Tuesday, December 9, 2014

#SharetheGift: A Challenge

On Sunday I taught the lesson in our Relief Society. I had been strongly feeling for months that I needed to teach on a certain topic. My month to teach was nearing and then I found out I would no longer be able to attend that Sunday due to a baby blessing.  It was strange but I actually felt a little torn.  It was my sisters first baby and I definitely needed and wanted to be there but because I felt the urgency in my message I had feelings of uncertainty about not sharing the message I was supposed to in a timely manner. However, I knew that I needed to be there with my family and I was.  Over the next month my lesson morphed into something I wasn't aware it would become and I believe it was the exact message that I was meant to share with the Relief Society and Young Women of our ward (women that are 12 years and older). With the help of several who were willing to share their testimonies and experiences the Spirit was very strong and the direction the lesson took was guided heavily by the direction of the Holy Ghost.

On Sunday I felt nervous to teach, as usual, but I also felt a feeling of calm that doesn't always accompany my lessons. During fast and testimony meeting I kept feeling pushed to stand and share just a glimpse of my lesson with the entire ward.  I pushed it aside for a time rationalizing that I was already doing something "scary" or that made me nervous in Relief Society and that that was enough.  It most certainly was not because I felt pushed again and again and I stood. And now here I am again as I have felt prompted to share the message I was guided to share Sunday here on my stagnant blog. I hope that someone will come along and read and join in and #sharethegift this season.

First watch this beautiful video:

Birth of our Savior
 Years ago a babe was born in a manger; A baby that came to bring His Father's children back to Him.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

He lived as a perfect example and died to save us all. Jesus Christ made it possible for all of us to have salvation. "He is the Christ. He is Christmas. He is the Gift." He came to Earth to do his Father's work, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39)".  In turn, as members of the church we have been given a 3 fold mission to help in the work of saving souls.We are to Perfect the Saints, Redeem the Dead, and Proclaim the Gospel.  Each of these directs us to share the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ.  What greater gift to give our brothers and sisters then to guide them back to their Father by sharing with them the Gift of Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson asked this question, “what can we possibly give to the Lord this Christmastime?” I suggest that the greatest gift we could give Him is one of His children; A child of God who has not yet received fully the Gift of Christ.

Now go and #SharetheGift by following the directions below:

Choose a Goal to Help in the work of Saving Souls
Choose a prepared goal below or create your own to fit one of the three sections. Select your goal prayerfully and with the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Your goal may not be what you expect. Listen to the Spirit and God will direct you to know how and to whom you might share the Gift of Christ.

Perfect the Saints (You, Your Family, and Your Ward Family)
Potential Goal - If you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make a goal to learn more about our Faith. (Chat with Missionaries Online, Request a free Book of Mormon and read it, or Read more at Mormon.org.)

Elder Bednar said, "When we invite you to attend church with us or to learn with the full-time missionaries, we are not trying to sell you a product. As members of the Church, we do not receive prizes or bonus points in a heavenly contest. We are not seeking simply to increase the numerical size of the Church. And most importantly, we are not attempting to coerce you to believe as we do. We are inviting you to hear the restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ so you can study, ponder, pray, and come to know for yourself if the things we are sharing with you are true."

Potential Goal - Make a personal goal to hold a current temple recommend. 

President Monson encouraged, “If you have not yet been to the temple or if you have been but currently do not qualify for a recommend, there is no more important goal for you to work toward than being worthy to go to the temple. Your sacrifice may be bringing your life into compliance with what is required to receive a recommend, perhaps by forsaking long-held habits which disqualify you. It may be having the faith and the discipline to pay your tithing. Whatever it is, qualify to enter the temple of God. Secure a temple recommend and regard it as a precious possession, for such it is.”

Redeem the Dead (Your Ancestors and Others Who have Passed on)
Potential Goals: - Work on your family history, find a name, and take it to the temple.
- Attend the temple more often to redeem the dead.

Elder Scott said, “Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received. The First Presidency has declared, “Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors.”

Proclaim the Gospel (Everyone)
Potential Goals: - Share the gospel (Bear testimony, give a Book of Mormon, share a Mormon message, etc.) - Extend an invitation to a neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance, friend, or family member. (Invite to Church, missionary discussions, an activity, Family Home Evening, etc)

President Eyring warned, “Well, the danger may be hard to see, but it is real, both for them and for us. For instance, at some moment in the world to come, everyone you met in this life will know what you know now. They will know that the only way to live forever in association with our families and in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is to choose to enter into the gate by baptism at the hands of those with authority from God. They will know that the only way families can be together forever is to accept and keep sacred covenants offered in the temples of God on this earth. They will know that you knew. And they will remember whether you offered them what someone had offered you. It’s easy to say, “The time isn’t right.” But there is danger in procrastination."

Unified Deadline
If possible, set March 1st as your deadline to reach your goal. That gives you 12 weeks in your efforts. Also try to make the goal you choose be something that is attainable, something that can be completed. (Ex. make your goal to go x number of times to the temple per month not just to go to the temple more often or to find a name to take to the temple not simply to just do family history.) As we are all working and praying to fulfill our goals I know the Lord will bless us in our unified efforts.

Share and Learn Together
To create a little accountability to learn and grow from each other the sisters in our ward will be reporting back with their experiences and testimonies in a follow up lesson on March 1st.   If you'd like to join in and take this challenge with us you can come back to this post on or before March 1st and share your experience in the comments.  If you would like to be held further accountable to carry out your goal or simply to share your experience you may email your typed experience/testimony to becominglds@gmail.com and put “March Lesson” as your subject. If you send it to my email your giving me permission to share your experience in my Relief Society lesson on March 1st.

For God so loved the world and so loved you and you and you and every single one of us. He gave His son. He is the Christ. He is Christmas. He is the Gift. Share the Gift.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Everyone Plays a Piece

"There are times when you might feel aimless
You can't see the places where you belong
But you will find that there is a purpose
It's been there within you all along and when you're near it
You can almost hear it." 

He is Glorious! You are His child! You are a child of God!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dustin's Testimony and Conversion...

I was sent this amazing conversion story and had to share it with all of you. His testimony has made mine grow. I hope you will read through his experience and reflect on your own testimony and conversion. It made me think of where I am at now and where I'd like to be. I know that each of us can grow and be strengthened by the testimonies of others and I am grateful that he has taken the time to share with all of us.

Unto all who reads,

I am a convert to the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. I grew up in a loving family that taught me good morals and supported me from day one. I love them! We were not very religious however, so I really had no solid spiritual foundation. Friends in elementary and high school spoke to me about Jesus and the Bible, but I did not understand Their importance at that time in my life. When I was about 15 years old my kidneys began to fail, and I eventually ended up on dialysis by the age of 18. I was a very miserable teenager during those high school years. It was a difficult challenge having a chronic disease, and I was depressed because of it.

Fumbling through life, I partook of anything and everything the world had to offer. You could say I was quite comfortable in the presidential suite of the "Great and Spacious Building" (what the world has to offer). At the age of 19 I received kidney transplant, selflessly donated by my grandmother. It was like night and day with my health. I had been sick for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to be healthy! I had a new lease on life (or so I thought.) Not only did I have a new kidney, I was now also of legal age and could go to the bars and clubs - involving myself foolishly in them. I began to hang around people whom you could consider modern-day Gadianton Robbers (bikers and gang members). I began to have a chip on my shoulder, thinking the world owed me respect. The false sense of security I had around these "gentlemen" had also puffed up my pride even more.

Then, one morning, my mother woke me up and told me to turn on the television. It was September 11, 2001. My heart sank into my stomach. I was scared, confused and ashamed. Ashamed at how I had been living my life up to that point. Ashamed by my selfish recklessness and utter disregard for the sacrifices my family and friends had made for me over the previous years. Something stirred inside of me. I had a deep yearning to know the TRUTH. What was I doing with my life? Why had I gone through so much? What was the meaning of it all? I had been given a second chance at a healthy life, yet I was literally wasting it away with frivolous living. I was also troubled because those who allegedly crashed the planes said they did so in the name of their God and their religion. This did not sit right with me. From the little I knew about God, I was under the impression that He loved us - or He at least liked us enough to not have us kill each other! From that point on I began a “spiritual binge“. I quit cold turkey all of the substances, places and people that had been a negative influence in my life. I had no desire for ANY of it. I went to the library on many occasions and studied the different religions and beliefs of the world. Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, Hinduism. I LOVED it!! I was soaking it up. I was a sponge. Eventually, I began to learn about Christianity. I cracked open an old bible and began to read.

"In the beginning..." As hard as I tried, I couldn't really understand it. And to make things even MORE confusing, there were many, many different denominations and sects within Christianity itself. Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Episcopalian... You get the idea. I was overwhelmed! And who WAS this Jesus? My answers soon came.

About mid-October I was at a "friend's" house, sitting on a couch. Whilst sitting, I had an unmistakable feeling that I had to leave, NOW!!! - that it was not safe to stay. I abruptly left and got into my car. I began to drive home, wondering if the impression I just had was real. Then, all of a sudden, a thick warm blanket of pure love and light enveloped me from head to toe. To describe this experience with mere mortal words cannot do it justice. The feeling was like having all of the best times of my life wrapped into one joyous, happy moment. The feeling was like having every birthday party, Christmastime and colourful dream coming true - all at once - multiplied by infinity. My heart burned within me. It was so familiar. Someone or Something not of this world knew exactly who I was, and loved me with a love that is indescribable. I began to ball like a baby and wept with sheer joy. I then began to weep with sadness, realizing that the life I had been living was not what I was put on this earth to do. I felt encouraged to continue seeking, searching and I would find the answers I was so desperately yearning for. I experienced peace in my heart, comforting me and urging me to continue to the Light - to continue to fight for good. That moment changed me forever. I know that what I felt and experienced was real and true. I also know that God knew it, and I could not deny it - neither dared I! From that day on I continued my spiritual journey. I learned more about the different denominations and doctrines, but they were more confusing than comforting. I even went to a bible study group. They spoke about God and Jesus, which was good, but something was missing. Where was that feeling that I had previously experienced - that burning within my heart that had filled me full of hope, faith, love and light? I was starting to get frustrated.

November 13, 2001 was my father's birthday. That evening, my family decided to go out for dinner to celebrate. I wasn’t feeling too well so I stayed home, alone. I turned on the television to one of my favourite shows. A woman on the show explained to a man that she was a Mormon. What was a Mormon? Was it another religion I could study? I was getting excited. And while I was pondering this new topic, the doorbell rang. Oh, who could that be?! I was watching my show, just beginning to process this new information about Mormons.

I answered the door...

Two missionaries from The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints stood before me, The Book of Mormon in their hands. These two young men introduced themselves, both curiously named "Elder". They explained to me their message about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the purpose of the Book of Mormon. What touched my heart the most was their invitation to read passages from the Book of Mormon, and then ask God MYSELF to know if it was true. We talked in the doorway for about 20 minutes. They gave me a copy of the book and said they would contact me in a few days. I felt like I was walking on air.

I immediately went upstairs and began to read. I did not understand everything right away, but I knew in my heart that I had to pray to God to know if this was what I had been searching for. Besides, it just couldn't have been a coincidence that the Mormon missionaries showed up at my door at the EXACT same time there was a Mormon on television, right? I got down on my knees, not knowing how to pray, but prayed silently nevertheless. I offered up the sincerest desires of my heart and asked God to show me what was true. I asked Him if it was right to meet with the missionaries. I prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I got up, poured myself a bowl of cereal and opened a magazine to an article in the back. I began to read. The article was about BYU's football team. It explained how players on the team sometimes left football for two years to serve throughout the world as missionaries for The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. This was NOT a coincidence any more. This was divine intervention. This was an answer to the prayer I had said only minutes before.

I met with the Elders the next day. They taught me many truths - plain and precious truths that had been lost due to the Great Apostasy – that were restored once again to the earth through the Prophet, Joseph Smith. They boldly testified of living Prophets and Apostles upon the earth today, teaching me how I could find out for myself if what they were telling me was really true. How? By sincerely studying, pondering and then praying to my Father in Heaven. I learned about the Holy Ghost. Who is the Holy Ghost and what does He feel like? He is a Personage of Spirit – the third member of the Godhead. He testifies and bears record of God the Father and Jesus Christ. He reveals all truth. He can cause a warm burning within our chest and heart - like purifying fire. He can cause sudden strokes of ideas and quicken our understanding about scripture and doctrine. He can fill us full of hope, faith, love, peace and light - all of the things I had felt that day driving home!! The Holy Ghost is also a still, small Voice. If we are too preoccupied or distracted, we can drown out that Voice. After a couple of meetings, the Elders then asked me to pray aloud for the first time. I had never done that before! Nervously, I bowed my head and crossed my arms. I began to pray to my Heavenly Father. And you know what? My chest burned within me! I felt pure warmth and peace. I had received a witness from the Holy Ghost! I had found what I was looking for! Over the next two weeks I participated in the concluding lessons, and prepared myself to enter the waters of baptism. I was baptized November 29, 2001 and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands a week later. The Spirit of the Lord has been my constant companion – my guiding light (so long as I remain worthy of His companionship). Entering into this sacred covenant with God has been the greatest and best decision I have ever made.

I testify that God lives, and that the Heavens are open. He is the Father of our spirits and Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son - the Redeemer and Saviour of the world - our Advocate with the Father. Through His Infinite Atonement, He has made it possible for us to return to the Father’s presence by obedience to the Gospel principles of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and the ordinances of baptism and confirmation (receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands) by proper Priesthood Authority. God the Father and His Beloved Son have ALL power. Their timing is perfect. Jesus Christ is the Light and the Life of the world. My greatest of joys is knowing exactly who I am, where I came from and where I am going – that there is a plan for each and every one of us. I testify that Joseph Smith truly was a Prophet called of God, and that angels ministered to him (and to us) continuously. Joseph was an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring the Fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints is the only true living church upon the face of the whole earth - God Himself bearing witness of it. This knowledge has opened and softened my heart. I love and care for EVERY human being upon the face of the earth. We are ALL God’s children – each and every one of us! It’s magnificent! The Bible AND the Book of Mormon are true. They are the Words of God – both witnessing and testifying of the glory of Christ. I invite all to exercise faith by reading these scriptures, (especially The Book of Mormon) and you will come to know that they are true for yourself. Come; humbly learn what The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints has to offer. God is faithful, and will not leave us alone in the dark - if we but reach out and seek Him. This humble testimony I leave before the entire world, in the most sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

My warmest regards,
Dustin Lee Burnham