Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worshiping with the Saints in India

Note: Originally posted on the Deseret News and Mormon Times 

Business travel has been a significant part of my life for the past three years. This has allowed me the opportunity to visit nearly every state in the continental United States and a few foreign countries. It has also afforded me the opportunity to visit several temples. Many great personal spiritual experiences have ensued when attending temples in places such as Manhattan, Toronto, Orlando and Detroit. However, what has perhaps been the most rewarding experience I have had while traveling occurred recently when I was in New Delhi, India.

There are four branches in the city. I chose to attend the New Delhi 1st Branch because its meetings had the earliest start time. When I arranged the driver with the hotel, I told the concierge I would be going to church. He asked if the place where I was going to say my prayers was close, and I told him it was only about 18 kilometers (11 miles) away. Then he seemed surprised when I told him the four-hour minimum charge for the driver was no problem, likely thinking I would “say my prayers” for a few minutes and then return.

I knew four hours was actually about the right amount of time. But just to be safe, I left the hotel 45 minutes before sacrament meeting began because I already had ample experience in New Delhi traffic.

The drive was a breeze. No one was out at 8:45 a.m. on a gorgeous Sunday morning in this culture that starts its day an hour or two later than we do in the U.S. Fortunately for my blood pressure, my driver did not drive on the shoulder or the wrong side of the road to pass another car even one time that morning!

After my driver got out of the car to ask directions from a local resident in Lajpat Nagar Part 1, I thought we were well on our way to the branch, located at 23 A, Lajpat Nagar, Part 4. Not long after, while waiting at one of the few traffic lights in the city, I looked over at the car next to us. In the back sat a man dressed just as I was — white shirt and a tie. A smile crossed my face. I thought, “At this hour, dressed like that, he has to be going the same place as me.”

Our drivers proceeded to each stop at the same places to ask locals for directions. By the third stop, they realized they were going to the same place, which my driver had not believed when I told him upon first spotting the other passenger.

Eventually the driver of the other car spoke with the right person on the street who knew the way. We finally made the 11 miles to the branch in just under an hour. I told my driver I would either be one hour or three, depending on whether the services were in Hindi or English.

Once inside, I had one of the sweetest experiences of my life. The large branch of about 70 to 80 filled the room. Most of the women wore the traditional 5 meters of unstitched fabric known as a sari. The men were dressed more like Americans. A tall white gentleman sitting on the stand appeared to be the branch president. The first talk was given in Hindi, so I thought I would only be staying for sacrament meeting. Then the next talk was given in a combination of English and Hindi.

I think the speaker was speaking in English and then translating the same words to Hindi, but a couple of times, the English broken by the Hindi did not connect, so he might have been filling in parts of his talk in Hindi. I will never know. The third talk was given by the tall white gentleman, who turned out to be New Delhi India Mission President William Jackson, a doctor by trade from the U.S. and a fantastic teacher of the gospel.

The talks were on the most basic of topics, but never before have I felt such a spirit of strength, true testimony and utter conviction. Although I did not learn any new doctrine from the speakers, my soul felt the true faith of pioneers. I was uplifted in a way I have never before felt. It was a temple-type of experience.

Once sacrament meeting concluded, I think just about every member of the branch came to me and shook my hand, including a kind young brother, Vinjay, who had whispered to me the scriptures being quoted during the talk in Hindi. He excitedly came to speak with me about, of all things, American politics, one of my passions. He was shocked to learn that my positions were the polar opposite of his perception of the majority of Americans.

I spoke with Sylva, a student from Kinshasa, Congo, who came to India to study and is my newest Facebook friend. I also met President Massey, the actual branch president, who is a humble servant of the Lord.

President Jackson taught a combined Sunday School, with at least six investigators visiting, again displaying his heaven-sent teaching ability as he drew an analogy for the plan of salvation. The third hour consisted of a combined meeting, with a discussion based upon Elder L. Tom Perry’s last conference talk led by President Massey.

At the conclusion of the meetings, there was a baptism. Feeling so uplifted, I decided to stay. A sweet baptismal talk preceded the ordinance performed in an outdoor font in the courtyard behind the chapel.

Enjoying Sunday meetings with these pioneers — I was told the New Delhi 1st Branch was the first in India, commissioned only 15 years ago — was such an uplifting experience. To see these faithful members with powerful testimonies of the true gospel of Jesus Christ was an experience that will forever touch my life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Easter Talk

On Sunday, I was given the opportunity to speak to my church congregation. The following are my remarks.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Central to our Father in Heaven’s Plan of Salvation, also known as his Plan of Happiness, he provided for us the Atonement, performed of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The Atonement was necessary because our Father in Heaven knew we all would sin. Being in a sinful state creates a separation between us and him. As sinners we cannot be with him, we cannot endure his presence. However, our Father’s greatest desire, his purpose, the reason he is, his “work and [his] glory [is to] bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

In other words, God the Father wants nothing more than for each of us to succeed in this life and be with him again, as beings resurrected just as the Savior was on that original Easter morning.

This is why he has provided the Plan of Salvation for all who ever lived, and an opportunity for every person who has ever lived on this Earth to partake in his plan and be made whole through his atoning sacrifice.

For as we know, physical death did not bring the end of the Savior’s work. Rather, when as a post-moral spirit, he rose to heaven he organized the teaching of those who had not yet known or accepted his gospel in spirit prison so all of Heavenly Father’s children could participate in the Plan of Happiness using the Atonement to fulfill the Law of Justice.

Jesus Christ is indeed our keystone for returning to live with our Father and to become like him. The Savior sees his faithful servants as friends. For the Apostle John (15:14-15) recorded that Christ said:

“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” 

We are told in Exodus 33:11 that “The Lord spake unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend.”

In Isaiah 41:8 the Lord called Abraham “my friend”. Even today, Abraham is commonly known in the Middle East as “The Friend of God”.

To the leaders of his restored church, in Doctrine and Covenants section 84, the Savior said: “Ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends” (D&C 84:63).

Later in Section 84, the Lord reiterated: “And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends” (D&C 84:77).

Finally, despite rebuking the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Ridgon for their sins, the Savior pauses from his rebuke in Doctrine and Covenants 93:45 saying: “I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me."
As the Savior Jesus Christ is the truest of friends any of us could have, he suffered all possible sufferings so that that he could overcome all and become our advocate to the Father. He understands every sin, pain, heartache, and agony we will ever feel. He knows the depths of depression, loneliness, sickness, and marital strife.

He is there for us. Jesus Christ is always our friend. Take for example the case of Judas Iscariot, the man who pathetically betrayed the Savior of all mankind for the exact price of a slave, as outlined by the Savior himself in the Mosaic law, the amount of 30 pieces of silver, and what did Jesus, the Prince of Peace do?

"[He] said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come?" [Matthew 26:50)

Then, as the greatest exemplar of all, he did as he had taught his Apostles, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And Jesus the Christ did exactly that—for us.

But he did not just simply die. He suffered far worse. In his last days his friends turned on him. Others abused him. In the New Testament is it recorded that he was:

Betrayed (Matthew 26:14–16)

Denied (Luke 22:54–62)

Accused (Mark 15:3)

Rejected (Luke 9:22)

Bound (Mark 15:1)

Scourged (John 19:1)

Mocked (Matthew 27:29)

Reviled (Matthew 27:39)

Spit on (Mark 15:19)

Crucified (John 19:17–19)


Forsaken (Matt 27:46)

However, despite it all, the Savior:

Was obedient to His Father’s will (Mark 14:36)

He Atoned (Luke 22:41–44)

Healed (Luke 22:50–51)

Held His peace (Mark 14:61)

Forgave (Luke 23:34)

Voluntarily gave His life (John 19:30)

And now he is risen! (Matt 28:6)

Our living prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson has said:
“In our hour of deepest sorrow, we can receive profound peace from the words of the angel that first Easter morning: ‘He is not here: for he is risen.’”
This is the beauty of the Atonement of Christ, that nothing ended in his death. Rather, and more precisely, everything began as it set in motion the gaining of his body in eternal life and activated the eternal plan for us.
With the bounds of death broken, we will all live again. If we live worthily, living to our potential, the potential that our Father in Heaven has passed on to us as his literal sons and daughters, we will again be reunited with our families. We will live again in love and happiness with our fathers, mothers, children, grandparents, and our brother and friend, Jesus Christ.
In Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s final general conference talk in April 1985, given only days before his death he described the Atonement of Christ quite vividly saying:
“The most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.
Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.
And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory. . . .
Two thousand years ago, outside Jerusalem’s walls, there was a pleasant garden spot, Gethsemane by name, where Jesus and his intimate friends were wont to retire for pondering and prayer.
There Jesus taught his disciples the doctrines of the kingdom, and all of them communed with Him who is the Father of us all, in whose ministry they were engaged, and on whose errand they served.
This sacred spot, like Eden where Adam dwelt, like Sinai from whence Jehovah gave his laws, like Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many, this holy ground is where the Sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance.
We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
We know he sweat great drops of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.
We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death.
We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.
We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.
We know that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal.
As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies—this suffering beyond compare—continued for some three or four hours.
After this—his body then wrenched and drained of strength—he confronted Judas and the other incarnate devils, some from the very Sanhedrin itself; and he was led away with a rope around his neck, as a common criminal, to be judged by the arch-criminals who as Jews sat in Aaron’s seat and who as Romans wielded Caesar’s power.
They took him to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate. He was accused, cursed, and smitten. Their foul saliva ran down his face as vicious blows further weakened his pain-engulfed body.
With reeds of wrath they rained blows upon his back. Blood ran down his face as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow.
But above it all he was scourged, scourged with forty stripes save one (as was the Jewish custom), scourged with a multithonged whip into whose leather strands sharp bones and cutting metals were woven.

Many died from scourging alone, but he rose from the sufferings of the scourge that he might die an ignominious death upon the cruel cross of Calvary.
Then he carried his own cross until he collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.
Finally, on a hill called Calvary—again, it was outside Jerusalem’s walls—while helpless disciples looked on and felt the agonies of near death in their own bodies, the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.

With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.

Then the cross was raised that all might see and gape and curse and deride. This they did, with evil venom, for three hours from 9:00 A.M. to noon.

Then the heavens grew black. Darkness covered the land for the space of three hours, as it did among the Nephites. There was a mighty storm, as though the very God of Nature was in agony.

And truly he was, for while he was hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3:00 P.M., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred.

And, finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll—when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things—then he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the ghost.

After some thirty-eight or forty hours—three days as the Jews measured time—our Blessed Lord came to the Arimathaean’s tomb, where his partially embalmed body had been placed by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea.

Then, in a way incomprehensible to us, he took up that body which had not yet seen corruption and arose in that glorious immortality which made him like his resurrected Father.

He then received all power in heaven and on earth, obtained eternal exaltation, appeared unto Mary Magdalene and many others, and ascended into heaven, there to sit down on the right hand of God the Father Almighty and to reign forever in eternal glory.

His rising from death on the third day crowned the Atonement. Again, in some way incomprehensible to us, the effects of his resurrection pass upon all men so that all shall rise from the grave.

As Adam brought death, so Christ brought life; as Adam is the father of mortality, so Christ is the father of immortality.

And without both, mortality and immortality, man cannot work out his salvation and ascend to those heights beyond the skies where gods and angels dwell forever in eternal glory.

Now, the atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths.

Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life.

But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.

May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.

We must cast aside the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.
We must search the scriptures, accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord and the very power of God unto salvation."
I know the words I have spoken today are true because the Holy Ghost has spoken it in my heart. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The gift and power of forgiveness

Please watch this video and feel the power of the spirit of God testify to your soul of the gift and power of forgiveness through the Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I've been contending with many unknowns in my life where I have no control, where I know I must trust in the Lord. This verses in 1 Samuel and Psalms gave me inspiration this morning:
3 So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives.
4 Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.
5 And David’s two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite.
6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
-1 Samuel 30:3-6

I love how this shows that David is human, that he wept as the people did (as a point of clarification, this was before David became the king). Then when the people turned their anger and frustration toward them, David did not continue to feel sorry for himself and he did not turn back to them in anger. Rather, David, trusted or "encouraged himself" in the Lord. It is human to feel sadness for a time when things don't go well. However, it is how we continue on that matters. David continued by trusting in the Lord! In fact, he prayed to God and received an answer as to what he should do.
8 And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.
-1 Samuel 30:8
Then David did his part, he did as instructed. He pursued Amalekites, overtook them, and recovered everything they had taken.

This story in 1 Samuel also led me to a Psalm of David that encapsulates his trust in God.
3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
-Psalms  56:3-4
It pleases my soul to know and to be continually reminded that when I put my trust in the Lord, he will fight my battles.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

How to secure blessings and answers to prayer

The Lord will bring us his blessings to that extent that we have diligence in keeping his commandments. Each of you, in other words, must stand on your own feet if you will receive the great blessings which the Almighty has in store for you. . . .

Stand upon your own feet, so the Lord can speak to you. In humility be prepared to say with Paul, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me do?’ And with dauntless courage say with the boy Samuel ‘Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth.’ Be humble, be prayerful and the Lord will take you by the hand, as it were, and give you answer to your prayers.
-Harold B. Lee, “But Arise and Stand upon Thy Feet”—and I Will Speak with Thee, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, Provo, 7 Feb. 1956, pp. 7, 11

Monday, June 21, 2010

On courage and looking at the bright side

I came upon this from Joseph F. Smith yesterday and found it to be inspiring:
One of the highest qualities of all true leadership is a high standard of courage. When we speak of courage and leadership we are using terms that stand for the quality of life by which men determine consciously the proper course to pursue and stand with fidelity to their convictions. There has never been a time in the Church when its leaders were not required to be courageous men; not alone courageous in the sense that they were able to meet physical dangers, but also in the sense that they were steadfast and true to a clear and upright conviction.

Leaders of the Church, then, should be men not easily discouraged, not without hope, and not given to forebodings of all sorts of evils to come. Above all things the leaders of the people should never disseminate a spirit of gloom in the hearts of the people. If men standing in high places sometimes feel the weight and anxiety of momentous times, they should be all the firmer and all the more resolute in those convictions which come from a God-fearing conscience and pure lives. Men in their private lives should feel the necessity of extending encouragement to the people by their own hopeful and cheerful intercourse with them, as they do by their utterances in public places. It is a matter of the greatest importance that the people be educated to appreciate and cultivate the bright side of life rather than to permit its darkness and shadows to hover over them.

In order to successfully overcome anxieties in reference to questions that require time for their solution, an absolute faith and confidence in God and in the triumph of his work are essential.

The most momentous questions and the greatest dangers to personal happiness are not always met and solved within oneself, and if men cannot courageously meet the difficulties, and obstacles of their own individual lives and natures, how are they to meet successfully those public questions in which the welfare and happiness of the public are concerned?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?

Today while search the scriptures for answers to questions I have in life I came across this powerful verse:
Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll? -Mormon 5:23
What a fantastic lesson and reminder! Sometimes situations in life that seem so dire are truly of little consequence when we look at them through the scope of the grand plan of salvation. Even still, we are in the hands of an all-knowing, all-loving God who understands how we feel no matter how significant the issue in our lives may be!

The Lord also helps us in the small things. Recently my home teacher told a story in elder's quorum about the spirit telling him to not pay out of his own pocket to upgrade to first class (he's a very big guy, coach much be exceptionally uncomfortable for him). Unfortunately, this elicited muffled laughs from some in the quorum, but the spirit witnessed to me the truth of his story. Further, I knew it to be true because I know his character and I know that God is truly aware of and concerned with the smallest things in our lives.

Often patience is the key because the Lord always keeps his promises. Our Heavenly Father repeated a particular promise through his prophets at least 17 times in the Book of Mormon. One example is this:
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you. -Mosiah 2:22
I know that I am most definitely "in the hands of God"! I have seen and felt him lift me up so many times. I know that with patience that if I do my part--keeping the commandments--God knows what is best of me, and will proper my family and I. Of course patients is the most difficult part, but I know this principle to be true.

Monday, May 03, 2010

I KNOW the Book of Mormon is True

I do not just believe, I KNOW that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It is a companion to the Bible, given to us by our creator to bless our lives! The study of this inspired book has changed my life eternally. Though I have a long way to go, it has helped me become more kind, more loving, more charitable, and more grateful for all I am blessed with. The Book of Mormon has help me draw closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know the Book of Mormon is a true book because I read it myself, asked God myself, and received an answer from God for myself that it is true.

I also KNOW that God calls prophets and apostles today, just as he has throughout the history of his church recorded in the Bible. I invite you to watch this video where one of the living apostles of Jesus Christ shares his witness of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Testimony of an Apostle of Jesus Christ

This is one of the most powerful testimonies I have ever heard.

I add to my testimony wholeheartedly to Elder Holland's. I know the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is the word of God because the Holy Ghost has borne witness to me over and over again of its truth and authenticity. I invite you to study the words of this book and discover for yourself whether it is true (the full text is also available online). For, "by their fruits ye shall know them".