, and when we taught them that their families could be together forever, most listened intently, especially wives. They gave us their addresses, and we usually taught them three or four times. Sadly, work schedules, family problems, or the lack of interest ended our visits with each family. But they accepted the Book of Mormon, and about half read at least one chapter. I still pray for the Ramirez, Maygua, Hernandez, Lopez, and Farinango families. We found them all on the streets, and they each found their way into my heart. May God bless them.
It was hard to spend so much time in the streets. Although the temperature rarely rose higher than 75 degrees, the Caymbeño sun was intense. Because Cayambe is so high, there is less sun-filtering atmosphere to protect exposed skin and eyes. Elder Neff and I looked like lobsters for the entire time we were there. What was worse, canyon winds would stir up street dirt and lodge it in our eyes.

But the time in the street was worth it. I fell in love with missionary work in Cayambe, and I haven’t lost it. One preparation day, I was in our kitchen which had blue-tiled counter tops and a red, cement floor. I had a copy of the Brigham Young Priesthood and Relief Society manual. In it, Brother Brigham said that the desire to preach the Gospel burned in his bones. He could not be restrained. As I read his words, I realized that the same desire burned within me. I couldn’t stop, and, today, I am addicted to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. It is a legacy passed down to me by the Prophets, and I hope to give it to my children. And I feel like Nephi when he said, "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ . . . , that [all] may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:26). If I had never gone to Cayambe, I never would have felt it.
So when it rains in the springtime, I long for Cayambe. I can’t wait to return. I miss its people and dust-blown streets. Part of me wouldn’t mind to hear one of the colorful rejections which my companions and I received daily. At least I could talk to someone from Cayambe. One day, I will take my wife, daughter, and son to show them the Nevado. We will try to find the Mayguas and the Farinangos. And I will buy my wife a fifty-two-cent bouquet of red roses. Until then, I’ll have to watch rainstorms cover Utah’s runoff-greened mountains with misty clouds to ease my longing for my Andean home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An Appetizer for Thanksgiving

If you read the story I posted below about Mashcag and his hunger for cuy, this is what Mashcag was craving. Yep, that's a guinea pig.

By the way, it's quite delicious.

Even though I'm not a fan of having pets, I've thought about letting my daughter get a guinea pig. That way, if she misbehaves, we'll have an authentic Andean dinner that night!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fairness: A Latter-day Saint's Perspective

Please make sure to read on after the comment breaks. Otherwise, you'll get an extremely incomplete understanding of my view of fairness! I had to split up my thoughts because they weren't publishing correctly. There are three parts: Justice, Mercy, and Fairness.


Fairness, to me, is the perfect unity of Mercy and Justice. But I can't explain the relationship in the context of law school or my life. Rather, I feel it's necessary to view fairness in the context of Eternal Law. After examining this macrocosm, hopefully, we can understand and apply the principles of Eternal Fairness to the microcosms of our lives.


All of us are familiar with the statue of blindfolded justice holding a balance and a sword. Justice demands that the balance be at equilibrium. Each violation of the law tips the scales against the offender, and the only way for the scales to equalize if for justice to wield her sword and exact punishment.

There is an eternal balance for each of us. And to be saved, our balances must be at equilibrium. God has given us commandments. If we keep the commandments, our balances remain at equilibrium. If we disobey the commandments, or sin, our balances tip against us. The only way equalize the balance is for justice to inflict punishment. (2 Nephi 2:10; Alma 42:22.) No good works will justify the balance because as we keep the commandments, God immediately blesses us, and we remain in debt to justice for the laws we have broken. (Mosiah 2:20-24.)

If we could live a perfect life, then Justice would save us. But only Jesus lived perfectly, and none of us are without sin. (See 1 John 1:8). Thus, if we were to receive what we deserve, all of us would become "devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, . . ." (2 Nephi 9:9.)

But God doesn’t want to condemn us to endless torment. (See John 3:17.) We are His children,(Psalm 82:6; Romans 8:16-17, 21) and more than anything else He wants us to come home. (D&C 18:10-13). But if He simply threw open the gates of heaven and let everyone come in as a gesture of His divine mercy, justice would not be satisfied. And mercy cannot rob justice. (Alma 42:25.)

However, there is a way for justice to be satisfied and for mercy to claim us. But it requires someone to stand between justice and mercy, even a Mediator. Jesus Christ came, satisfied the demands of justice, and paid the price of sin as He bled from every pore in Gethsamane and as He hung upon the cross of Calvary. (See Isaiah 53; Matthew 26:36-46, 27:46-50; Luke 22:42-44; 2 Nephi 2:6-10; Mosiah 3:3-10.) Because He suffered the punishment which justice demands for a broken law, Jesus can extend mercy to all of us so that we need not suffer the demands of justice. (Alma 42:21-23.)

Still, we must merit mercy. In the beginning, God gave us our agency—the ability to choose and act for ourselves—and He will never force us into heaven. He wants us to come willingly. (Alma 42:27).

There are many men and women who have merited mercy because they "offered sacrifice in similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name." (D&C 138:13.) To say they offered a sacrifice of the same magnitude of the Savior would be blasphemous, but the personal magnitude of each’s sacrifice had similar eternal significance.
Speaking in the broadest terms, Jesus’ sacrifice was that of His will. By allowing His will to be "swallowed up in the will of the Father" (Mosiah 15:7), Jesus shrunk beneath the burden of sin, death, and sorrow but finally overcame them. Thus descending below all things, Jesus can lift us above all things. And as He lifts us, we will become "even as [He] is." (3 Nephi 27:27.) Yet during the exalting process of redemption, Jesus requires us to give Him our hearts, even our whole souls, just as He gave His Father everything as He prayed, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39. See also 3 Nephi 9:20; Omni 1:26.)

But giving our whole souls to the Lord isn’t easy. All of us have our favorite sins, and we aren’t quick to let go of them. The fact is, it feels good to sin. At times, we value our sinful appetites more than our eternal birthright. That’s why Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage. (Genesis 25:29-34). Such Esau-like lack of perspective will keep us from meriting mercy. As pleasurable as our favorite sins may be, they’re not worth our eternal birthright. (See Romans 8:16-17.) We must let go of our respective messes of pottage.

Yet to succeed to our eternal inheritance, the cost is much more than pottage. God wants our everything. But what do we really have to give when even the air we breath is on loan? (Mosiah 2:21.) "[O]ur wills constitute all we really have to give God anyway. The usual gifts and their derivatives we give to Him could be stamped justifiably ‘Return to Sender’ with a capital S." (Neal A. Maxwell, "Consecrate Thy Performance," Ensign, May 2002, 38.)

Yielding our agency to the will of the Father means loving Him with all our "heart, might, mind, and strength." (D&C 59:5.) For if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (John 14:15.) Thus, those who offered sacrifice in similitude of the sacrifice of the Son of God simply obeyed God’s commandments, even if that meant letting go of their lives or the life of a beloved son. (Genesis 22:2.) Still, even as they let go, they trusted Jesus’ promise: "every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall inherit everlasting life." (Matthew 19:29.)

And inasmuch as everlasting life means knowing God and Jesus Christ, our submission to God’s will acquaints us with Them. For we are doing exactly what They have done. Our Heavenly Father gave His only begotten Son for our salvation; Jesus gave His life, thus showing us there is nothing more important to Them than our eternal salvation and joy.

How is it that we cannot give away all our sins, including our favorite sins, so that we can receive the blessings they most earnestly want us to have? If we let go of our sins and cling to the commandments—even until our wills are swallowed up in the will of the Father—when Jesus comes to take us home, "we will be like him, . . . purified even as he is pure." (Moroni 7:48.) And we will know Them, "the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] has[] sent." (John 17:3.)

And we will merit mercy.

And a mediator must stand between justice and mercy to determine what is fair. The perfect Mediator, Jesus Christ, knows our peculiar circumstances, and most importantly our hearts. (Alma 18:32.) He knows the difference between someone who openly seeks sin and someone who, in a moment of weakness, succombs to temptation. He also discerns between the penitent sinner who, through sincere repentance, is willing to submit to God's commandments and the recalcitrant dissembler who says he is sorry when he has no intention of changing his ways. Thus, Jesus' judgement of us will be perfectly fair.

And if we seek to be fair, we must emulate Jesus as best as we can. We may not be able to see into the hearts of our fellow beings, but we can consider their circumstances to temper justice with mercy.One last thing, let us not be bitter when we see mercy extended to others for we will all need mercy sooner or later.

For an excellent parable and discussion of the principles of mercy and justice, see Boyd K. Packer, The Mediator.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just so you know

I plan on posting at least weekly. Time restraints will prevent me from doing much more.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hello all

I've finally found a forum to share the most important things in my life with others. I hope you'll enjoy my thoughts, essays, and poems.


Wondering where Erda is?

The Erda Way

People who spend their whole lives in a city will never know how liberating it is to look out of their back window and see acres of alfalfa waving in the wind or how close to God they can feel by staring into a night sky undimmed by streetlights. They’ll never know what it’s like to smell the dust in the air after a rainstorm or wheat’s nutty scent when it’s wet. Buildings dominate their view. Stars barely even freckle their night sky. And all they get to smell is exhaust. City life is so confining. That’s why I loved growing up in Erda.

I know, "who’s ever heard’a Erda?" Well, now you have. But I can’t fault you for your ignorance. Most people don’t even know where Tooele is. That’s the city closest to Erda. Still lost, huh? Take I-80 westbound from Salt Lake City until you reach exit 99. After less than a half-hour you’ll be in the Tooele valley. Erda is the valley’s centerpiece. To the north, Stansbury Park swells with recent arrivals; there’s a new house completed there almost hourly. To the west, Grantsville continues as a cowboy haven. To the south, Tooele creeps northward with new subdivisions and Utah’s first Super Walmart.

And Erda sits contentedly in the middle and stretches eastward until it fades into the Oquirrh Mountains. It probably covers the most square mileage in the valley, but don’t worry about getting lost; there’s only one main road in the town: Erda Way.

That road’s name says a lot about my childhood and youth. You see, I grew up the Erda way. My dad managed the Church farm there, and farming was central to my life. Some of my earliest memories are of Dad and me in the swather. I loved being in the cab with him. I can still smell the grease that kept the blades lubricated. But the true olfactory treat came when the cutting started. It’s difficult to describe newly cut alfalfa’s smell. It smells green and fresh, but it’s nothing like grass. It’s so subtle that someone has to point out that you’re smelling it. Driving through the countryside, you’ve probably smelled it without knowing what it was.

While the smell of alfalfa is lovely, it doesn’t compare to sunset after a day of cutting. As the sun’s last rays stretch across the field, everything is golden. Vibrant greens radiate from each row of hay. Across the road, sprinklers scatter the sunlight into dazzling spectra. And shadows extend from the few trees bordering the field. Above it all, the sky seems embarrassed by the valley’s beauty, as if the sun were going too far. But her blushing only accentuates the scene’s splendor. A day in a tractor isn’t comfortable; in fact, it makes your body ache. But those sunsets are worth it.

And cutting time is only the beginning of Erda’s charms. I loved walking in alfalfa fields; there’s nothing else like it. When the breeze is right, you feel like you’re wading through an emerald pond. It’s so relaxing, even when you’re moving sprinklers. And you’re the only person around. I loved being alone with the alfalfa. I could think and reflect without the noise of traffic or car stereos. New thoughts and ideas came to me as I walked; my mind was open to the Spirit, and the Gospel became as green, fresh, and vivid as the field.

And my mediation often overflowed into the evening. I used to sit outside and think as I looked at a sky shimmering with stars. As I would gaze into heaven, crickets would chirp while the sprinklers’ rhythmic tapping kept time. I used to let the sky’s vastness envelope me. Some people say that they feel alone when they look into the heavens at night. I don’t. All of those points of light reassured me that God lives, that He is in control, and that there is a purpose to life. He always seemed so near when I looked up into His heavens. I never felt alone surrounded by so many of His creations.

And then, there are thunderstorms. Watching lightening bolts illuminate the valley used to help me unwind. Sometimes, my family would turn on classical music and turn off the lights as we marveled at each blue flash. We could spend hours in the living room or kitchen just watching the storms. Sometimes, however, they would get too violent, and the power would go out. We’d light candles and pray that the wind wouldn’t braid the wheel lines—four-inch diameter, aluminum pipes threaded through the middle of six-foot tall, bicycle wheels without rubber—into pretzels while the pumps were off. Thankfully, it hardly ever did, and when the storms would subside, the smell of wet dirt would fill our home. My sister Sherri loved it, and she would inhale, eyes closed, as deeply and often as she could until the air’s dusty perfume evaporated. And if the sun hadn’t gone down by the time the clouds parted, the air’s humidity would amplify the colors around our home. The grass and leaves on the trees would be greener. The dirt would be a richer brown. And the fields would glow.

Erda’s spaciousness also added to its beauty. Our nearest neighbor was fifty yards away, and their yard was large enough for all seven of my brothers and me to play football. We could run thirty yard routes before we risked crashing into a house or a fence.

Even Erda’s traffic was endearing. I wouldn’t even cross the street if I could see a car on the road; sometimes, I would wait three or four minutes for a car a half-mile away to pass me before I would start crossing.

And all of these things were part of the Erda way. I miss it. Erda’s farms, sky, and open serenity call to me. I long to return to the soothing simplicity of my youth because I don’t think that I’ll ever understand city life. In my opinion, it’s so confining, but Erda equates with heaven. Now, I know that cities have a lot going for them, but, one morning, I would love to wake up and look out of my bedroom window to see something other than a parking lot. An alfalfa field would be nice
Here are two poems I wrote; hope you like them.


Glistening wet with hope,
My eyes seek the Master,
And bound beneath transgression’s veil,
I cry out to the Savior:
"Jesus, I too seek Thy face;
So long I’ve suffered here,
Yet hope pierces my dark veil
Now that Thou art near.
I’ve waited long; please come dear Lord.
I cannot rise alone.
I see Thy hand raise another’s veil;
Wilt Thou lift just one?
Rend my veil, and I shall arise
Enough to see Thy face;
Heal me that I too may be
A partaker of Thy Grace."


It constricts, suffocates, and grinds below
Its heavy hand. I can’t find rest. I shrink
Beneath depression’s crushing press. To drink
The bitter cup, I’m not the first. I know
Of One who drank it to its dregs. Although
He bore it all, I feel alone and think
That I can bear no more. And on the brink
Of helplessness, to Him, again, I go.
My son, I’ve not forsaken thee. Yield not
For I’ve shrunk too. I’ve borne thy grief, carried
Thy woe. My stripes shall heal thee still. Behold
My hands, My feet, My side: with these I bought
Thy soul. Doubt not; fear not. I know thy need—
And from this trial, thou shalt emerge as gold.