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.
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!
While listening to general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I wrote copious notes and jotted spiritual impressions in the margins. I sang with joy during congregational singing. I even shed tears when the last speaker finished and the Prophet closed the session for another 6 months. But even though the messages resonated profoundly in my soul, the intensity of that experience fades as I jump back on my treadmill of busyness. Elder Russell M. Nelson posed a solution—to ask and answer this question: Because of what I have heard and felt [during the conference], how will I change? It’s not enough to hear, feel and rejoice for two uplifting days. I need to act upon what I hear and feel. I want to be a better person for this spiritual infusion. I want to change in some way. So, after reviewing my notes and pondering, I wrote a page in my journal of ways I will change as a result of this experience. I will review this page often to remember. I feel the change already beginning. “In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us…What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel…We gather to hear the words of the Lord, and we return to our homes to live them” (Robert D. Hales).
I ask myself: What blessings have come from sacrifices made to fully live my religion? This blog follows the former one about sacrifices required to live one’s religion. I have discovered that blessings far outweigh the sacrifices. Each sacrifice is rewarded tenfold with an outpouring of tender mercies, miracles, and manifestations of God’s love and approval. Here are just a few blessings that come as a result of striving to live my religion with all my heart:
- Feeling peace of conscience that God is pleased—engulfed in His light.
- Extending my understanding and view of God’s eternal plan.
- Communicating with God. Hearing His answers.
- Feeling JOY and optimism—untouched by circumstance.
- Recognizing God’s tender mercies, even during trials.
- Feeling gratitude for everything.
- Recognizing God’s grace. Feeling His love and enabling power.
- Feeling the comfort, guidance, and companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- Feeling personal growth beyond my own ability.
- Being enabled to let go of offenses.
- Rejoicing in seeing my family members grow in testimony and conversion.
- Witnessing miracles unfolding before my eyes.
- Being transformed, changed. Feeling clean.
And more—many, many more! Aren’t these Reasons to Rejoice?
Recently, my son asked: “What counsel would you give yourself if you were standing at a point 20 years from now?” After thinking a moment, I decided that I would tell myself to accept and celebrate CHANGE. I need that counsel because right now I resist change and crave familiarity. But change means opportunity for growth. With every change comes something new to celebrate. And from a mere physical standpoint, I need to accept the inevitable changes in health and appearance that come with aging. For example, yesterday I saw photos of myself from various angles which were very unflattering. After the initial shock, I lectured myself to accept these changes—rather than resist them—and celebrate the improvements that come with aging, such as greater understanding and wisdom, joy and compassion. Aging is part of God’s plan for our mortal experience. Instead of becoming discouraged or sad when familiarity is pulled out from under my feet, and agonizing challenges emerge, I will look for God’s tender mercies. I will focus on the sweet moments and miracles. I want to reflect joy and celebrate each day. I want to change—to become better, not bitter by the things I experience. That’s the counsel I would give myself from a 20-year vantage point.
Do you sometimes feel that God doesn’t hear or answer your prayers? Although in truth He answers every sincere prayer, it’s not always in the way or as soon as we might expect. Thus, sometimes we miss it. “Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be led to other portions until you have the whole answer” (Richard G. Scott). So, when I pray for help, God will give me gentle promptings that make me ponder and learn to trust. I must act on the promptings and even struggle before the whole answer becomes evident. Sometimes an answer comes merely as a feeling of peace. I’m learning that answers come in a step by step process, and during that process, I am drawn closer to the Savior in my desire to hear and learn. Heavenly Father is a personal, living God. He knows our names, and cherishes us as His children. Because He loves me, He will answer my prayers in the way that ensures my greatest growth, change, and capacity for joy.