Customizing Christ

A year ago, Greg Trimble wrote an article entitled, “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything,” and due to recent events with the Supreme Court rulings on marriage, it has resurfaced. Every once in a while, sometimes a long while, you stumble upon good reading, and this is by far one of the most spot on descriptions of the general community, more particularly the Christian community, when it comes to developing faith in Christ, with the false idea and practice of maintaining lifestyles that do not conform with His gospel.

“Instead of looking for a Church that teaches truth, many are on a quest to find a church that can satisfy their innate desire to worship God, and yet at the same time, live the lifestyle that they want to live regardless of how ungodly it really is. Some consider it a great feat to find a church that allows them to live how they want to live, and still feel like they are worshipping God.”

As one who had a desire at a young age to learn about God, I attended several different churches and noticed this very real trend. In some churches it was preached. For them, all that matters is that you develop a relationship with Christ. My personal impression and opinion is that churches want regular attendance, but don’t want to risk losing followers because of offending them with hard doctrine (i.e. enforcing the gospel commandments, repentance, etc.) So long as someone is working to develop a relationship with Christ, their salvation is guaranteed because they believe in Him. While this is partially true, there is a huge misunderstanding.

“Too many people are looking for a religion that is easy. In the world, we are offered instant salvation and taught about a Christ that accepts everyone just the way they are.”

Religion isn’t easy. Following Christ is not easy. If it were easy, we would be perfect, and let’s face it, we are all far from claiming perfection.

“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” -2 Corinthians 11:24-27; 12:10. Emphasis added.

The truth is that salvation is indeed found in Christ, BUT conversion is the process that leads to salvation. Conversion involves change. Change that improves. Change that endures.

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ‘buffet’ that you can compile your perfect plate from. There is no salvation in building your own religion or customizing Christ to suit your needs and wants. The popular trend is to determine how you’d like to live your life and then to conform Christ to that lifestyle. It is done by appealing to Christ’s infinite love and mercy.”

True happiness is not found by “customizing Christ” to fit your own lifestyle. We don’t ask God to align His will with ours, but we ask for divine help so that we can align our will with His. Christ is not customizable. What you see is what you get, and so much the more. Does He love you? Yes. Does he accept behavior that does not fit in harmony with his teachings? No. Will he help you change? There is no doubt. His atoning sacrifice reaches deeper than we can comprehend. His mercy is infinite. There is always hope to be found in Christ.

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True happiness is found by following Christ, by striving to live your life according to His teachings, going through the process of conversion – true and lasting conversion. Following the sociological trends of the day brings temporary happiness that has an expiration date. Following Christ brings eternal happiness, even joy.

During times of heated discussion and the sharing of opinions, may we remember that we are a free people. We are free to express our opinions, but remember to do so respectfully. The whole underlying message of this period in time is love. With Christ, love will always win.

 

*Many thanks to Greg Trimble for sharing his thoughts and telling it like it is.

Loving Opposition Towards the LDS Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is becoming more and more known throughout the world. Since it’s inception, and even before with Joseph Smith’s claims of seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Church has seen, and more poignantly, heard their fair share of critics.

After I had first learned of the Church and gained interest in joining, I experienced such opposition first hand. I was amazed at the strong, negative opinions people had against a Church I had barely heard of. I wondered what bad experiences they had to justify such harsh feelings.

I’ve come to learn over the last few years as a member of the Church, and even more so when I was a full-time missionary, that opposition is a good thing. Yes, the fact that there is so much opposition is indeed positive.

My testimony of such a truth stems from a teaching of Neal A. Maxwell:

“If the Church were not true, our enemies would be bored rather than threatened, and acquiescent rather than anxious. Hell is only moved when things move heavenward.”

When Jesus was on the earth during his mortal ministry, he and his followers were easily the minority, and very much disliked. Jesus was mocked, spat upon, threatened, betrayed, and ultimately crucified. His disciples were likewise ridiculed. Jesus’ message was truth, yet he and his followers experienced great opposition.

A Book of Mormon prophet, Lehi, taught the following:

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must be compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” -2 Nephi 2:11 (Book of Mormon)

In a letter to John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote the following:

“The Standard of Truth has been erected; No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, and calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, ‘till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

God’s work is meant to roll forward. The battle may continue but the outcome is already decided. Truth will always prevail, and right will always win.

So whenever I read, hear, or see opposition towards my faith, I remember Neal A. Maxwell’s quote, and do what I can to stand up for what I know to be true.

The Unsung Hero

It’s spring time, and that means it’s baseball season. I’ve taken an extra part-time job as an umpire for the local city league. Towards the end of the final game last night, the coach of the fielding team made a pitching change. He called time out and brought the infield in to the pitcher’s mound, told the current pitcher that he had done well and that a change was going to happen. Then he asked one of the boys in the huddle if he wanted to pitch. I watched this little fifth-grade boy’s face light up instantly. He quickly nodded in excitement. As he began to pitch, I noticed something very different.

This was no ordinary pitcher, and I would later learn no ordinary boy. His coach would later tell me after the inning was over that he was a miracle baby. He had suffered a rare stroke after birth and lost traditional movement of his right arm. When he would pitch, he would take the glove off from his left hand and hold it between his right arm and torso, giving him the ability to throw the ball with his left arm. As soon as the ball left his hand, he would quickly put the glove back on and prepare for the imminent play. This was the process for each and every pitch. One batter hit the ball directly back to the pitcher’s mound. Not only was his glove on in time, he was able to make the catch, remove the glove and ball to be able to throw to first, and throw the runner out.

His pitching performance was entertaining, but his story is inspiring. I’ll never forget this boy and the lesson he taught me last night. No matter what the circumstance may be, no matter how difficult the challenge, if we truly want something and work hard for it, we can achieve it. For this boy it was being able to play baseball. For the rest of us, the opportunities are endless.

So whenever you need a little extra motivation, think about this boy. I know I will. We all need good examples in our lives. Those unsung heroes, like the one I met on the baseball field last night, can inspire and motivate goodness in everyone.

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April 2015 General Conference Notes – Sunday Afternoon Session 

Conducting – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Opening Hymn – My Redeemer Lives

Robert D. Hales – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

robert-d-hales-largeWe must not forget that moral agency is an essential part of God’s plan to all his children.

Jesus exercised His agency to sustain Heavenly Father’s plan.

To keep the commandments we need to know the official doctrine of the Church.

The blessings we enjoy now are because we made the choice to follow the Savior.

It is not too late to make that same choice again and follow Him.

The blessings of the Spirit increase our power to do right.

The faithful use of our agency depends on our having religious freedom.

Four cornerstones of religious freedom.

1. Freedom to believe.

What we believe about God is very personal and very important.

2. Freedom to share faith and our beliefs with others.

We rely on religious freedom to teach the gospel to our families and throughout the world.

3. Freedom to form religious organizations.

4. Freedom to live our faith.

We have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers.

Be aware of the issues in your community that can have an impact on religious liberty.

Live your life to be a good example of what you believe in word and deed.

How we live our religion is far more important that what we say about our religion.

Don’t walk, but run to receive the blessings of agency.

Kevin W. Pearson – Seventy

kevin-w-pearson-largeTo “hang in there” is not a principle of the gospel.

We struggle when we are caught between competing priorities.

Don’t forget to pray.

Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.

Press forward with faith.

God’s commandments are strict but not restrictive.

The Book of Mormon is key to spiritual survival.

When adversity comes don’t let something you don’t fully understand unravel everything you do know.

Be patient, cling to truth. Understanding will come.

Don’t be distracted and deceived.

Only the Savior has the words to eternal life. Everything else is just words.

Stay by the tree.

Apostasy is the reverse of conversion.

Returned missionaries cannot swan dive back into Babylon.

Once we enter into covenants with God there is no going back.

Average is the enemy of excellence.

Study the Book of Mormon and live its teachings everyday, everyday, everyday.

Enduring to the end is the great test of discipleship.

Rafael E. Pino – Seventy

rafael-e-pino-largeThe Father’s desire is to give everyone the opportunity to receive a fullness of joy.

Understanding the plan will help people keep the commandments.

The eternal perspective of the gospel leads us to understand the place we occupy in God’s plan.

Don’t make decisions of eternal value from the perspective of mortality.

Perspective is everything.

The Lord knows what He wants to accomplish with each one of us.

Neil L. Andersen – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

AndersenNL_1008sWe are a very large world-wide family of believers.

We are not casual in our faith. We believe in Him. We worship Him. We follow Him. We deeply love Him.

His cause is the greatest cause in all the world.

If everything is going perfectly for you right now, just wait.

He is the grand Architect.

Can you see the hand of God moving His work forward?

God’s miracles are happening everywhere.

Our faith grows as we anticipate the glorious day of the Savior’s return to the earth.

All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.

In the day of the Lord’s coming the skeptics shall be silent.

Jorge F. Zeballos – Seventy

jorge-f-zeballos-largeSeeking our own salvation and then the salvation of others are our two main responsibilities.

The sources that allow us to learn our duty are the words of Christ and personal revelation.

We need to repent, be obedient, and be patient.

We should accept God’s will even if it does not match our desires or preferences.

Joseph W. Sitati – Seventy

joseph-w-sitati-largeDevelop our divine nature and obtain our divine destiny.

Develop a vision of what you can become.

God invites all His children to obtain His help to overcome all the challenges of this life.

God’s plan is a plan of happiness.

Russell M. Nelson – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

russell-m-nelson-largeExamine your feelings of and your behavior on the Sabbath day.

Is the Sabbath really a “delight” for you?

The Sabbath is the Savior’s day.

What sign do I want to give to God?

The fullness of the earth is promised to those who keep the Sabbath day holy.

The home is the basis of a righteous life.

Give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, etc.

No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenthood.

Teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

Make the Sabbath a delight by finding your ancestors.

Make the Sabbath a delight by rendering service to others.

Not pursuing your own pleasures on the Sabbath requires self-discipline.

Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time.

It is our privilege to consecrate our money and time to Him who consecrates to us each day.

Wherever we live we are to be examples of the believers.

True believers keep the Sabbath day holy.

Closing Hymn – Lord, I Would Follow Thee

April 2015 General Conference Notes – Sunday Morning Session

Conducting – Henry B. Eyring

Opening Hymn – He is Risen

Opening Prayer – Linda S. Reeves

Thomas S. Monson – President

th-3The building of temples is a very clear indication of the growth of the Church.

Three new temples – Ivory Coast, Haiti, Thailand

When we enter the doors of the temple we leave behind us the distractions of the world and find beauty and order.

In the temple we can find peace.

May we offer prayers of gratitude for His great and marvelous gift to us.

Rosemary M. Wixom – Primary General President

rosemary-m-wixom-largeFocus on what you know during faith-trying times.

You’re not so much in the dark as you think. Pray for light.

Jesus Christ does not leave you when you have questions.

You have to have your own spiritual experiences with the truths in that book. (The Book of Mormon).

It may not be a perfect offering, but it will be my offering.

Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.

Our faith can reach beyond the limits of current reason.

José A. Teixeria – Seventy

jose-a-teixeira-largeThe joy of living in righteousness and abiding in Christ can continue despite the tribulations of mortality.

More enthusiasm for life and keeping the commandments of God even in challenging circumstances.

The choices in our priorities that we make with our time online are decisive.

Habits of healthy online activity

Visit the Church’s official websites for resources.

Subscribe to the Church’s official social networks.

Put aside electronic devices periodically.

Life is not confined to a four-inch screen.

We have the means to know Him better and to live his gospel.

Gérald Caussé – Presiding Bishopric

gerald-causse-largeCan you imagine sitting as His feet?

We are privileged to live in an exceptional time.

Do not be insensitive to the most remarkable signs of the gospel.

Is the gospel still wonderful to you?

Never tire of discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel.

There is always something new to learn.

Anchor your faith in the plain and simple truths of the gospel.

Seek and cherish the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

We cannot forget the miracles and signs we have witnessed.

Never do anything to erase the precious and marvelous gift of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

The Savior’s Atonement is a perfect gift of love.

Brent H. Nielson – Seventy

brent-h-nielson-largeThough we can’t embrace someone’s choices, we can still embrace them.

Watch and wait.

After all we can do, we love with all our hearts, and we watch and we wait.

All of us fall short of the glory of the Father. All of us need the Savior’s Atonement.

Jeffrey R. Holland – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

JeffreyRHollandThis is the most sacred day of the year.

We remember brotherly hands that reached into death.

There is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter without actually understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve.

All things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.

Jesus of Nazareth was and is that Savior of the world.

The resurrection must come by reason of the Fall.

Today we celebrate the gift of victory.

He still extends unending grace.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf – Second Counselor, First Presidency

mormon-UchtdorfEaster Sunday is the day that changed everything.

Death has no sting. The grave has no victory. Satan has no lasting power.

We must never lose our sense of awe and gratitude for the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God.

God loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly.

Grace unlocks the gates of heaven.

We can not earn our way into heaven.

God’s grace leads to heights we can scarcely comprehend.

All things are ours, and we are Christ’s.

Grace opens the windows of heaven.

It is by God’s amazing grace that his children can overcome the undercurrents and quicksands of the deceiver.

His graces refines us. His grace helps us become our best selves.

Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience. It is purchased with the blood of the Son of God.

As we walk the path of discipleship it refines us and leads us back to His presence.

Grace is a gift of God.

We know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.

The Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin.

Believe in Christ and be reconciled unto God. That is what we can do.

The gates of heaven are unlocked. The windows of heaven are opened.

Jesus Christ has cleared the way for us to ascend to heights incomprehensible to mortal minds.

Keep his commandments and joyfully walk in a newness of life.

Closing Hymn – Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today