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, January 26, 2013

Tender Mercies

                 Heavenly Father loves us and blesses us daily.  If we are aware, we can see evidence of His power and influence in our lives and in the world around us.  Though we may not see Him personally, we can recognize His hand in all things and thus strengthen our personal testimony that He lives.

                An ancient American prophet named Alma was attempting to answer the questions of a man named Korihor, but Korihor was not really interested in his answers.  Alma asked the man, “Believest thou that there is a God?”  Korihor answered that he did not.  Alma testified to the man, “I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.  … what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not.  I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.
                “And now Korihor said unto Alma:  If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.
                “But Alma said unto him:  Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God?  Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 30:37-44).

                Alma was not the only prophet with this knowledge.  When God spoke with Moses face to face, God told him that all things testify that there is a God:  “And behold all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath:  all things bear record of me” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:63).

                What evidence of God’s hand do you see in the world around you?  I saw God’s hand in the birth of my first grandchild.  The simple act of his mother’s egg and his father’s sperm coming together to create a perfect human being, completely separate than either of his parents, was a miracle.  The way his mother’s body worked to incubate the growing child until he could survive outside his mother’s womb and then to give birth to a healthy and complete baby is a miracle.   The birth of every child is a miracle.  In fact, the human body itself is a miracle.

                I see evidence of God’s hand in the world around me every spring when the snow and ice melt and plants start growing again.  I see His hand in the grass turning green each spring.  I see His hand in the tulips and daffodils that grow and bloom each spring.  I see His hand in the return of the robins.  I see His hand in the mother moose who bring their calves into the safety of my yard.  I see His hand in the simple fact that day follows night and that the seasons follow in proper order.  I see the hand of God in many things around me.

                Other scriptures teach of the influence of God.  The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord is good to all:  and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalms 145:9).

                Nephi, another ancient American prophet, understood that the Lord’s tender mercies are over all His works: “…But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 1:20).

                How would you define a “tender mercy” of the Lord?  What examples of tender mercies have you noticed in your life?  Elder David A. Bednar spoke about the tender mercies of the Lord.  “… I have reflected repeatedly upon the phrase `the tender mercies of the Lord.’  Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly, the Lord suits `his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men’ (D&C 46:15).”

                Elder Bednar gave an example of the Lord’s tender mercies.  An American serviceman, a husband and father of four children, was killed in Iraq in December 2003.  After being notified of her husband’s death and enduring radical changes in her life, the wife received his Christmas card and message.  In the midst of all the abrupt changes in her life, this Christmas card was a “timely and tender reminder” of all that was important to her.  The message in the card said, “To the best family in the world!  Have a great time together and remember the true meaning of Christmas!  The Lord has made it possible for us to be together forever.  So even when we are apart, we will still be together as a family.  God bless and keep y’all safe and grant this Christmas to be our gift of love from us to Him above!!!  All my love Daddy and your loving husband!”

                After reading the message, Elder Bednar said, “Clearly, the husband’s reference to being apart in his Christmas greeting referred to the separation caused by his military assignment.  But to this sister, as a voice from the dust from a departed eternal companion and father, came a most needed spiritual reassurance and witness.  As I indicated earlier, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.  Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings.”

                Elder Bednar also spoke about the “chosen” who receive the tender mercies of the Lord (1 Nephi 1:20).  He explained that the word chosen suggests selected or preferred or picked out or elect.  “Some individuals who hear or read this message erroneously may discount or dismiss in their personal lives the availability of the tender mercies of the Lord, believing that `I certainly am not one who has been or ever will be chosen.’  We may falsely think that such blessings and gifts are reserved for other people who appear to be more righteous or who serve in visible Church callings.  I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are available to all of us and that the Redeemer of Israel is eager to bestow such gifts upon us.

                “To be or to become chosen is not an exclusive status conferred upon us.  Rather, you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen.  Please now note the use of the word chosen in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:  `Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.  And why are they not chosen
                “`Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men’ (Doctrine and Covenants 121:344-35; emphasis added).

                “I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward.  God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added.  He does not limit `the chosen’ to a restricted few.  Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.”  (See “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2005.) 

                I have experienced many tender mercies in my life.  I do not believe that it was a coincidence that a pickup with a plow came down my street one day as I went out to shovel deep snow from my driveway and the driver stopped to ask if I needed help.  I do not believe it was a coincidence that a young man came to visit me one day when I felt all alone.  I do not believe it is a coincidence when the telephone rings and the person on the other end of the line is just the person I need to talk with.  I do not believe it is a coincidence when the speaker at Church says exactly what I need to hear.  I do believe that I have a loving Father in Heaven who watches over me and blesses me each day.
In modern days the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith that God is offended when we fail to recognize His hand in all things:  “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21).

                President Henry B. Eyring explained that he started to keep a daily record of what happened every day.  “I wrote down a few lines every day for years.  I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day.  Before I would write, I would ponder this question:  `Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?’  As I kept at it, something began to happen.  As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day.  As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

                “More than gratitude began to grow in my heart.  Testimony grew.  I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers.  I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.  And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance – even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened….

                “My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness.  It will build our testimonies.  You may not keep a journal.  You may not share whatever record you keep with those you love and serve.  But you and they will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done.  You remember that song we sometimes sing:  `Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.’

                “It won’t be easy to remember.  Living as we do with a veil over our eyes, we cannot remember what it was like to be with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in the premortal world; nor can we see with our physical eyes or with reason alone the hand of God in our lives.  Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost.  And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s companionship in a wicked world.

                “That is why forgetting God has been such a persistent problem among His children since the world began….”  (See “O Remember, Remember,” Ensign, Nov. 2007).

                I encourage you to try to recognize the tender mercies of God in your life this week.  I am sure that you will be amazed at the number of times He blesses you.  I know that I am constantly amazed at the love He shows to me 

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