Maintaining An Independent Character

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In response to his son expressing an interest in public life, John Adams, our second President, wrote:

“Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not’; if honest men refuse it, others will not. A young man should weigh well his plans. Integrity should be preserved in all events, as essential to his happiness, through every stage of existence. His first maxim then should be to place his honor out of reach of all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence. Let him have a trade, a profession, a farm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent principles. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character.” (“John Adams, by David McCullough, pg. 415).

John Adams gave sound advice to his son regarding public service. Times have changed and our “public servants” no longer hold “independent characters” when it comes to running this country. I think all of us can see that politicians have lost their “independent character”, which can have negative consequences regarding public policies and laws. The old saying that “money talks” is ever so true. But what of religion? Can losing one’s “independent character” affect the manner in which one worships? Sadly, it is also true that “money talks” when it comes to religion.

I can’t speak for other faiths, but from distant observation it is clear to me that holding one’s character “independent” can easily become lost when a living is at stake. The summer before I left to serve a full-time mission for the church I was working construction on the newly approved subway just outside the Pentagon. I happened to mention to a co-worker about my plans to serve a mission for the church. He replied, “Good for you. There’s a lot of money in preaching”. I explained to him that I wasn’t getting paid to do it. He gave me a quizzical look, like, “Then why would you do it?” I am grateful that the Lord has revealed that the priesthood of God can be given to all worthy males, but with no monetary payment expected. In so doing, the Lord, in His wisdom, has given to each of us who hold that authority, the ability to have “an independent character”. What a wonderful blessing it is to serve in the ranks of the church, without any worry of our characters being compromised by, or suspected of being compromised by, our greed for monetary gain.

It is a wonderful thing, as a priesthood holder, to make decisions based on inspiration that is not tainted by the need or greed of the day. On the contrary, it is indeed a peaceful feeling to serve in the kingdom knowing that you are doing so out of devotion to principles that you hold dear.

I may not be a rich man when it comes to the things of this world, and that’s alright I suppose. But I have had the great blessing of being given “an independent character” by the Lord in how I have conducted my religious life. And that is worth all the money in the world to me!

Faith In Miracles Is Worth A Try

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Many years ago one of my sons, than eleven, calmly approached me to ask if I would buy him an expensive item that was more a luxury than a necessity. My quick response of “No” didn’t seem to surprise nor upset him. As he turned to walk away, he made this simple but profound statement, “Well, it was worth a try!” I laughed to myself, as it was apparent that he thought his chance of success was very limited at best, yet he still had exercised his hope.

This life consists of trials and tribulations. They fit into three categories. One) – those we have passed through, two) – those we are going through, and three) – those we will go through. While so doing, let me suggest to you something that is far more “worth a try” than my young son’s desire for material things. It is found in the seventh chapter of Moroni: which states:

” … have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God….Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men… And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me… And now…if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?…Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain…” (vs. 27, 35-37)

The words of Mormon, written by his son Moroni, remind us that the day of miracles has not ceased. It is only when we have no faith or belief in miracles that they are lost. If we keep the faith, Mormon explains that our faith will bring hope, and hope will bring charity. Faith, hope and charity come to those who are meek and humble followers of Christ. Indeed, an indication of our faithfulness is not whether we have trials; it is how we weather the trials. Oft times the miracle of our trials is that we come out on the other end of our tribulation changed for the better.  Our countenance has improved because we have developed the gift of charity in our personage. Our faith in God is much stronger than before the tribulation. Miracles haven’t ceased! But sometimes the miracle we want is not the miracle we get! No, sometimes the miracle we receive is much greater than the one we ask for. The miracle of a soft heart and a contrite spirit is a much greater gift than anything our Father could bestow upon us.  Many call that the gift of charity which is promised to those that endure! Paul wrote to the Corinthians and called charity one of God’s greatest gifts. (1 Cor. 13:13)

Moroni, Chapter Seven is one of the most spirituality powerful chapters in the entire Book of Mormon. It is as powerful a sermon, given by Mormon, as any address given in a General Conference. Having served as a priesthood leader for decades, I have been privy to stories told by the saints of both great and small miracles that have come into their lives.  Sometimes those miracles are direct and easily seen. Sometimes they are more subtle and occasionally they show up in a different form than anticipated. And I can personally testify that in some of my darkest hours, the seventh chapter of Moroni has been of great strength and comfort to me. Sometimes I have prayed for the removal of a burden that never came, yet the Lord has sustained me and supported me such that I am a much better man today because of it.  Once when I received a prominent priesthood call to serve, a sister who knew me when I was younger said, “Boy, you have come a long way!” In her own way I think she was trying to pay me a compliment.  I took it as such.  I had come a long way but mostly because I had been through some tough times. The refiners fine does have a tendency to make us better people.

May the Lord give us the faith to become partakers of His miracles and the wisdom to be able to recognize them in our lives! May we sum up the courage to have real faith in the promises of the Lord. Having faith in miracles is “worth a try!” I believe, with all my heart, that the day of miracles is not dead!

 

Leaving The Porchlight On For Our Prodigal Children

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Several years ago there was a special program put on by the children at our church. As I surveyed the congregation I was delighted to see at least seven young adults in attendance who prior to the day had not chosen the path of their church going parents. Perhaps they were there for just that day, but I was reminded that if parents are loving, prayerful, and continue to exercise faith in the Lord, He will continue to touch the hearts of their children. I was particularly moved watching one young mother, who long ago strayed from the faith of her parents, cry as her young daughter sang her part. I remarked to my wife later that day that it was interesting to me how clear it was, that she wanted the gospel for her child, much like her mother had wanted it for her. Parents seem to inherently know what is good or bad for their kids. I’ve always known that the gospel would bring greater joy and happiness to my children’s lives.

Years have gone by, and now those young teenagers who rejected the message and heritage of their parents seem to understand that the gospel is the “good news” and they want their children to have what they had been offered. Now, with more mature eyes they seem to understand more fully the message of the redemption. James Faust gave a talk in 2003 entitled, “Dear Are the Sheep That Have Wandered”. In it he said:

” Who are good parents? They are those who have lovingly, prayerfully, and earnestly tried to teach their children by example and precept “to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” This is true even though some of their children are disobedient or worldly. Children come into this world with their own distinct spirits and personality traits. Some children “would challenge any set of parents under any set of circumstances. … Perhaps there are others who would bless the lives of, and be a joy to, almost any father or mother.” Successful parents are those who have sacrificed and struggled to do the best they can in their own family circumstances.”

As parents we need to continually remind our children, “that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.” (Helaman 5:9) But may we always leave the porch light on and the door to our home unlocked for our wayward children. Late one evening, as we are knelt by the bedside offering prayers on their behalf,  perhaps we will hear our front door open and find our prodigal child standing in the darkness of the night. May we be humble enough to extend our arms and let the light of Christ chase away the ugly shadows of the past.

 

When You Feel Discouraged, Read A Pioneer Story!

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“I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes! But I was in that company and my wife was in it, and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited here was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities!…I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me! I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there…Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No! Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.” (Francis Webster, member of the Martin Handcart Company, 1856)

“When you feel discouraged, read a pioneer story!”- My Father

I have also found great comfort in reading the scriptures when the nights have been the darkest. Knowing that disciples of Christ have gone through many trials and tribulations throughout history should give us perspective by reminding us that the Lord loves us despite the pain that is sometimes associated with this life.

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