Thursday, January 2, 2014

Come Home

Hello, and HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all!

Who else is a little bit in shock that it's already 2014... Can't believe it. I still remember when I was skating around the iceskating rink at "First Night" for the millennium. 14 years ago.
I hope everyone had the holliest, jolliest of holidays this year! I sure had a great Christmas. It was SO awesome to spend Christmas helping and serving others. Definitely a Christmas not to be soon forgotten.
I will admit that my favorite part of Christmas was seeing all three members of my family at once... haven't had that for almost a year. Crazy to see parts of my house and remember that I used to live there. Haha.
Got me thinking... I've called a lot of places "home" in my lifetime. But where is home, really?
So I got to reading, reflecting, studying and talking with people about it. This is what I've come up with...

My favorite verses in the bible are those of the Sermon on the Mount. In the Gospel of St. Matthew and reads: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them.” (Matt. 5:1–2) Among the truths which he taught was this statement: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13–14)
When Jesus of Nazareth personally walked the rocky roads of Jerusalem, he showed all who would believe how they might follow that narrow way and enter that strait gate to life eternal. “Come, follow me,” he invited. “I am the way.” Little wonder that men waited for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. It was the one true gospel of Jesus Christ that was to be preached, his work that was to be done, and his apostles at the head of his church who were entrusted with the work.

However, history would tell us that most men did NOT come unto him, nor did they follow him in his ways... He was crucified by his own, his apostles were killed and his teachings were rejected. The bright daylight of enlightenment slipped away, and the shadows of a black night covered the entire earth.
One word can describe the dismal state that followed: Apostasy.

Generations before, Isaiah had prophesied: “Darkness shall cover the earth," and Amos had foretold of a famine in the land: “Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11) Peter warned of false teachers bringing damnable heresies, and Paul predicted that the time would come when real, sound doctrine would cease to exist. Yes. This was it.
The dark ages of history seemed never to end. Was there to be no end to this truthless night? Had a loving Father forgotten his own children? Would he send forth no divine revelation as in times before?

As it turns out, there WERE many honest men to desired to know. Who NEEDED to know. And at the risk/sacrifice of their very lives, attempted to establish points of reference, that they might find the "way of the Lord", the way of truth. The day of the reformation was dawning, but still the path ahead was daunting. In the words of Thomas S. Monson about the Reformation: "Persecutions would be severe, personal sacrifice overwhelming, and the cost beyond calculation. The reformers were like pioneers blazing wilderness trails in a desperate search for those lost points of reference which, they felt, when found would lead mankind back to the truth Jesus taught."
When John Wycliffe and others completed the first English translation of the entire Bible from the Latin, the church authorities did all they could to destroy it. Copies had to be secretly written by hand. The Bible had been regarded as a book forbidden to be read by any "common people". Many of the followers of John Wycliffe were severely punished and many killed.
Martin Luther asserted the Bible’s supremacy. His years of study led him to compare the doctrines and practices of the church with the teachings of the scriptures. Luther stood for agency and the rights of the individual conscience, and this he did at the risk of his life. Though threatened, persecuted, and even hunted he still declared boldly: “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me.”
There are SO many others that could be mentioned, but something said by a man named William Tyndale sums up for me the deep, deep significance and divine origin of the reformation: “If God spare my life, … I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost.” (Not gonna lie... this just gives me chills!)
Though they dedicated all they had to the cause of truth... Still there was darkness. The reformers did not restore the fullness of the gospel. So of the reformers one could ask, “Was their sacrifice all in vain? Was their struggle completely worthless?”
I answer “No!” The Holy Bible was now available to EVERYONE. Each man could better find his way!

And because of the reformation, the long-awaited day of restoration did indeed come. In His own words here is the testimony of the plowboy who became a prophet— Joseph Smith.
“There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. … It … became general … creating division amongst the people, some crying, ‘Lo, here!’ and others, ‘Lo, there!’
“… I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’
“Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion … understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
“At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. …
“So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.
“… I kneeled down and began to offer up the desire of my heart to God. …
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
“… When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
The Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, had appeared to Joseph Smith. The morning of this, the final dispensation and that of the fullness of times had come!... It came dispelling the darkness of the centuries and dispelling of spiritual night.
From then to now, truth has been and is available to us. Like the children of Israel in ancient days, weary wandering now can end with our entry to a personal and very real "promised land".
There is a prophet on the earth today, and he calls to each one of us! Come from your wandering way, weary traveler. Come to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Come to that heavenly haven called home. Here you will discover the truth. Here you will learn the reality of the Godhead, the comfort of the plan of salvation, the sanctity making and keeping covenants, the power of personal prayer...
Come home!
Thomas S. Monson once relayed the following story:
"Many of us may remember the story of a very young boy who was abducted from his parents and home and taken to a village situated far away. Under these conditions the small boy grew to young manhood without a knowledge of his actual parents or earthly home. Within his heart there came a yearning to return to that village called home.
But where was home to be found? Where were his mother and father to be discovered? Oh, if only he could remember even their names, his task would be less hopeless. Desperately he sought to recall even a glimpse of his childhood.
Like a flash of inspiration, he remembered the sound of a bell which, from the tower atop the village church, pealed its welcome each Sabbath morning. From village to village the young man wandered, ever listening for that familiar bell to chime. Some bells were similar, others far different from the sound he remembered.
At length the weary young man stood one Sunday morning before a church of a typical town. He listened carefully as the bell began to peal. The sound was familiar. It was unlike any other he had heard, save that bell which pealed in the memory of his childhood days. Yes, it was the same bell. Its ring was true. His eyes filled with tears. His heart rejoiced in gladness. His soul overflowed with gratitude. The young man dropped to his knees, looked upward beyond the bell tower—even toward heaven—and in a prayer of gratitude whispered, 'Thanks be to God. I’m home.' "
Like the peal of a familiar bell will be the truth of the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the spirit of those who are SEEKING it. Many if not all of us have traveled on a personal quest for that which rings true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends forth to you an earnest appeal. Open your doors to the missionaries. Open your minds. Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that still, small voice which testifies of truth.
Then, like the lost boy, you too will say to our Father: “I’m home!”

My favorite Christmas Hymn explains to me the warm, peaceful home available to us through the revealed truth of the gospel:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men."
Till, ringing, singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men!
This is a very special time of year. A time where we have just celebrated Christmas and focused our thoughts on our savior... and now have the great opportunity to reflect on our lives and make changes.
With this new year I'm setting out on a journey.
My journey home. Home in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

May we all find peace on earth and find our way safely HOME.
Happy 2014!