I was raised in a Mormon family and went to church regularly with them. I loved the stories of Jesus – particularly how He loved and blessed the little children. I accepted His “reality” in the simple faith of one raised in this kind of home.
Then, one day during my teens, I was reading The Book of Mormon and found the most astounding passage in Ether chapter 3. It records an actual visit by the Savior to a man known as the “brother of Jared” whose people were preparing to leave the area near the Tower of Babel, after its destruction by God as told in the Old Testament. The brother of Jared was praying for guidance. It would be thousands of years before the Savior would be born to Mary and Joseph.
As the brother of Jared prayed, Jesus actually appeared to him! Jesus looked like a man with a body and that greatly surprised the brother of Jared. The verses I have quoted here deeply touched me and have been a strong base of my abiding faith in the Savior and His atoning sacrifice ever since. He died that we might live again!
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“Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward . . . .” (Alma 41:14)
One of my goals in life has been to be a good father to my children. I have watched the example of others, read many suggestions in many places, and listened to counsel as to how best to do this. It seems that the learning curve is slow so that by the time one learns how to be a parent, the children are soon gone from the home. It is my belief that fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness. In The Book of Mormon I found some wonderful chapters in Alma 36-42 where Alma gives instructions to his sons that have helped me in doing this. I have tried to pattern some of the things that I teach my children as a father after his words. Those I have quoted above, and many other instructions given by Alma to his sons, have made this book very valuable and special to me. I have received a personal witness that The Book of Mormon is true, that its teachings have helped me as a father and in every aspect of my life, and that it has helped me draw nearer to God.
This passage has served me well as a husband and father. Early in my marriage, as I pondered these verses I came to realize how much Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ loved children. I sensed that in essence, children were entrusted to parents with the heavenly expectation that parents would teach them correct heavenly principles and be good examples. The rearing of children required my very best effort as a father and a husband. This was a partnership shared with my dear wife of fifty plus years, as well as deity. Yes, it has been challenging at times, but so rewarding. And these verses and experiences continue to bless us as we reach out to our thirty-two grandchildren.
When asked about my Mormon Faith, my initial response is always the same. I passionately embrace the concept of an Eternal Family. Many of our beliefs are taken on faith. That is, I do not have a perfect knowledge of their validity, but I strongly believe them to be so. While I may not have a “perfect knowledge” of a family that lives on eternally, I do have such a knowledge of the temporal impact in my life.
The Book of Mormon teaches and reminds me to be a more loving, supportive and understanding spouse and parent. Love for my family is not just something in which I “believe,” but rather a tangible emotion I can grasp with certainty and conviction. Love for family drives my hope and bridles my selfishness. Family brings love, faith, joy and fulfillment into every aspect of my daily life.
While I may not have a perfect knowledge of Heaven, I am blessed to have a perfect knowledge of Family here on Earth. For me, it is everything.
As a young mother, I watched some of my children express doubt because their prayers were not always answered immediately or in the way they wanted. I, myself, felt that God’s love for me was manifest in the blessings I received at His hand. So when trials came along, and lasted a long time as they often do, I had the feeling that I had displeased my Heavenly Father in some way and was not worthy of the blessing I badly needed. Then I read, again, the counsel from these two great prophets and I realized that my children and I both needed to learn that hope and faith always precede the miracle. Answers to prayer, and especially miracles, do not happen in order to prove our faith is justified. I told my children that asking for blessings to prove there is a God makes faith unnecessary, and that is not the way God operates.
I know God is there and hears my prayers and loves me, weak as I am. I have learned that “no” is an acceptable answer to a requested blessing. Thanks to Ether and Moroni, I continue to have faith that Heavenly Father’s wisdom is greater than my own, and that is what I now share with my grandchildren.
Years ago, I found my boys wanting to go to the mall to play arcade games with their hard-earned money. I was distraught thinking it was such a waste of both time and money. I was searching for a good reason to help them make a better choice. While reading my scriptures, I opened the Book of Mormon and glanced at the above verse.
Instantly, I felt this thought was an answer from heaven to my prayer. Later, the discussion with my boys laid the groundwork for helping them make worthwhile and satisfying choices, choices that made them feel good about themselves and gave them opportunities to use their money wisely.
This same scripture is one I remember when my choices seem unclear. When my direction is pointed to Christ and I am feasting “upon that which perisheth not,” my ability to make better choices increases and “I delight in fatness”, being filled with things that God would want me to do. That is when I truly feel God’s love and blessing in my life.
I feel comfort knowing that Heavenly Father has designed this life so we might know joy. In our pre-mortal life He presented this plan where we each would have our own agency. It is a scary thing to most of us, because we knew we would make mistakes, affecting not only our own lives but also the lives of others. We knew that it would cause something called misery, and by knowing the bitter we would also know the sweet. Lucifer fought against this plan and took one third of our brothers and sisters with him. When I have been in the depths of misery, or a loved one is having a hard time, I take courage knowing that we are experiencing this wonderful plan to bring joy into our lives. By experiencing misery from our own hands, the hands of others, or even from natural occurrences, we know the bitter and it makes the joy that Heavenly Father wants us to experience a glorious thing.
Because my father was a National Park Ranger, I spent part of my youth hiking and climbing in Grand Teton National Park. While there, I began reading the Bible each morning. I was completely overwhelmed by Christ’s teachings on the Sermon on the Mount, and realized that his instructions for us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to do good to those who treat us unkindly, are truly divine. What would the world be like if we all followed such a high path! Later, I found the same teachings in the Book of Mormon.
As I read in Mosiah 18 about the small church that Alma founded in the wilderness, near the waters and forests of a place called Mormon, I realized that those ancient people felt the same way about their spiritual awakening in the wilderness as I did about my spiritual awakening in the Grand Tetons. The mountains, lakes, and rivers of the Tetons are very beautiful. Each year I try to hike to the spot and pray where I first felt the presence of Heavenly Father and learned for myself that the Book of Mormon is true.
At times, I have felt that God is not there when I need Him most. I have felt forgotten and abandoned. During these times of great difficulty I am forced to rely completely on faith. The Book of Mormon, and this verse in particular, helps provide me with peace. It comforts me to know that He is there and that He does love me. He has “graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” This verse helps me to believe that I am important to Him and that He is with me even through the trials that I think may seem insignificant to Him. He does care about me and wants me to return home to Him.
I am so grateful for The Book of Mormon and the spirit that I feel when I read it. It is an anchor in my life and it keeps my perspective looking up even through my heart aches. It brings a peace into my life of knowing why we are here and what we should be doing, and that God lives, and Jesus is our Savior.
I love this story because Jesus was about to leave, and when he sees that the people want him to stay longer, he stays and heals all their sick, deaf, blind, lame, and more. He is so loving and kind that he would do this. The story is about how Jesus loves everyone, and he shows his love and mercy towards others.
I know this is true because I have prayed about the Book of Mormon, to see if it is actually true, to know for myself if it is actually true. I now know that it is real.