Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let Us Prepare for this General Conference Weekend in the Greatest Humility that We Can Summon

This weekend is going to be tremendous; however, it will only impact you according to your faith. This article offers two perspectives of encouragement; one from the Relief Society Presidency and one from the Elder's Quorum Presidency. The reason that this weekend is tremendous is because it is General Conference! I pray for a glorious weekend of revelation unto a greater life. This is the reason for this article. 

Here are the words of our Relief Society President Anya Salden.

"Preparing for General Conference

In the effort to help everyone become excited about General Conference this weekend, I've come up with a few suggestions to take into consideration while preparing yourselves for such an awesome occasion! 

First, read the First Presidency message for the month of September. Elder Uctdorf has some really good advice on preparing for General Conference. However, I would add an emphasis on writing your questions or concerns down. For me, just thinking of a question is not enough. Writing it down makes the answers more tangible when they come. 

Second, attention activities. If you are anything like me, it took a good game of conference bingo to get me to really pay attention to the things being said at General Conference. (If you need directions on how to play or want someone to compete with, let me know!) You can also look online at The Friend website to find other attention activities, such as coloring pages and matching games. 

Lastly, watch/listen to conference in an environment that is conducive to feeling the Spirit. If that is not possible over this upcoming weekend, don't stress. As long as you take advantage of modern technology and make it happen as soon as you are able, your questions will still be answered. The Lord knows what we need to hear and when. The question is, are you listening? So here's wishing you an upcoming weekend of happy listening!!"

Receiving the word of God with great faith can be hard. It takes great humility to let an event as a conference have a sustained influence on our lives. The people that will be addressing us are endowed with power from on high. They are mighty in Spirit and good works. Let us receive their example of obedience unto ourselves. It is such a great blessing to have Prophets and Apostles, seeking to increase the faith of Christ in all the world. We ought to be seeking after the works of these disciples. I am grateful for the suggestions of Anya. 

A singular charge that I have for you is to seek the goal to live in the present. The past is done. Lets learn from it and live our best today. Let the word of God this weekend change your life. Follow the counsel of these servants, setting the revelation that you receive to discipline yourself in the way of greater obedience. Set goals, and apply the word in our lives. Set them in how you will continue to sustain a life of receiving the words of our latter-day prophets. Study the conference addresses in realistic achievable goals over the next six months.

I plan to read a talk a week. I have never read the general conference talks regularly. Each person is different, and we need to let this be personal. God loves us beyond the imaginations of any man. Let us set appropriate goals to set ourselves to where God sees that we have a potential to be. Be realistic. Come to know yourself. Seek to know how God knows you and your election.

Thomas S. Monson is today's prophet of God of the same stature of Joseph Smith, Abraham, Enoch, and all the former prophets. God has given him words to give specifically for us at this time to prepare for the eternities.

We write these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The First Monthly Relief Society Book Review

 Book Review Summary written by Melissa Totten


The Devil in The White City
by Erik Larson

The overall consensus of our Relief Society book club was that this book is pretty good. Parts of the book are hard to get through because it reads a little like a history textbook, and sometimes there are so many characters that it is hard to keep track of all of them. Despite these few short-comings, the book has quite a bit going for it and was cause for some great discussion amongst the women.

One of the first things that we noted is how easily we could tell that the author is very much a connoisseur of architecture. When he writes about the elegance and the details of the buildings in Chicago and for the World's Fair, you can actually feel the love that he has for the brilliance of the men during this time in American history. Besides the authors ability to make architecture interesting for everyone, he did a great job with adding in the life of Dr. H. H. Holmes, which literally goes hand in hand with the events involving the 1893 World's Fair.

This thought lead to our next topic about how easily we as people are blinded by things in this world. Throughout the book we time and time again find that Dr. H. H. Holmes is able to hide his more primal tendencies to murder others and deceive people in all manners of life to get what he wants. He takes advantage of women, who fall in love with him. He cheats working men from the wages that they deserve even when their families may be starving, and he thieves creditors from their merchandise. All the while using his charm and comforting demeanor to fool everyone into letting him continue with the way things are. How often in life are we blinded by objects or people's charm?

Finally we moved on to just how amazing the 1893 World's Fair really was and all of the grand inventions and ideas that came from it and that still exist today. As we sat around discussing, we ate our shredded wheat, which was actually introduced at the World's Fair. We thought about the Ferris Wheel, electric lamps, Juicy Fruit gum, and many things that were not invented for the Fair, but these inventions ended up coming about concurrent to the fair. For example, the officer who anticipated the increase in crime of the city and came up with the system for identifying suspects.

Discussing and reflecting upon all of these inventions, we ended up talking about how interesting it is that technology in the world moves forward so quickly these days, and this was only able to happen after the Restoration of the church had occurred. Just think about how important it was that the gospel be restored to the Earth so that we as people could progress in our ways of living. Now look at us, sharing it all in blogs for the world to read.

The next book club will be held on September 28th at the Duckworth's house at 7pm, and we are reading Precious Bane by Mary Webb. If you have read the book or not, we would love for you to come share your thoughts. Happy readings until we meet again!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Up From My Last Big Down

Written by Jason Walters

I was asked to write about my recent experiences of rapid advancement in spiritual progress. One thing that is important to understand is that I am a convert and have been a member of the church for about three years. In those years I have had many ups and downs in my spirituality. I won't be going into details, but I feel that it is sufficient to say that I'm still working my way up from my last big down.

I have a friend that was raised in an active family. He has been through much and he is even the one who baptized me. He is getting married soon. I want to be able to see this happen. For this reason, I told myself it was time to stop messing around and start working on getting worthy. This can be quite challenging when you had fallen as far as I had.

I decided that there were things I needed to get done to prepare myself for bringing myself closer to God. The first thing that I did was to get back to the classic answers: read, ponder, and pray. The following three paragraphs will expound on these principles.

Firstly I called up an inactive friend of mine, and we started a plan to read the scriptures together. We started with the Book of Mormon and will continue when we are done. We are hoping to get through the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price by the end of the year. I find pondering better done on a what if this was/wasn't case.

I find it very easy to understand the greatness of the teachings of the scriptures, if we say what if this was/wasn't the case. Ponder on this if you want to try “What if everybody lived the law of Chasity?” You can do this with anything and with any scope. I suggest not doing personal negative. This can lead to attacks by dark forces which will just magnify any burden you already have.

For prayer you really just have to break down and do it. Do whatever you need to make this more regular in life. My biggest tip is that you needn't say the prayer aloud. If you have a cluttered mind like I do, it helps a lot to say it, even quietly. Try praying before every meal, regardless of location.

The next thing I did was get my patriarchal blessing. This has been a blessing and guide in my life. This is another thing that is great to put in the read, ponder, pray cycle of things. I have been able to read it even in the spiritually darkest areas. If you haven't gotten one yet you really should do what you need to do to prepare yourself for it. It is a wonderful guide, and I have been able to feel the power and love of God in its words.

The next thing I did was priesthood advancement. For female readers this may not apply to you but if you know a guy, who is struggling, this may be of help to him. The burden on those in the Arronic Priesthood is light and thus an equal amount of protection and guidance is given. I sat for a long time, feeling weaker than those around me. After getting the Melchizedek Priesthood, I felt the power and responsibility that comes with which placed upon me. It is a great power that we are given and because of that we are given great expectations; however, God asks nothing of us which he has not prepared a way for us to do. You get much protection to help you with this new power and responsibility.

After all this, it was time to go to the temple. It is a hard thing to face down your demons and get to this point, but if you can, the endowment is a wonderful experience. Once inside the temple you take the next step of advancement for all church members. My advice to any of you going for your personal endowment is to relax and let yourself become immersed in the power and feelings there. Note not only what is going on around you but inside you. The day of, before you go, do whatever it is that you do to get closer to the spirit. Once you are done with everything; then, you will be a changed person.

This is my epistle to the internet community. May you all learn to feel the love and protection of God. In Jesus' name; Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Just picture yourself."

     Michael committed me, saying "Just picture yourself. Where would you be if you were not in the church for about eleven or twelve years? What would your life be like?" An explanation of this vision may need to be written, for many of us, including me, has been raised in a life with a great knowledge of truth that gives us great strength. We may not recognize how the spirits on the other side of the veil wish that they could live a life in the Restored Gospel in mortality. 
Many have to endure life without the Gospel, and they do not know how to progress in life. When a man receives the gospel, he is left, feeling years behind a man raised in the Gospel. He sees many things that he has never learned. Many little things are hard to add as habits. Not living the Gospel weakens us from the potential of a more full statue of Christ. As we learn to observe all the little things of the teachings of God throughout our life, we shine as a disciple of Christ. Some people are intimidated by this, and great patience is to be exercised by all to accept the progression of faith. 
      I see many fruits to the appreciation that we can obtain by exploring this idea. You will be able to relate and understand others better. This understanding has importance to work with all types of people in patience and love to have a mutually inspiring friendship. I interviewed Josh Aufderheide how it is like to live without the gospel to help me write this article. In alluding to this article at our last Fast and Testimony meeting and the first thing that Josh said to me concerning this topic. 'People feel their way in the world, doing what they think is right in hopes to find the truth.' Do you feel how it is like to be in the person that Josh described? I feel like a blind man or a man in pitch darkness.
     I see that the atonement and many doctrines therein is lost from their understanding. A key principle that is often hard to learn is the concept of grace and forgiveness. People without the gospel feel like all their sin is mounted on them, and they do not know what to do with it. Everything from the beginning of their lives weighs on their soul. There is a great burden on their shoulders, and their eternal welfare is uncertain. This feeling of no source of forgiveness gives little incentive to live righteously.
     A source of relief seems to be any source of hope. Hopelessness may abound, but people seek out truth. Josh said his goal a future happy family prevailed in his mind throughout his life. He never gave up in finding the truth, and peoples desire to do so may vary. Faith and hope comes of knowledge. Although the knowledge of truth is limited, there is a little hope that each person has.
     There is also a feeling that there is no source to find a resolution to problems. There is a lack of a real healing that comes; although, there are many sources to which people can find a partial comfort. In this condition, people may not feel abandoned, but in they are often ignorant to the blessings of God in their life. Drinking and other common sin are appealing according to carnal desires, and are often indulged in. The atonement heals and solves all problems, and nothing else in the world offers that. Josh spoke of the pain that plagues many veterans called post traumatic stress disorder. He went through counseling, but the efforts sought to resolve temporal problems. He said it was "learning how to live with the problem." Josh has powerful testimony that the atonement of Christ has healed his soul according to his great faith and effort to do God's will. He has been healed by the priesthood power, overcoming most of the afflictions that he has suffered in the world as he has received the restored Gospel.
     Since there seems to be no source of healing, there is little to trust. Trust is lacking on many fronts. There seems to be little truth. Referring to a source of world Josh said "other churches want to blanket everything." They are not personal, trying to wrap everyone into doctrines of their faith. Everyone seems to lack truth, so each person interprets the word for themselves. The Bible is confusing and contradicting. There is no need to be train at seminaries to know the truth because there is a lack of truth therein. This is how people feel as they don't understand the need for prophets or the authority of God; however, the light of Christ is is powerful offering light according to our faith.
    There is a lot more to this article's topic that I don't can't explain, but each person has faith. It is inherent in every person. We need to ignite the spirit of the person within the soul, letting the real personality express itself according to the person's free agency. We need to embrace each person. When people find God our Father and how loving he is, learning of his nature, they have a great desire to serve him and seek after a strong testimony, working from the beginnings of faith. Let us reach out to all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Beginning

Hoping to conduct and learn from my first journalistic interview, I was warmly received by the former amateur sports journalist, Michael Angulo. As I was shown into his room, I felt that it was fitting that first thing that I saw on his bed was his baptismal clothing. Conducting this interview and writing this very first article of the Ocean Branch Weekly Newsletter, I am perplexed by the depth of the faith of our humble missionary, Michael Angulo.
Most of us has seen his growth in the gospel seemingly from the very beginning of learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Michael's own words "We have had it has been a tremendous ride." Just hours before he was set apart as a representative of Christ, he had mixed feeling of anxious excitement. He was sad that he only knew us for a little more than a year, but he knows the sadness will go away because of your love.

"All this just feels surreal. Like back when I got my call it was sixty days, it was July second sixty days to the day until I go to the MTC, and it just feels like it was yesterday. It was sixty days, back then I felt you know I felt good. I was just relieved I got my call. I just finally came. and now its just like the past three or four weeks my mind has totally been in a different place. It has been missionary mode missionary mode. I haven’t gone out and done anything fun with the members of the branch. I have been so focus on my mission that its just something that I take very serious and I don’t think its anything... to joke around about and not work hard at just studying and working hard change peoples lives and they are going to need your knowledge need you as a person so I take it pretty serious."
As I asked concerning his preparation and faith, I was impressed by his testimony of the power of the word of God. I have a few quotes from the interview to share from different angles, showing his testimony therein. One understanding that he has is that a representative of Christ needs the word of God ingrained into his soul. Concerning the importance of reading the word, he said it is

"Because you get closer to Heavenly Father. and with our struggles in life or question in life that you have can be answered in the scriptures. and especially when you are missionary you can be answering the questions for investigators who asked you that question that you did not know. and you just pray about it and then you find your answers in the scriptures cause I know when I have found answers. It is mostly in the scriptures where I find them. and It is not out there in living."
"I feel it is important, and it changes you as a person like being away from it for all these years and seeing where I am at now. It has totally changed my look at life. It totally changed how I am, and I am so grateful for this church to be on this earth and I am so grateful for Joseph Smith restored the Gospel for us. and I know that he was the first prophet, and I know that Thomas Monson is our current prophet. He received revelation from Heavenly Father."
I asked "How have you felt your testimony and how it has grown in the past while?"

"When I first came to the church honestly speaking, I had no idea what a testimony was, so on fast and testimony Sundays I would kind of be confused for the first couple months; then, I asked I think it was Miller. It was Miller or Sione what exactly is a testimony? and They just said oh its how you know the church is true. and ever since that. Getting experience, going out with the missionaries and studying, studying Preach my Gospel and the Patriarchal blessing, continuing to pray, keeping the commandments. not sinning. I don’t know if I said but reading my patriarchal blessing and Being out with the missionary and seeing them in the field, seeing them work it makes it more realistic to how to be a good missionary and use the knowledge that I gained, when I was out there with the missionaries. it really has increased my testimony that much stronger. I mean I know the church is true. I lived with it, and I lived without it, so I know what influence it has had. It has I mean Just picture yourself. Where would you be if you were not in the church for about eleven or twelve years? What would your life be like? and then when you have that picture in your head, that is how my life was like. It was like that. You start sinning. start disobeying the commandments and then you do things that you know you regret and then you come to the church and then like I said pray, reading scriptures, taking the sacrament, elder’s quorum, sunday school It just makes everything better. Heavenly father is with you. and baptism is a big part."

I see two concepts in his words. After he was taught that a testimony is how you know that the church is true, he understood a strong testimony is built by knowledge, studying the scriptures, and exercising faith in the word therein. These are the best ways to come close to God and grow a strong testimony continually. The second thing that he taught is to learn to appreciate having the gospel and not let yourself fall away. Understand how it is like to life without the Gospel without having to experience the pain for yourself.

The next article that I write will help us understand who it is like to life without the Gospel. When Michael asked me those questions of self reflection, I could not think that deeply. I know that many of us in the Ocean Branch were raised in the church and we have not endured life too much without the Gospel.
Finally I have his words dedicated to us and I will conclude with words that I feel was dedicated to his family.

"I love you so much. Thanks for all your love and support. Its been a fun ride, and I am just taking a hiatus right now, a two year hiatus, and once I come back I will come back a new man. Hopefully I won’t look any different, but hopefully I will look more manly. I will come back for toned. and I will be able to grow a full beard because shaving so much. All the missionaries that are serving in the ocean branch. I hope you keep it growing. cause we need all the young adults to come and just keep the branch growing. We have had it has been a tremendous ride. There have been times where I secretly struggled, but you guys have secretly helped me without me saying it. I have never been around a cooler group of young single adults in my life than you guys. I am very thankful for President Burgon for all their love. I don’t know how many children that you have but I feel like one of them because I feel like Brad has been there every step of the way for me to get my mission papers done and all the love and support there and I feel like the Ocean Branch baby. and now I am going out serving. I feel like your guys little brother. and I am going to serve the Ocean Branch probably on my mission. I will tell tremendous stories about you guys."
"I am pretty nervous, but not during mission, but missing my family. I just want them not to feel sad that I am gone and just to be happy and just to live life, how they normally would everyday, and not change their schedule or anything. I just want the spirit to be here even though the priesthood is not in the house, but I just want my family to be strong while I am gone because we got a pretty tight bond in the family and it would take something very dramatic to brake us apart, so the nervous would probably be from leave my family for the first time. That is want I am kind of nervous about."