Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Be of Good Cheer

                    Our Father in Heaven has a plan whereby all of His spirit children can return to His presence, and He told us about His plan before we came to earth.  We shouted for joy in our premortal world for the opportunity to progress to our second estate.  We understood that mortality would be a time of temptation, testing and trial and that we would experience sorrow, pain, and disappointments as well as happiness and joy during our time on earth.  We knew that Heavenly Father loved each one of us and would always be mindful of us.  We knew that He wanted us to be happy and successful.  We felt peace and security because of this knowledge. 

Job wrote about our premortal life when he inscribed:  "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Declare, if thou hast understanding….
                    "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:4, 7).

                    We understood before we even came to earth that disappointments, problems, temptations, and trials are a part of the Plan of Salvation.  We accepted the plan because we trusted Heavenly Father.  We know from the following scriptures that these tests and trials are good for us.  As we follow the plan and continued to trust our Father, we can gain the necessary knowledge and experience to prepare to return to His presence.

                        "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7). 

                     "And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Ether 12:6). 

                     "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7). 

                    Each and every one of us experiences trials and disappointments at times, and much of our success in life depends on how we act in response to our trials.  We have two basic choices:  we can choose to do things the Lord's way or we can choose to do things Satan's way.   The choices we make will determine whether we are happy or unhappy.

                    An ancient prophet by the name of Lehi gave the following counsel to his posterity just prior to his death.  "And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
                    "And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind.  Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said:  Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil….
                    "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man.  And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:17-18, 27).

                    Lehi taught that Satan wants all of us to "be miserable like unto himself".  Other prophets and apostles explained some of the ways that Satan makes us miserable.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught:  "One of Satan's most powerful tools is discouragement.
                    "Whisperings of `you can't do it,' `you're no good,' `it's too late,' `what's the use?' or `things are hopeless' are tools of destruction.  Satan … wants you to quit trying.  It is important that discouragement is cast out of [our lives].  This may take a decided amount of work and energy, but it can be accomplished" (Ensign, May 1988, 63).

                    You may ask, "How does discouragement help Satan accomplish his goal to make us `miserable like unto himself'?"  If you think about it for a moment or two, you will realize that discouragement either slows us down or stops our efforts completely - whether we are trying to be obedient to God's commandments or in any part of our lives.

                    On the other hand, our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, want us to be successful and happy; They want us to feel joy just as They do.  The Savior suffered greater trials than any of us will ever experience, but He did not get discouraged.

                    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "Even with such a solemn mission given to Him, the Savior found delight in living; He enjoyed people and told His disciples to be of good cheer….
                    "Remember the unkind treatment He received, the rejection He experienced, and the injustice… He endured.  When we, too, then face some of that in life, we can remember that Christ was also troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed (see 2 Corinthians 4:8-9)" (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68-69).

                    Our Savior, even Jesus Christ reminded us that we can find peace and joy in our earthly lives regardless of our circumstances.  He encouraged us to keep trying when He said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation:  but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). 

                    The Savior overcame spiritual death when He took upon Himself the sins of mankind while in the Garden of Gethsemane; He overcame physical death when He was resurrected.  We should "be of good cheer" because we know that the Savior made it possible for all mankind to be resurrected and to have eternal life.

                    We can be of good cheer even in difficult times.  For nearly a year I have taken the time each day to write down three blessings in my life, and I have been blessed for doing so.  I will admit that I sometimes have a difficult time thinking of the first blessing because life seems so difficult at the moment; however, I have an easier time remembering the second and third blessings.  The simple act of writing down the three blessings each day shows Heavenly Father that I am grateful for those blessings.  I know from personal experience that gratitude helps bring happiness into my life.  I know that I can "be of good cheer" by counting my many blessings and remembering how good my life really is!

                    One of my favorite hymns is entitled "Count Your Blessings" (Hymns, no. 241; written by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922, with music written by Edwin O. Excell, 1851-1921).  Each verse of this hymn has a particular message, and the overall message is that counting our blessings will make us happier.

                    "When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
                    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
                    Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
                    And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

                    "Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
                    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
                    Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly,
                    And you will be singing as the days go by.

                    "When you look at others with their lands and gold,
                    Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
                    Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
                    Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.

                    So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
                    Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
                    Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
                    Help and comfort give you to your journey's end."

               One of my favorite stories from the life of President Gordon B. Hinckley took place while he was serving his mission in England.  This story explains some of the things we need to do to overcome discouragement.

                    "I was not well when I arrived.  Those first few weeks, because of illness and the opposition which we felt, I was discouraged.  I wrote a letter home to my good father and said that I felt I was wasting my time and his money.  He was my father and my stake president, and he was a wise and inspired man.  He wrote a very short letter to me which said, `Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter.  I have only one suggestion:  forget yourself and go to work.'  Earlier that morning in our scripture class my companion and I had read these words of the Lord:  `Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.' (Mark 8:35.)
                    "Those words of the Master, followed by my father's letter with his counsel to forget myself and go to work, went into my very being.  With my father's letter in hand, I went into our bedroom in the house at 15 Wadham Road, where we lived, and got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord.  I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service.

                    "That July day in 1933 was my day of decision.  A new light came into my life and a new joy into my heart.  The fog of England seemed to lift, and I saw the sunlight.  I had a rich and wonderful mission experience, for which I shall ever be grateful" ("Gospel to Great Britain," Ensign, July 1987, 7).

                    The young Elder Hinckley overcame disappointment and discouragement by communicating with his Heavenly Father and committing himself to the Lord's service.  He studied the scriptures and hearkened to the counsel there.  He followed his earthly father's counsel to "forget [himself] and go to work."  He "lost" himself in serving others and brought much happiness into his own life.

                    The Prophet Joseph Smith faced trials much greater than those Elder Hinckley experienced in England.  During a particularly difficult time, Joseph was a prisoner in the jail at Liberty, Missouri.  He cried to God, asking how long God would permit the Saints to be persecuted, and received the following answer: 

    "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
                    "And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
                    "Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands" (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-9). 

                    Joseph Smith was also told, "If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

                    "If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can't you stay with us?  O, my father, what are the men going to do with you?  And if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

                    "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

                    "The Son of Man hath descended below them all.  Art thou greater than he?
                    "Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass.  Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever" (Doctrine and Covenants 122-5-9). 

                    I expect that Joseph Smith was very comforted when the Lord told him, "Fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever"? (D&C 122:9).   In fact, Joseph said, "Never be discouraged.  If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top."  (Joseph Smith, quoted by John Henry Evans, in Joseph Smith, an American Prophet [1946], 9)

                    I have endured many disappointments, discouragements, and difficult times.  I know that they are real, but I also know that I can "be of good cheer" even during trials by following the teachings of the Savior.

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