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.
When teens graduate from high school and leave home to taste independence, they enter the dangerous decade of young adulthood. In the thrill of freedom, they often explore forbidden paths which lead to destructive behaviors, habits, and detours. By contrast, what parent could want more than to hear the following words from a son or daughter during these critical years? Here is a short extract from a long list of lessons learned from our oldest grandchild who recently returned from her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was hard work. She said she is not the same person that she was 18 months ago.
- I have learned why we need opposition and the trial of our faith.
- I have learned the important role of the Holy Ghost, and why I never want to live without the guidance of the Spirit.
- I have learned the importance of family and what I want my future family to be.
- I have learned what it means to truly love people.
- I have learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and intimate.
- I have learned what Heavenly Father can accomplish through 19 and 20 year- old men and women.
- I think the greatest change in me is that I can say with confidence that I know the truths of the gospel for myself.
- There is a certain peace and joy that comes when you know the truth. It comes from the Savior. That is what continually motivated me to wake up every day with excitement to share it with others.
- I have learned that I have great reason to rejoice!
It is inspiration from God to send missionaries of young adult age to spread the good news of the gospel worldwide. In the process of blessing others, these young adults are shaped in magnificent ways. I am a grandmother with great Reasons 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?
The Savior told instructed His disciples to be yoked to Him. He said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). First of all, what is a yoke? I think of that wooden thing between a pair of oxen, latching them together. When I covenant with Christ, I am yoked to Him so I won’t drift into forbidden paths. Being latched to Christ is like having a protective shield around me, ensuring safety from temptations. How can a yoke be easy? It looks heavy and cumbersome. At first glance, pledging obedience to commandments might appear cumbersome or restrictive. But actually, obedience frees me from the adversary’s snares. It’s not “shoulder-shrugging acceptance, but instead, shoulder-squaring to better bear the yoke” (Neal A. Maxwell). How can the Savior’s yoke make burdens light? Being yoked to Christ puts a spring in my step, fills my heart with hope. It enlarges my capacity to learn and feel joy—even during the most difficult trials. Being yoked to Christ enables me to carry on, to persist, to endure, to finish. The Lord needs finishers, no matter the challenge—to the very end of life. His yoke makes this possible. His yoke makes the journey easy and joyful.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE? Before we came to earth, we lived as spirit children of Heavenly Father. We gathered together in a great council in heaven where Heavenly Father presented His plan for us to come to earth, obtain a physical body, gain experience to progress toward perfection, and ultimately realize our divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. A Savior would atone for the sins of all mankind, making it possible for us to repent and become clean again. In that premortal realm, we chose to accept Heavenly Father’s plan and Jesus Christ as our Savior. Because of the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, we can return to God’s presence and progress to live the kind of life He lives. We shouted for joy at the opportunity to come to earth, progress through experience, and prove that we would be faithful to our premortal promises. This is the greatest of all 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.