Sunday, August 10, 2014

Elder Colvin farewell

Knowing God

            John 17:3 reads  And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

As I have prepared for my mission, I have studied the “Preach my Gospel” manual.  There are 5 lessons contained in the handbook that outline the basic knowledge of the gospel needed to join the church. All of the principles taught are important and give us a better understanding of who we are and why we are here, but one reflects the purpose of eternal life as state by John in the verse I just read.  The whole purpose of life eternal is to KNOW the only true god.  So who is this one and true god and what is he like?  In the first lesson given to investigators, the first truth that is taught helps us learn just that.

God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right.

First things first. God is our Heavenly Father.  This alone can be a difficult concept for some to wrap their minds around.  Many people believe that he is merely our creator and us his creations.  The reality of the situation is much more mind-boggling and significant.  God is literally the father of our spirits.  Not only is god our father, but he is a perfect and loving father.  Many people think that simply believing in God is enough to bring salvation, but Bruce R MacConkie counseled differently in a 1971 talk titled how to worship. He said.

“A knowledge of the truth is essential to true worship. We must learn that God is our Father and that he is an exalted and perfected personage in whose image we are created”

He goes on to tell us that if we worship the true and living God, in spirit and in truth, then God Almighty will pour out his spirit upon us.  In order to obtain salvation we have to understand who our father is so we can properly acknowledge and worship him.

Realizing that God is our father spiritually brings us to the next part of this principle.  We are his children.  Why is this realization so important? As a child of God, we have divine potential that cannot be denied.  Our Father in Heaven wants to bless us with all that he has.  And we should desire to receive it.  My dad explained this to me with these words.  “As a father there is nothing you want more then to give your children all that you can so you can see them succeed.”  This applies to our Father in Heaven as well.  God wants to pour out his blessing upon us and give us all that is his, including the kingdom of heaven.

The next part of the lesson says. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected.  God is the father of our spirits, but before we came to earth, there was no way that we could be like God, because we did not have bodies to call our own.  God gave us all the opportunity to come to earth to obtain a physical body like the one he has.  This life is a time for us to grow in our knowledge of him so that after we dies, our bodies may become glorified and perfected just like God’s body.  In order to do that, we must grow as close to him as we can in this life.  That means obeying his commandments, gaining a testimony of the truth, and helping others learn of their own divine potential.

In Alma 34:32, alma teaches us the purpose of this life.
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

            I haven’t yet been to university, but I like to think of this life as a celestial college.  We’ve all worked our way into this college to further our spiritual and eternal development.  Graduating in this college means being able to take the next step so that we can live with God again.  We all chose to be here of our own free will, and we have been given different talents and abilities to help us “graduate” in this life.  God, as our father, wants to help us get through college and succeed.  In order to receive his assistance, however, we must ask for it.  I don’t know about you or your parents, but I know that my parents probably wouldn’t be all too happy with paying my way in college if I was just screwing around!  Heavenly Father is no different.  He needs to know that we seriously desire to graduate.  If we aren’t trying at all, then we aren’t able to receive all the blessings that he is willing to pour out on us.  If, on the other hand, we decide to work hard, then he is willing to bless us immensely.  This does not mean that we won’t get the occasional sub-par grade, or take an extremely challenging course, but it does mean that we are still able to pass in this life.  There is no flunking out in this college of life.  We are here to stay, for better or for worse, until the end.  If we want to be rewarded in the next life we have to work hard.  If we decide to mess around or slack off, there will be consequences in the future.

By this point you have probably forgotten where and how this talk started, so I would like to remind you of the statement in Preach my Gospel, which reads

God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right.

I’ve talked about the first half but the second half of this is equally important in understanding the nature of God. God loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right.  I used to have an extremely difficult time comprehending the extent of this love that god has for us.  The more that I grow in the gospel and the more time I spend near my savior, the more I feel of His love for me.  I know that as a mere 18-year-old child, I really can’t even begin to understand the depth of love God feels for us.  I can, however have an idea of what God is willing to do for us.  My love for my family is the most compelling love I have ever felt, and I don’t think there is anything I wouldn’t do for them.  If that is the depth of my mortal and flawed love, what must be the depth of my Father in Heaven’s love for me in his immortal and perfect state.

I came to this realization rather recently.  He cares so much for us that it causes him to suffer when we suffer and rejoice when we succeed.  I had no idea what weeping at our suffering truly meant until very recently.  I know it is a cliché thing to do, but I looked up the definition of weeping.  Weeping is to express grief, sorrow, or any overwhelming emotion by shedding tears.  True weeping is something that doesn’t happen that often.  There is a difference in being emotional and tearing up, and weeping.  I didn’t know that!  I always thought that when God wept for us when we suffered it meant he was crying with us in our frustration.  The truth is much more astonishing.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I got a taste of what it means to truly weep.  Before my father was diagnosed, he had been in a lot of back pain due to some fractured vertebrae.  He, being the macho man he is, had decided that his broken back was only some pulled muscles and he suffered in silence until my mom finally managed to convince him to go to the doctor.  They discovered his condition and told Sawyer and I that night.  I have NEVER been so devastated in my life.  As some of you may know, I am a very sentimental and emotional person.  My dad has always been a strong and solid rock in my life and suddenly that had changed.  My future no longer seemed certain and I felt lost.  For the first time in my life, I wept.  There was a depth of sorrow and grief that I didn’t even know existed until that point.  I wanted to take my dad’s pain away from him.  I felt powerless and insignificant.  There is no way to express the feelings that I felt at seeing my father in pain.  I’ve heard that there is no greater love then the love of a parent for their child, yet I felt this inexpicable grief at my dad’s situation and it made me think.  If I could care for my father this much, he must care for me even more!
God is the father of all of our spirits, he loves us to an extent that none of us can comprehend.  He hates to see us suffer.  The grief and anguish he feels when we do suffer causes him to weep.  I wish that I had the power to comfort, heal, or help my father in his time of need, but I did not.  God has the power to comfort and heal us in our trials and he has the love for us to help.  Many of my friends have asked me why I want to serve a mission.  Now that I have a true testimony of Gods love for us all, how could I not serve a mission?  Once you have felt the love that our Father in Heaven has for us, the first thing you want is for others to feel it.  The first time I really and truly felt of Gods love for me, I was overwhelmed with a warmth and joy that I had never felt before.

My dad explained missionary work to my brother and sister in this way.  He told them that our purpose as missionaries was not to get people to convert to the LDS faith, but rather our purpose is to bring others unto Christ.  For the next two years I will have the privilege of serving the Chilean people in the Santiago South mission.  Ever since I received my call, I have had this feeling that I belong there.  There are people in Santiago that need me to go there and teach them the truth and it’s my responsibility to be there to teach them.  I know that the gospel blesses lives and that it is the goal of my mission to bless lives.  I cannot imagine a life without the knowledge of our Father in Heaven that I have been given. I have a testimony that He is a living and loving God and that we matter to Him.  I have a testimony about His son Jesus Christ who is our Savior and Redeemer.  I know that we can be forgiven through the power of the Atonement and that same power can comfort us and heal us in times of suffering and hardship.  I am so grateful for my Savior. 

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