Sunday, March 31, 2013

#104: The Garden of Gethsemane.

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Think about it--what possible event could be a greater cause for celebration than the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It is the greatest, most hopeful, most powerful miracle in all the world. Because of Him, we ALL will be resurrected.

However, in most portrayals that I have seen of the last week of Christ's life, usually only a passing glimpse is given to the hours of His incredible suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. I think this is unfortunate, because, it was in the Garden where He performed the atonement for our sins. In a way that we cannot fully comprehend, He suffered for every sin, every pain, and every feeling ever felt by every single person who has ever lived. He was the only being both capable and willing to perform such an offering. We can imagine some small part of his suffering when we read Luke's record:

"And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto to him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:41-44, emphasis added).

The Church has recently produced some incredible videos of the Savior's life and ministry. One of the most powerful of these videos focuses exclusively on the Savior's time in the Garden of Gethsemane (video length is about nine minutes). Watching the video strengthened my love for the Savior and gave me greater appreciation for the pain and suffering He experienced there. I have posted the video below and encourage all to watch it.

How grateful I am for Jesus Christ. Because of Him, not only will we all be resurrected, but we also have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven of our sins. I can't imagine any greater blessing than that.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

#103: God Bless Pope Francis.

Confession: I'm not Catholic (however, the domain for IS still available). And although I'm not Catholic, a couple of weeks ago, I, along with billions of other people around the world, was excited for the announcement of Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) to be named as the first pope in six hundred years to succeed a current living pope, Emeritus-Pope Benedict (Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger).

Over the last two weeks, I have grown even more excited as I have studied Pope Francis's life, his beliefs, and the approach he will take to the papacy. Whether paying for his own hotel room, wearing simple robes and a wooden cross after being announced as pope, calling for the church to become a "poor church for the poor", or reminding the rich that they can't take their worldly wealth to the next life ("burial shrouds don't have pockets"), Pope Francis has already demonstrated an example of Christlike humility, despite holding one of the most powerful and influential positions in the world.

I also love the symbolism Pope Francis evoked by naming himself after St. Francis of Assisi, one of history's greatest examples of Christian living. One of my favorite quotes was originally said by St. Francis: "Preach the gospel at al times and if necessary, use words". Pope Francis also reminds me of one of my favorite fictional heroes--Bishop Myriel from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Of Bishop Myriel, it was said, "There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other; he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was the whole of his doctrine."

From an LDS perspective, I particularly loved to see the response of the First Presidency (Thomas S. Monson, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and Henry B. Eyring) regarding Pope Francis's election. They said: "We extend our warmest wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis and pray he will feel the peace of the Lord as he serves as pontiff of the Catholic Church.”

I too pray that all will be well with Pope Francis and that he will be instrumental in bringing many people to Christ. May we all support him in his efforts to "succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5). God bless Pope Francis!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#102: It's Just "See Ya Later".

Tonight, my little bro was officially set-apart as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Tomorrow morning, he will enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo before heading off to Teresina, Brazil. I'm so proud of him.

Give it all you've got, bro. Two years may seem like a long time, but it goes by awfully fast. And remember--it's not goodbye; it's just see ya later.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

#101: Guest Post: Follow the Promptings.

Guest post from one of my best friends (and fellow Mormon Star Wars nerd), Jeff Burton:

I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous about being the first guest blogger for Mormon Wookiee, but I figure Steve deserves a break after 100 posts.

Before I get to it I’d like to give a little background about Steve and me. We first met at the University of Utah while studying to become accountants (why didn’t anyone stop us?!?!). I simply knew Steve as the kid who had tried-out for American Idol. We had a few classes together during our last year at the U, but were never in any groups together and didn’t get to know each other very well.

That all changed during our first few weeks with Deloitte. We had the blessing/curse of attending three weeks of training in Seattle and Phoenix. Upon our return we were assigned to the same job, Nature’s Sunshine (shudder) and spent three hellish weeks on what would end up being the most awful auditing experience of our public accounting lives.

I didn’t know anyone at the firm when I started, but I was extremely glad to find that there was another video game playing, Catan-loving, Star Wars fan in our group who wasn’t ashamed to show his love of all things nerd. It was also comforting to know there was someone else at trainings and on audit engagements who didn’t fold when it came to his religious beliefs. It was also nice that Steve was terrible at ping pong and was easy prey.

Now, on with my post.

I’ve toyed with several ideas over the last few months, but finally made my decision late one night while working and watching Empire Strikes Back at the same time. Since June 2011 I have served as the elder’s quorum president of an ever-growing quorum. We started with 109 elders, split at 124, and are now back up to 120 elders (time for another split J). When I was set apart, my Stake President shared a lot of great advice with me, but one thing he said left a very strong impression. He said that at different times the Lord will send impressions, ideas, images, or feelings to my heart about particular people. When those feelings come, we have to act. Someone may be pleading with God for help, someone may need comfort, or someone may just need a friend. And maybe, just maybe, someone might be dangling from a weather vane crying out for help (I apologize for the video quality).

The look on Leia's face at the 1:01 mark is priceless. Many of us have had a similar experience. We may be working, helping our kids, doing the dishes, or just driving along when suddenly a thought will come into our minds. President Thomas S. Monson said in a recent address “My brothers and sisters, the Lord’s purposes are often accomplished as we pay heed to the guidance of the Spirit. I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us His errands. I have learned, as I have mentioned in previous messages, never to postpone a prompting.” (Consider the Blessings, October 2012 General Conference, italics added for emphasis).

Recently I felt a strong impression to visit an elder in my quorum. I put the idea out of my mind for several days until I could take it no more, it felt as if the Spirit was yelling for me to listen. I went to his home to find he wasn’t there, but my counselor and I returned shortly thereafter, set on visiting with him.

We returned to find he was home and had a short visit. I told him that we loved him and encouraged him to attend our quorum meetings (something he hadn’t done in quite some time). The Spirit was definitely in attendance and I left feeling relieved that I had finally heeded the prompting.

Not long after my return home my wife received a message from the elder’s wife. I share an excerpt from that message. “I went to the temple yesterday with my parents and sat in the chapel just praying in my heart for a way to soften my husband’s heart to come to church. He hasn't been active since we got married and although he will go if I ask him, he's struggled with wanting to go on his own. I was praying for something to happen to help the situation. Today, your husband came over to talk to him and invited him to Priesthood. Even though it didn't seem like much, it means everything to me and made it a lot easier for me to talk to him about going. The Lord hears our prayers and he answers them.”

I take no credit for this experience but am filled with gratitude that the Lord continued to give me the impressions, despite my decision to ignore it for several days. I will say that listening and acting on promptings since then has been easier and easier. As President Monson says above, the more we act, the more God will entrust us with His errands.

I’ll close my post with guidance given by Elder Russell M. Ballard and hope that each of us will strive to find those who need our help and serve as instruments in the Lord’s hands. He said, “There is one simple daily practice that can make a difference for every member of the Church, including you boys and girls, you young men and you young women, you single adults, and you fathers and mothers. That simple practice is: In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children. Then go throughout the day with your heart full of faith and love, looking for someone to help. Stay focused, just like the honeybees focus on the flowers from which to gather nectar and pollen. If you do this, your spiritual sensitivities will be enlarged and you will discover opportunities to serve that you never before realized were possible” (Be Anxiously Engaged, October 2012 General Conference).

Until my next guest post, keep hanging in there!