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"And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;" (Mosiah 27:25)

In my life, this verse from The Book of Mormon first became very important to me when I was 8 years old. When I was 8 years old, I made the decision to become baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This was the single most important decision I ever made, and it affects me every day. This scripture helps me every day by reminding me that it is possible to repent. When I make a mistake and sin, I can simply ask God to forgive me, and can partake of the sacrament in my Sunday meetings, and can become changed from my carnal and fallen state to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God. After reading The Book of Mormon, I gained a very special witness of its truth. I firmly believe that The Book of Mormon is true. The words written in it testify of Christ, and his atonement that gives all of us the opportunity and blessing to become changed from our carnal and fallen state to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God.

"I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever." (Ether 12:41)

Beautiful art hung on the walls of my home when I was growing up. However, it was a small framed print placed on an easel that captured my attention almost daily. Carl Bloch’s ‘Nativity’ sat in a prominent place in our dining room where I chose to do my homework. The dark rich colors surrounding the golden glow highlighting the focus of the painting, baby Jesus in the manger, enhanced its importance. An unmistakable reverence radiated from it, and I felt it in a powerful way. I believed in Jesus Christ. I believed that he was the Son of God. I was taught that he came to atone for the sins of men. I remember thinking as I looked at the painting that I wanted to be a follower of Christ.

When I left home for college, my desire to know Christ became stronger. I wanted to know what he meant to me personally. I read the New Testament. I read the Book of Mormon. Everything I read and studied brought the same warm peaceful feelings I felt as a young teenager.

My desire to know Christ and be his follower is still my greatest desire. I now have hanging in my home my own copy of Carl Bloch’s ‘Nativity’, and it still occupies my thoughts and beckons me to seek him. The scripture I have quoted above from The Book of Mormon about Christ has deep meaning for me. I believe that as we seek to know Jesus Christ we will feel his love for us personally. And when we feel his grace, we will try hard to live a life that is reflective of his teachings.

"And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous, that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith: The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people; for the names of the righteous shall be written in the book of life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand. And now, my brethren, what have ye to say against this? I say unto you, if ye speak against it, it matters not, for the word of God must be fulfilled. For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him. And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed. And now I, Alma, do command you in the language of him who hath commanded me, that ye observe to do the words which I have spoken unto you. I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life." (Alma 5:57-62)

Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I never felt I really needed to be “converted” to the teachings that I had grown up learning. It wasn’t until my Junior and Senior years of high school that I really felt like my belief in the Church was being tested. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at the age of sixteen. Being told that not only did I have a serious pain condition but that it would also stick with me for life, led to my developing a serious case of depression. I allowed myself to become bitter and angry with God, and got myself mixed up in a crowd that wasn’t conducive to the standards the Church had in place. However, I began to feel empty inside. I was happy, but I didn’t feel whole. I began to wonder if having the Lord back in my life would help me to feel complete again. While reading the Book of Mormon, I found many verses that talked about abandoning sin, and coming unto Christ, but Alma 5 particularly stood out. Not only did it encourage me to abandon living the life of frivolity that I was currently participating in, but it compared all of us on earth to sheep being watched over by “the good shepherd”. The line, “the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; . . .that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life” was the tipping point in turning from the life I was currently living, and coming unto the Savior That was the best decision I have ever made. I have never felt as peaceful, jovial, and simply content with who and where I am in life, as I have since I decided to make the decision to abandon the person that I was and become a member of the fold which is actively watched over and protected by the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever. And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen." (Moroni 9:25-26)

I cannot even imagine my life without the Book of Mormon. I love it so much! It has taught me about Jesus Christ and has brought me closer to Him. It has made me want to be like Him, and I have made the majority of my goals and choices because of this desire. There so many amazing verses that it is difficult to say which ones are my favorites. But the above verses have really meant a lot to me.

Most of us will have struggles and trials in this life. Few, if any, get through it unscathed. And I believe everyone will be tempted and will sin. No one is perfect. At a particularly difficult time in my life, these verses brought me peace and gave me the hope I needed to endure. As I read “but may Christ lift thee up”, I felt an extra support and knew that as I learn to listen and depend on my Savior, Jesus Christ, I can do all things. I felt these words to be true just at that moment when I needed to hear them the most. I have often felt Christ “lift” me up and support me through my trials, and I know that I would never be able to get through them without Him to ease the burden. Because Christ suffered for us, because He is so merciful, because of His grace, we can repent and return to live with Him and our Father in Heaven again.

"And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity." (Moroni 10:22)

“Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.” (Moroni 7:42)

Despair. No one is immune. Some may be less susceptible to it, and others more likely to have it. Some have it all the time and can never get away from it. Sadly it sometimes leads to drastic ends. I have felt it from time to time. It seems to grow steadily as the rising tide, consuming the shoreline, relentless, crushing, and inevitable. Despair dissolves the hope of a brighter future.

I remember a time in high school when I felt particularly down. I don’t recall particularly why, but I do remember feeling a loss of hope, that things wouldn’t get better, that they would only get worse, and there was nothing I, or anyone, could do to change that. In my moment of despair I read, “If ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” Why was I in despair? Was it some form of iniquity, some sin I was guilty of? As I considered this, I understood that the ‘iniquity’, or my error, was not some awful deed I had done. Rather, it was something more fundamental and simple.

My problem was a lack of faith in Jesus Christ. With faith in Him, there is hope of a brighter future. Without Him comes despair. With faith in Him comes knowledge that it does not matter what my past has been, only what my future can be. Faith in Christ is confidence in a Father in Heaven who loves me, without condition, and regardless of mistakes and slip-ups and imperfections. Faith brings a hope for a new start, a brighter future, a chance to try again and again, a chance to be clean of past errors. Faith and hope go together, inseparable. I believe in God. I believe Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind. When I feel despair, I stop and remember to have a little more faith. I have faith that God can make me whole and clean and pure. I have hope that tomorrow is a new day and that I can be better than I was yesterday. Hope is my antidote to despair.