Sunday, March 23, 2008


This Easter Sunday, I want to share with you my sincere knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the living Son of the living God. He is the Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world," (Revelation 13:8), who offered Himself as a willing sacrifice for sin to fulfill the Plan of His Father. (Moses 4:2). He is Jehovah, the Creator of both heavens and earth. (John 8:58; Mosiah 3:8).

I testify that Jesus descended from His exalted place in heaven and took upon Himself a body of flesh and blood. (1 Nephi 11:13-23). Born to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem and raised by the carpenter Joseph, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" until the time of His ministry arrived. (Luke 2:52).

He was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. He lived, served, and loved all. He healed the sick and raised the dead. With the touch of His hand, the blind saw, the dumb spake, and the lame leaped. (1 Nephi 11:24-31). He organized His Church, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, . . . Himself being the chief corner stone." (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:20).

To fulfill the great Plan of our Father in Heaven, I testify that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins. And by satisfying the demands of Justice, Jesus Christ has extended Mercy to us all. (2 Nephi 2:5-10).

Yet despite His goodness, the world judged Him, lifted Him upon the cross, and slew Him. But death had no power over Him!

I add my testimony to that of the angels standing as witnesses at the empty garden tomb, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. . . ." (Luke 24:4-6). I know that He is risen.

As a resurrected being of flesh and bone, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene who wept when she went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. (John 20:11-18). And He appeared to the Eleven. They handled Him, thrust their hands into His side, felt the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, and knew that Jesus truly was the promised Messiah. (Luke 24:36-48). And more than 500 also saw the Risen Lord before He ascended to heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:6). I testify that Jesus promised to return. (Acts 1:11).

And I testify that Jesus’ earthly ministry did not end with His ascension. After His resurrection and ascension, Jesus appeared on the American continent to an ancient civilization which knew of His coming. They also thrust their hands into His side and felt the prints of the nails in His hands and feet. And they knew that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah. (3 Nephi 11:10-17).

While He visited the inhabitants of ancient America, Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead; the lame leaped, and the dumb spake. (See 3 Nephi 17). He organized His Church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, . . . Himself being the chief corner stone." (Ephesians 2:20; See 3 Nephi chapters 11-28 to read the account of Jesus’ visit to the American Continent). Jesus left them but promised to return.

And I testify that Jesus Christ continues to manifest Himself to all nations through modern-day prophets, the first of whom was Joseph Smith. Joseph sought God to know which church to join, and in answer to his prayer, Jesus Christ appeared with His Heavenly Father and bestowed upon Joseph the fulness of the Everlasting Gospel. (Joseph Smith History 1:1-20).
And He has not limited His appearances to Joseph Smith. Jesus Christ has appeared to Oliver Cowdery (D&C 110:1-11), to Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76:22-24), to Lorenzo Snow, to Melvin J. Ballard, to David B. Haight, and to others who have not been permitted to share their experiences.

And He will continue to manifest Himself to His servants until He returns to this earth to rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

And last of all, although I have not seen nor handled Him, I testify that if the veil were to part and Jesus were to stand before me, I would not know any better than I know now that He lives and is the Savior of the World.

I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

This is my Easter Testimony, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Nature of Happiness

As sojourners in this oft dreary world, our deepest desires are for some rest, something to rejoice in, something to make us happy. The desire for happiness seems to be the most compelling. If we dissected each human choice and analyzed it under an omnipotent microscope, it's likely that the vast majority were made because the chooser believed it would make him happy. Yet so many choices result in sorrow. Thus, there seems to pervade a strong misconception about the nature of happiness. And we are poor judges of what actually will make us happy.
But the purpose of our existence is to have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25). When I say joy, I'm not talking about the proximate pleasures of the flesh. Rather, I'm talking about the abiding happiness that comes only through the power of God. (See John 15:11; Helaman 5:44).
God is happy. In fact, the nature of God is the nature of happiness. (Alma 41:11). And because He is happy, He knows how to make His children happy. After all, He's already given Jesus the "fulness of joy." (3 Nephi 28:10). The only true way to be happy, therefore, is to partake of the nature of God. But how can we though? The answer is simple: obey.
Jesus was perfectly obedient. And Jesus commands us to be like Him, (3 Nephi 27:27) even to be perfect. (Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48). Jesus wasn't taunting us. You see, He wants us to be happy, and the only true way for us to be happy is to be like Him. True, perfection doesn't come easily. But God's perfect Plan of Happiness lays the strait and narrow course out in front of us in breathtaking simplicity. And the stepping stones of the Plan of Happiness are the commandments.
There are two kinds of commandments: preparatory commandments and what I'll call complete commandments. Complete commandments are harder to keep. Compare the the Mosaic injunction against adultery, (Exodus 20:14), to Jesus' prohibition against lusting. (Matthew 5:27-28). And to me, it would be much easier to provide the occasional sacrificial lamb instead of offering up my "whole soul" (Omni 1:26) with "a broken heart and a contrite spirit" to God. (See 3 Nephi 9:20). So because of the difficulty of living the complete commandments, we insist on living the preparatory commandments.
But obedience to preparatory commandments can only bring us preparatory joy. And lest we be ever preparing and never coming to the fulness of joy, we must accept and live all of God's complete commandments. Still, living the preparatory commandments is better than not living the commandments at all. For disobedience brings only misery and captivity.
It will take time, however, to live all the complete commandments. Jesus knew we couldn't do it right away. That's why He suffered for us and provided the gift of the Atonement, thus making repentance and forgiveness possible, which, by the way, also bring great joy. (Luke 15:10; D&C 18:10-16). He knows we need help. And He helps in so many ways.
As I said, Jesus performed the matchless Atonement and made it possible to receive forgiveness of our sins. But through His Grace, He also gives us strength to keep the commandments. Moroni, that last Book of Mormon prophet, invited us:
[C]ome unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33).
Jesus is both the way and the means to eternal joy!
And Jesus often uses others to help become happy. For example, He used Alma the younger to help Corianton, Alma's youngest son. While serving as a missionary with his father and older brother, Corianton visited a prostitute named Isabel. (Alma 39:1-3). His actions were not only self-destructive but became the excuse for many to disbelieve the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Alma 39:11). Alma sat Corianton down and unequivocally denounced Corianton's sexual promiscuity as an abomination. (Alma 39:5). And for four chapters Alma reproves and counsels his son about eternal justice and the mercy that comes only through Christ. (See Alma 39-42). Finally, Alma said,
O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.

And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. (Alma 42:30-31).
Alma's talk with Corianton worked. Corianton repented and, for the rest of his life, taught repentance and the Plan of Happiness through Jesus Christ.
There are times when we will be like Corianton, in need of loving correction. And there are times when we will be like Alma, in need of giving loving correction. Both present dangers. So often, the truth is hard to bear, and when a loved one confronts us and calls us to come to Jesus, we may lash out against them. On the other hand, we must be careful that our attempt to correct doesn't become a stoning. Also, if you know the story of Alma the younger, you'll know that he once sought to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. (Alma 36:6). He was a vile man. And it took the visitation of an angel to get him to repent. (Alma 36:6-24). The danger of being called a hypocrite was there and very real.
Thankfully for Corianton, Alma loved him too much to look away and ignore his bad behavior. Thus, Corianton started walking again along the stepping stones of the Plan of Happiness with the help of his Savior and his father.
So if we want to be happy, we must keep the commandments. All of them. We mustn't lash out against those who deliver them to us. And we shouldn't lash out against those who call our sins to our attention, even if they are hypocrites.
For it is through obedience to the commandments that we learn the nature of happiness. And by learning the nature of happiness we partake of the Nature of God until God gives us eternal joy, even the fulness of joy. And only He can give it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What's In a Name?

I've never really liked my name. Somehow it just doesn't seem to fit me. Of course, I'm not sure what name would. And nearly every time I hear of someone named "Craig," he's a screw-up. Whether it's a fictional villain, a suspect in a crime investigation, or an United States congressman in an airport bathroom, they all seem to be named "Craig." So you understand why, every time my wife points out someone is named "Craig", I say, "There are too many Craigs in this world."

But considering how I got my name, I'm lucky to be named Craig. I'm the ninth of eleven children and the sixth of eight boys in my family. The two oldest in my family are girls followed by three boys, one girl, two boys, then me, then two more boys. My second oldest sister, Sherri, was fifteen when I was born, and she was tired of having little brothers. She wanted a little sister more than anything. And when she heard that she had a new baby brother, she refused to come to the hospital to see me. In an effort to persuade her to come, my parents told her that she could name me if she would visit me in the hospital.

Now, Sherri was going through a rebellious phase, and I often wonder what my parents were thinking when they endowed her with the power to name me. After all, I would have to live with my name for the rest of my life. For all they knew, she would name me "Earth," "Wind," "Fire," or maybe "Prince." Instead, she named me "Craig Lee." I suppose I dodged a bullet. That or Mom and Dad exerted a little more influence on Sherri than I know about.

But my name is starting to grow on me, a little. I'm a little old fashioned and like it when names have meaning or purpose behind them. Throughout the scriptures we see examples of mothers or fathers giving their children names for a particular reason. We read about Leah and Rachel's competition in Genesis and how they used the names of their sons to "one-up" each other. (See Genesis 29:31-35; Genesis 30:1-24). The name of our Savior holds special meaning which He received through revelation. (See Luke 1:28-33; 2 Nephi 10:3). Jesus means savior; Christ means anointed. Therefore, Jesus Christ means Anointed Savior. In the Book of Mormon, Helaman named his two sons Lehi and Nephi after the two great prophets who left Jerusalem and came to the American continent.

He told his sons, " Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good. Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them." (Helaman 5:6-7).

Lehi and Nephi were to live up to their names. And they did. Both were great missionaries and prophets who received revelations and visions daily. (Helaman 11:18-23; See also Helaman 5; Helaman 7-11).

I'm not named for any prophets so I've looked up my name now and again. Craig means "crag," which basically means a rocky place. Lee means "meadow." And, again, I've never been very impressed with the meaning of my name, until a few days ago.

In northern England and Scotland there are geological formations called a "crag and tail." Crag is spelled "craig" in Scotland. And the tail can also be called a lee. A crag and tail (or craig and lee) is formed through glaciation. As a glacier carves away at the earth, occasionally it runs into a resilient mass of rock. Although the glacier strips away the soil and vegetation covering the rock, the rock stands firm and un-eroded. The crag also protects the soil behind it from the glacier. So a ramp-like lee, which the glacier could not strip away, extends behind the crag.
(The crag and tail is on the right. Ignore the diagram on the left.)

Considering the meaning of my name, I have a lot to live up to.

The world's eroding influence inch-by-inch cuts away at the rich soil of the Gospel and Families. Yet here and there, there are resilient crags refusing to budge who shelter those they love and all others who will stand behind them from Satan's onslaught.

May I be one of them.

I guess Sherri did a pretty good job after all. And maybe there aren't enough Craigs in this world.