Day 72: Labor exceedingly

3 Nephi 19:1-3

I find it so instructive and inspiring how the Nephites and Lamanites reacted to the appearance of Jesus Christ among them in the Americas. By chapter 19, Jesus has appeared and provided ample proof of His identity to the people (3 Nephi 11:1-17); instructed them (3 Nephi 11:28-41; 11:12-15); called and set apart disciples (3 Nephi 11:18-26); prophesied (3 Nephi 16); ministered to the children (3 Nephi 17:11-25); healed the sick (3 Nephi 17:7-10); instituted the sacrament (3 Nephi 18:1-12); and more. He ascends into heaven at the end of the day, promising to return the next day.

And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ascended into heaven, the multitude did disperse, and every man did take his wife and his children and did return to his own home.

And it was noised abroad among the people immediately, before it was yet dark, that the multitude had seen Jesus, and that he had ministered unto them, and that he would also show himself on the morrow unto the multitude. (3 Nephi 19:1-2)

The people who have already seen Jesus don’t just go home to bed. They spread the word eagerly across the land that Jesus has come and that He will come back the next day. This got me thinking: I have come to know the Savior in my own life through various experiences, scripture study, and prayer, but have I done my part to share that with others? Have I “noised abroad” all the good He has brought into my life? Have I made sure that my friends and family know where and how to find Jesus for themselves?

Yea, and even all the night it was noised abroad concerning Jesus; and insomuch did they send forth unto the people that there were many, yea, an exceedingly great number, did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude. (3 Nephi 19:3)

As I continue to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, live it, and practice my religion daily, I think on the Nephites and Lamanites who did not see Jesus when He first appeared. They heard about the miraculous appearance after it had happened (at night) and many of them “did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude” (ibid.). Do I “labor exceedingly” to be in the places, doing the things, that will allow me to “meet the Savior,” to increase my knowledge and testimony of Jesus Christ? We know that prior to Christ’s arrival in the Americas, much of the infrastructure had been destroyed (e.g. roads, cities, etc.); I can only imagine that it was very difficult to travel from nearby regions, let alone from great distances. And, yet, the people heard that Jesus would be in Bountiful and they worked hard––through the night!––to get there in time.

I can follow the example of the Nephites and Lamanites. I can do a better job of sharing my testimony and knowledge of Jesus Christ with everyone. I can do better getting to the temple monthly, making time to study the scriptures, preparing Family Home Evening lessons, and researching the new family home study program. Just as the Nephites and Lamanites witnessed great miracles as a result of their diligent efforts to share and be where Jesus would be, we will experience great spiritual growth and witness miracles in our own lives.

Day 62: Unwearyingness

Helaman 10:4-12

I was so taken aback as I read these verses in Helaman 10 today. Nephi the former chief judge and now high priest over the church has just gone through an emotionally and spiritually wracking ordeal. The Lord speaks to him, blesses him, and asks him to continue his work. How does Nephi respond?

[N]ow it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to declare unto them the word of the Lord…. (Helaman 10:12, emphasis added)

My chief desire as an introvert is always to get home where I feel comfortable and safe. It blows my mind that instead of going home, Nephi goes back out to preach more.

Nephi’s example of unwearying service and missionary work reminds me of an experience from my mission. My companionship was out one night in January doing a special one hour of finding. We had planned the hour several days in advance and had prayed for direction where to go. We had already spent almost our whole hour and curfew approached. The promise of my warm bed and the safety of our apartment beckoned. We completed a row of apartments and my trainer asked if we should keep going or head home. I looked further down the street to see no lights on in any of the apartments, not even on doorsteps. I was tired, cold, and very uncomfortable. We agreed to go home.

The next morning was Sunday. We received a call from our district leaders to say a fax had arrived at the mission office with a note that a woman had recently been baptized and then moved to our city. I became a bundle of emotions when my trainer revealed this sister’s address: the very street we had given up on the night before. In fact, she lived just down and to the right of where we had, with weariness, stopped knocking on doors and headed home.

Oh to be like Nephi who boldly and tirelessly shared the Gospel with as many people as he could. Who, instead of going home to curl up in bed or have a meal, returned to the epicenters of his and other communities to “declare the word of God.”

We all have responsibilities in our lives that we could probably stand to fulfill with a little more unwearyingness. Whether it’s being a better mom, magnifying a church calling, or whatever else I need to work on, I can learn so much from Nephi’s diligence and devotion.

Day 45: In the Absence of Charity

Alma 31:28

Of all the sins committed by the Zoramites, the one that intrigues me the most this time reading the Book of Mormon is their belief in being chosen people. The Book of Mormon states that “the Zoramites were perverting the ways of the Lord” (Alma 31:1). They would mount a special platform and recite a prayer that included, “We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish” (Alma 31:28). The Zoramites’ belief in being saved because they’re chosen and others perishing because they are not chosen goes against one of God’s defining characteristics and primary concerns. Up to this point in the Book of Mormon, the prophets have repeatedly stated and provided examples in action of God’s character, what constitutes righteous behavior, as well as essential and eternal doctrines. At the heart of God’s character is His love for mankind, His children. And His primary concern is their eternal welfare. The Zoramites, in perverting the ways of the Lord, lost these beautiful and essential truths.

God’s love––charity––impels so many Book of Mormon people to share their knowledge of Christ and the Plan of Salvation with others. The concern for the welfare of others’ souls leads them to fear for their eternal wellbeing and they go to incredible lengths to bring as many people to Christ as possible. But the greatest example of charity is Jesus Christ. Charity impelled Jesus Christ to accept the daunting role as Savior and provide the Atonement for all of God’s children. He willingly accepted this responsibility so that every single one of His Father’s children would have the opportunity to achieve eternal life.

In the absence of charity, apathy toward and carelessness for our fellow man creep in. As Christmas approaches, let’s examine our lives and discover ways we can change our hearts to love our fellow man more perfectly, more like Christ.

Day 40: Do all things through Christ

Alma 17

This time I’ve really bitten off more than I can chew. We are mere weeks out from closing on our very first home and in the past five months, I have undertaken and added to a list of increasingly intricate furniture refinishing projects. Now I’m running faster than I have strength, trying to get everything done before it’s time to pack up a truck and go.

It’s like that sometimes in church callings, isn’t it? We feel like we are given more to do than we can possibly accomplish, that we just don’t have enough time, strength, sleep, hands, or love. And the work to do is so much more important than refinishing furniture––it’s helping people cleanse and refine their souls.

The sons of Mosiah understood a little something about taking on Herculean challenges. As they entered Lamanite territory at the outset of their mission, “they separated themselves and departed one from another” (Alma 17:13). Then the Book of Mormon provides a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of the men: “they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken. And assuredly it was great, for they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them” (Alma 17:13-14, emphasis added). Not only did the sons of Mosiah decide to go preach the Gospel in foreign lands, but they chose to teach the mortal enemies of their people; and they decided to split up! They had their work cut out for them as Nephite believers trying to teach the Gospel to wild, hardened, ferocious people who delighted in murdering, robbing, and plundering Nephites. How could the sons of Mosiah possibly accomplish their goal “to bring [the Lamanites] unto repentance…[to] bring them to know of the plan of redemption” (Alma 17:16)?

When the assignment comes from God, there is always a way to accomplish it. The scriptures record that after splitting up, the sons of Mosiah “went forth among [the Lamanites], every man alone, according to the word and power of God which was given unto him” (Alma 17:17, emphasis added). Armed with the word and power of God and a promise from God to their father (Mosiah) that He would protect them, they began their assignment, “trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest” (Alma 17:13). They trusted that God would keep them alive and they had faith that He would help them accomplish the work of saving souls.

When the church assignments begin piling up and we feel like we’re running faster than we have strength, remember the example of the sons of Mosiah. Seek the power of God in your work, trust in Him to give you the added strength you need to accomplish the most important aspects of your calling, have faith that you will accomplish the most vital work. Repeat to yourself as often as necessary, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, NT).

Day 39: A Personal Ministry

Alma 17:12-13, 16-18

MTC Nov 6I want to share some of the positive and joyful results of my mission––especially considering that this month I celebrated the tenth anniversary of entering the Missionary Training Center.

In 2007, nearing graduation from Brigham Young University, I listened to Bonnie D. Parkin speak at a regular Tuesday devotional. Her message on finding one’s personal ministry struck, thrilled, and terrified me. “Ministering involves extending charity—that pure love of Christ—to others, one person at a time. By doing so, we offer a kind, generous, peaceful, and pure heart.” I felt her message resonate with my spirit, telling me this was something I needed to do! She continued, “Opportunities to minister may come within the formal stewardship of a calling or assignment, or they may come as we spontaneously extend ourselves to someone in need” (Parkin, “Personal Ministry: Sacred and Precious,BYU Devotional [Feb 2007]). Spontaneously extend myself to someone in need?! For years I had feared reaching out in this way despite feeling the Spirit nudge me many times to do just that. I needed some courage and confidence in my ability to follow the promptings of the Spirit.

Four sons of Mosiah, filled with the pure love of Christ, left the comfort and safety of their Nephite community along with several other missionaries and traveled into the lands of the Lamanites hoping “that perhaps they might bring them unto repentance; that perhaps they might bring them to know of the plan of redemption” (Alma 17:16). They felt this incredibly strong conviction about Jesus Christ and the need for EVERYONE to know about Him and the Plan of Salvation. So much so that they risked their lives to go on this mission. The group, ministered to by Ammon (Alma 17:18), “took courage to go forth unto the Lamanites…trusting in the Lord (Alma 17:12-13, emphasis added). This is what I lacked!

One of the greatest blessings of my mission was developing the courage to act, the trust in the Lord to move forward with ANY assignment, the gumption to get out of my comfort zone, and the self-confidence to act on the promptings of the Spirit. The Lord provided me experience after experience to teach me these principles and help me develop these characteristics. I felt many times that God designed all these lessons to prepare me for my lifelong personal ministry. I see how He helped me on the path to becoming a reliable and effective instrument in His hands (Alma 17:9). And He taught me what it takes to be an excellent disciple of Christ. I’m not perfect in this by any means but the Lord also taught me how to further improve throughout my life. I wouldn’t trade those lessons for anything.

Day 38: Steps into the Darkness

Alma 8-14

Having finished Alma 14 today, I see a good moment to pause and reflect on two themes exemplified in Amulek’s experience as a reactivated church member and new missionary.

1. When God asks you to do something, He doesn’t give you every detail in advance.

Amulek says he had heard the call to repent and turn back to the Lord many times (Alma 10:6). He ignored it. But when God sent the angel with the brief message to receive into his home a hungry prophet of God, he acted (Alma 10:7). The brevity of the angel’s instruction to Amulek and the scarcity of information provided really stands out to me. Amulek acted with faith to follow the angel’s instructions. He expresses his faith to Alma upon their divinely directed encounter, stating simply, “I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house” (Alma 8:20).

What stands out to me is that Amulek likely had no idea what was going to be expected of him once he took this faith-filled step into the darkness. God didn’t include advance notice that he would be asked to “go forth and prophesy unto this people” (v. 29), nor did He provide lesson plans, a warning about how the people would react, or instructions for the coming days and weeks. The only instruction provided was, “Thou shalt receive [Alma]” (Alma 8:80; Alma 10:7).

God will extend many invitations to us over our lifetimes. Let’s be like Amulek and act in faith, knowing that whatever He asks will ultimately “be a blessing unto [you] and [your] house.”

2. Doing God’s will does not guarantee that you will be kept safe or avoid unpleasant, uncomfortable, or even dangerous situations.

I used to tell myself that if God had told me in advance everything I would experience on my mission, I never would have gone. And, yes, pre-mission me had a right to feel really nervous and scared about serving a mission. But I would never trade the joy I experienced helping others repent nor the covenant friendships I forged as a missionary.

The Book of Mormon doesn’t share much about Amulek’s state of mind or feelings about becoming Alma’s mission companion except to record that he willingly took his step into the darkness and faithfully acted on God’s invitation and instructions. The people we’re asked to serve in the places we’re asked to go have their agency. They are free to act as they want and see fit. When we accept an assignment from God to go serve, doing God’s will does not guarantee that people are going to be nice, welcoming, accepting, or even polite.

Amulek learned first hand about being rejected in the harshest ways possible: he and Alma were plotted against (Alma 10:13), he was called a liar (Alma 10:28), they were “bound with strong cords” (Alma 14:4), they were unjustly accused and illegally tried on false charges (Alma 14:5), they were forced to watch people they taught be burned alive (Alma 14:8-10), they were attacked and beaten multiple times (Alma 14:14, 20, 21, 24, 25), they were imprisoned while tied up with no clothes (Alma 14:17, 22), they were starved (Alma 14:22).

Just the potential for this kind of suffering while doing God’s work is reason enough for almost anyone to refuse an assignment. But when we really believe deep in our souls that God is real, that His work is vital, that the Plan of Salvation is in effect, that the human race has the opportunity to live with God forever OR be cast off to suffer eternally, then the potential for earthly suffering on God’s errand takes on a whole new perspective. Taking the chance on potential (temporary) suffering to bring even one person to Christ has to be worth it.

God may or may not protect you while you are on His errand, He won’t interfere with anyone’s agency, you may or may not have to go to dangerous places, you may or may not be required to have many unpleasant and uncomfortable experiences; but God does guarantee blessings, He does promise that His righteous works will be fulfilled, He does promise that suffering and misery are temporary, that they will end and be replaced with peace and joy.

Elder Holland spoke to this principle years ago in October 1999 General Conference. I’ll end with his closing words:

I testify that God lives, that He is our Eternal Father, that He loves each of us with a love divine. I testify that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh and, having triumphed in this world, is an heir of eternity, a joint-heir with God, and now stands on the right hand of His Father. I testify that this is Their true Church and that They sustain us in our hour of need—and always will, even if we cannot recognize that intervention. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. (Holland, “An High Priest of Good Things to Come,General Conference (Oct 1999.)

Day 36: Working With Our Weaknesses

Alma 8:11-18

Alma the younger’s amazing conversion from church-destroyer to High Priest over the Church gave him a unique perspective on and zeal for God’s work. His first attempt at preaching in Ammonihah dampened his spirits, though, and he was prepared to turn his back on the city. But as soon as the angel commanded him to return and try again, he went, no questions asked.

One of the things I love in this anecdote from Alma’s ministry is the poignant lesson about how the Lord works with us to fulfill His work, even with our weaknesses. When Alma returned to the city (by another way––there’s a lesson in that as well), “he was an hungered” (v. 19). Remembering that hunger is a condition of our mortal bodies, Alma probably could have continued working, being strengthened by God. But the Lord worked with Alma’s weakness (hunger) in that moment to progress His work of bringing salvation to all His children. The man he asked for food was reactivated and became a powerful missionary.

I experienced this same kind of mercy as a brand new missionary one evening in a northern European city in January. It was freezing cold, we were miles from our apartment, and I was exhausted in more ways than one. We waffled in that difficult period of the day where you have just enough time to make a few more contacts (but not teach a full lesson) and still arrive home for missionary curfew. My trainer asked for suggestions. I was so tired that I responded, “let’s just go home.” She thought for a moment and then agreed. So we headed out of the train station toward the ferry. Moving with the crowd, we approached a tram shelter. We were about to pass when a man called out to us in English. We looked for the speaker and discovered a man smiling and waving at us. He had traveled from the Philippines as a worker for a cruise line and was a member of the Church. He had not seen his family in six months nor had he been able to attend Church. He was overjoyed to see us and felt his spirit renewed.

Even in the depths of my exhaustion and eagerness to get home, the Lord worked through my weakness to perform a miracle. Through us He ministered to one of His children and accomplished His work.