Friday, December 16, 2016

Pembroke Talk #1...

Good morning brothers and sisters, I am so grateful to be here with you this morning and for the opportunity that we have to be in the service of our God.  This is also Elder Tyler, and it's our first time meeting you so here is a quick introduction.  My name is Elder Shields, I am from good ole Salt Lake City, Utah.  And with my companion being from Prove everyone we meet is, "Yep, just some more Utah boys.  Didn't see that coming!"  I've been on my mission for almost a year and i can tell you it has been one of the best years of my life.  It has changed so much of who I am and for those of you young men, I would highly encourage thought about serving a mission, it will bless you even more than you can imagine.

One thing that my mission has taught me so much about is the converting and changing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can have on all of us.  And being a missionary it has been wonderful to see people change by living the principles within it as well as see myself change from striving to apply it better in my life to be a better example to those whom I serve.  This Gospel has been taught all throughout time and we can find Christ's teachings of it located in the Bible, but i love the purity and simplicity of it that we find in the Book of Mormon.  All of us are familiar with the steps.  Infant, we memorize them in primary as they are found in the fourth Article of Faith.  "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are, first faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second repentance, third baptism by immersion for the remission of sin, fourth laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost." And, of course, we can't forget the step that rounds out this process, enduring to the end.  All of these steps constitute the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But, before we go into more detail about these steps, it is good to know where this plan came from and why it was so necessary in the first place.  As we know the atonement (upon which the gospel is centered upon) was prepared before this world even was.  Alma 12:30 reads:

30 And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.

This gospel was prepared by a loving father, who knew that the first man, Adam would partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil so that opposition, sin and death could enter into the world allowing us the opportunity to go through a mortal existence and continue our progression, but this came at a cost.  No amount of sin can stand in the presence of God, we read in Romans 3:23 "that all have sinned and have fallen short of his glory."  The law of justice was standing in the way and we on our own stood powerless against it.  But our older brother Jesus Christ who loved us, said, Father I will go and pay the price for justice, which demanded punishment for all the sins of the world.  "For there is a law given and a punishment affixed" to that law.  But because of the atonement Christ answered the ends of the law of justice and became our advocate.  He set the conditions whereby we receive mercy.  And the conditions that he set were to follow him, feel his commandments and to live and apply the gospel of Jesus as we read in Romans Chapter 1:16.  It is the power of god unto salvation to everyone that believeth.

I am so grateful for this gospel and how it works, the older I get and the more understanding I come to, the more I appreciate it and love how it is designed to help us to grow and become better and we live it day by day and apply it constantly throughout our lives.

The first step in the gospel is faith, specifically, in Jesus Christ and his atonement.  It makes sense that the very first step to this gospel is to believe that it does work and that through it all of us can be cleansed from sin.  But faith is more that just believing that the gospel works, faith is taking that belief and then acting upon it.  We learn in Alma 32:21 that "Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things, therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen which are true."  We are all familiar with the story of Jesus Christ and doubting Thomas.  fThomas was one of Jesus Christ's apostles and after Jesus Christ's death we know that he rose again, was resurrected and appeared unto many of his disciples and apostles.  And they went running around trying to tell everyone that Christ had risen, but when they told Thomas, he said that he wouldn't believe unless he saw.  The Savior appeared to him, and when Thomas saw him he believed alright, but Christ told him, "blessed are they who have not seen but yet sill believed."

We learn in Moroni chapter 7 that it is through faith that miracles are wrought among the children of men, and one of these great miracles that we can have access to everyday is repentance.  As our faith and testimony grow in our Savior Jesus Christ we gain a growing desire to be more like him and we exercise our faith unto repentance.  If you take the english word repent and break it up into it's prefix and suffix we have (re) again and (pent) home, home again.  When we repent we truly repent.  We confess our sins and we forsake them, and strive to continue to not make the same mistakes that have been made in the past.  By repenting we qualify for the mercy and grace from our savior Jesus Christ, and for the person who doesn't repent, "mercy hath no claim upon that man."One thing I tell investigators about repentance, is that sin in inevitable, everyone who has ever lived (save it be for Christ) has committed sin.  Repentance isn't a back up plan for just in case you sin.  It IS the plan.  Everyone must repent.  And repentance isn't there for us to get down on ourselves, it is there so that we can recognize how we are using our agency and helps us to evaluate ourselves and become better people and become more Christlike.  i know repentance can be a hard thing and is usually never an easy thing but it is so good to know that we can be cleansed and to feel clean.  Christ has taught us that we need to bring for "fruits" or works meet for repentance and that very first fruit of repentance is baptism.

Baptism is the first ordinance we do and it is essential that we do it and enter into covenant with God.  The covenant that we enter into with God at our baptism is repeated every week in our sacrament prayer.  We promise God that we will deep his commandments, take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and to always remember him.  God promises us that we will always have his spirit to be with us.  I love the symbolism that is in baptism, the way that I like to look at it as is that we have our old man or natural man standing in the water and then we come out of the water being born again.  Spiritually reborn as a new person.  One who is willing to follow Jesus Christ and to witness before him change from our fallen state to a saint willing to be ambitious in the pursuit for Christ.  One thing that is important to understand, however, is that the baptism of water isn't what cleanses us from our sin and is really only half of the ordinance.  Joseph Smith once said you might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man info done with the second half of this ordinance, the baptism of fire.  2 Nephi 31:17 reads:
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

After we have witnessed before God that we have fully repented of our sins and have entered into a covenant with him, then we receive a remission of our sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.  This is the fourth step in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Ghost has many roles.  The one that is mentioned in these previous verses is his role as the sanctifier.  The analogy that I like for it is:  Imagine you have a light bulb shining brightly and whenever we commit a sin you stick a little black dot onto the light which diminishes it slightly but doesn't make a huge difference.  As we commit more and more sin, however, the light gets increasingly dimmer.  But, when we truly repent the Holy Ghost cleanses us.  It removes those black marks that stain our souls and blot our our light.  The best way to keep these marks off of us is to repent quickly, recognize as soon as we acquire a mark.

Another role of the Holy Ghost is to help us know when we have acquired one of these marks.  The Holy Ghost has many other roles as well, one that I am thankful for especially be a missionary is the role that the Holy Ghost plays in testifying of truth.  It is by a witness from the Holy Ghost in each of us that has brought us and gathered us here today.  Some of the other roles of the Holy Ghost are the comforter which can bring us peace when in time of trouble and teacher in which the Holy Ghost can bring things to our remembrance and impress thing on our minds so that we can learn truths.  What a blessing to have this gift, I try to be thankful for it everyday.   And, what a blessing to know that we have God's promise that if we deep our end of our baptismal covenant, then we can always have his spirit to be with us.

The fifth and final step to this gospel is called endure to the end.  I love how the prophet Nephi describe it in the second book of Nephi 31 19-21 it reads:

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
 20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
 21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

After we have done these things, faith, repentance, baptism, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, it is essential that we press on.  The sacrament is a very important part of enduring to the end, we are able to renew our baptismal covenants and continually be born again as followers of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the way the truth and life.  Brothers and sisters, I know that this is the way and that there is no other way name given whereby a man can be save in the kingdom of heaven.

I am so grateful for this gospel which has been given to us and I know it has the power to change lives.  I have seen it change mine and I am so grateful for the opportunity which I now have to be serving here with all of you.  I am grateful for my mission and how it has changed me.  I leave you with these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.

If extra time:
Now I have a few more minutes and what would missionary talk be without sharing some thoughts on missionary work.  Share John 4: 29-36.

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