LOIS’ POST: These last 18 months posting on our blog have brought many surprising blessings. Initially it took courage to open up our most sacred, personal feelings for public viewing. We appreciate your respectful feedback and encouraging comments. We are pleased to note that our modest posts have been read in 78 countries throughout the world. THANK YOU. As we complete our 18-month blogging goal, we hand the baton to our 21-year-old granddaughter, Madeline Dunn. We invite you to continue to visit the website, Reasons to Rejoice, as she expresses uplifting insights from her youthful perspective. As my final post, I want to share a simple statement of truth: Jesus Christ’s Plan of Salvation answers these deep questions of the soul: (1) Who am I? (2) Where did I come from? (3) What is my purpose on earth? (4) Where will I go after death? http://www.mormon.org/ This plan explains how we can be happy in this life and return to God’s presence, and how to grow up to become like Him. The Lord forgives my sins, recreates my nature, promises resurrection after death, and qualifies me for glory hereafter. He assures that all things wrong in the world will one day be made right. He promises His faithful followers a fullness of joy. That is the capstone of my REASONS TO REJOICE. “Rejoice, O my heart…I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (2 Nephi 4:30).
ALAN’S POST: As I look back over the past 18 months that my wife and I have posted on our website, “Reasons to Rejoice,” I have experienced great joy in exploring and sharing my deepest convictions. I have rediscovered and reinforced countless reasons to rejoice in my life. I am grateful for you, our readers, who have perused these posts three times per week. We now find it timely to shift our attention to specific genealogy and family history goals. As a parting offering, I want to share my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify of God’s marvelous Plan of Salvation for His beloved children. We left our heavenly home in order to come to earth and learn by experience. Heavenly Father knew that we would inevitably make mistakes, so He provided a Savior for us, who would atone for these errors. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent and be sanctified. We are enabled through His power to progress eternally, to eventually become as He is. The scriptures and words of living prophets provide a roadmap to keep our feet on the right path. Through covenant making and covenant keeping, we are assured of joy in this life and forever. My hope is that you have been edified by reading our posts and will find future installments equally uplifting. I pray that the Lord’s choice blessings will be with you and your families. Until we meet again, we bid you ado.
As a child of God, my purpose on earth is to grow up in the Lord. “The purpose of life for man is growth, just as the purpose of life for trees and plants is growth. Trees and plants grow automatically and along fixed lines; man can grow as he will…Man is formed for growth, and he is under the necessity of growing” (Wallace D. Wattles). My ultimate goal is to attain the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father, and to receive His fullness and glory. But I cannot expect to inherit all that the Father has without paying the price. What is the price? It is: 1) Having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2) Repenting of sins and mistakes continually; 3) Following the example of the Savior by being baptized by immersion from one having priesthood authority; 4) Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost; 5) Keeping God’s commandments and enduring to the end in faithfulness to the covenants I have made. But making these initial choices is not enough. I must stay in covenant. I must choose on an ongoing basis to remain, which will be reflected in how much I love and what I seek on a daily basis. Being a faithful follower of Christ is a small price to pay for the unfathomable blessings He promises. He promises a fullness of joy. A fullness of joy means that I cannot possibly experience more joy. This is eternal life, or life as God lives—which is the greatest gift of God. This gives me the greatest Reasons to Rejoice!
When parenting our teenagers I used to ask myself: Am I doing enough to prepare them for the challenges ahead? Is our family prayer and scripture study making a difference, when their body language doesn’t always evidence it? Am I loving them unconditionally, teaching them effectively, laughing with them agreeably, and modeling behavior commendably? Consider this example of how our efforts really DO make a difference, even when we can’t measure them immediately from external cues. “People are like hyacinth bulbs. All we can do is make a good place for them to grow, but each person is responsible for doing his own growing in his own time” (Torey Hayden). Sometimes growth is a very silent thing, like what happens when we store hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator waiting for the planting season. It doesn’t look like growth is taking place at all. Our children are like that. We can’t always tell growth is happening, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t. In fact, providing a milieu of respect, love, and learning in the home is the perfect soil for development. Silent, imperceptible growth is taking place deep inside which will one day unfold into lovely blossoms. Our children will learn from what they see in the examples around them, how much they feel our love, what they hear, and what they experience as we teach and model correct principles.
“Strike one…Strike two…Strike three—you’re OUT!” bellowed the umpire. I watched as the dejected batter slung away his bat, slumped onto the dugout bench, and buried his face in his hands. In spite of his best effort and most powerful swing, he lost the game for his team because of a slight error of visual judgment. How grateful I am for a loving Heavenly Father who has made provision for my inevitable errors in mortality through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. Those words, “You’re OUT” are never spoken to God’s children. Through repentance and an earnest desire to do better, we are given a clean slate to try again. “How merciful is our God unto us…He stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long…As many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (Jacob 6:4). God is patient and long-suffering. He gives me multiple chances to turn and come back when I make a mistake. “One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final” (Thomas S. Monson). No matter what challenges or disappointments are tossed in my path, no matter how many times I stumble along on my mortal journey, I promise to get back up and try again. Nelson Mandela said that “a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.” I trust that Christ’s atoning power will cleanse and empower me.
Do you remember learning to ride a bike? There were probably steadying hands from one who loved you until you were confident to do it by yourself. When you mastered this skill and successfully navigated your solo journey down the driveway, you probably exclaimed, “Wow-ee—this is the greatest day ever!” We could not have learned to ride a bike by having someone merely explain how it’s done. It was essential for us to get on the bike and experience it for ourselves, even with wobbles and maybe a fall or two in the process. Similarly, although we were taught principles and doctrines in pre-mortal life, we needed to come to earth in order to learn lessons by experience. But we are not left alone. Heavenly Father has provided tools for our journey to insure a safe return. He provided a Savior to atone for our wobbles and spills along the way. He provided the Holy Ghost to guide our decisions and protect us from physical and spiritual dangers. He preserved the scriptures to teach truth and keep us on the path leading Home. He nestled us into families who love, teach, and protect us. He provided living prophets to chart the way toward our heavenly goal. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who provides continued stability, comfort, and assurance as I strive to follow Him. I want to exclaim at the end of my life, “Wow-ee—this was the greatest experience ever!”
What instruction do you think we received when leaving our heavenly home before beginning our sojourn here on earth? I would like to think we had specific instruction about the role agency would play in our earthly life. Even though we would not remember that instruction, due to the veil of forgetfulness, I believe it is easily recognized when asked what is agency? Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without agency, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27). “Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws” (L Tom Perry). Does the phrase “obedience to law is liberty” ring true in all of us now? I hope that the choices we make in exercising our agency will lead us toward the Savior and His eternal happiness.
Why is it so hard to notice our own spiritual progress? The reason: The effects are gradual and difficult to observe from day to day. For example, if I look at a photo taken of myself many years ago, I would notice a big difference as compared to now. But when I look in the mirror each morning getting ready for the day, I can’t see the subtle changes taking place. They aren’t obvious in 24-hour increments. I think that’s how it is with spiritual change. As I strive to keep the commandments, such as making time for scripture study, church and temple worship, offering kindness and service to others, change is happening even when I’m not aware of it. One way to observe this transformation is to keep a journal describing goals, challenges, and victories along the way. It’s like a photograph which can be viewed and reviewed. As I read entries from the past, I can see little signs of improvement. Some things I once struggled with have been conquered, and goals set years ago have been reached. Change is still subtle, and of course there are occasional setbacks and relapses. But as I yield to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the Lord helps me put off the “natural man” little by little, step by step. God is in the process of recreating my nature to become like Him. I can see it and feel it. I feel progress like wind in my hair. This is a Reason to Rejoice!