Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm Glad They Called Me On A Mission!

It was a bit of a surreal week for me. I turned 26...that may not seem very old to some people. But, I feel old. (Attention: people who are older than me, please don't take offense! I'll try to explain.) This was possibly the biggest concern I had about coming out on a mission nearly 2 years ago.

In reality, I had a million reasons I didn't want to come out on a mission. Being 26 when I got home was a big one though. I had all these things thought up:

Who wants to postpone joy?
  1. In school, I was doing exceptionally well (straight A's!!!). I finally start to do well and I put it off for two years?
  2. The relationship I had with my family was the best it had ever been. I wouldn't see my nephew's and niece's.
  3. I was starting to finally get my feet under me and I was headed in a good direction. Wasn't I doing good enough? 
  4. I really wanted to find a wifey and start a family. 
     A mission meant postponing or losing many opportunities besides just these ones listed. It meant putting what I wanted on hold, and I didn't want to do that! Who does that? Who wants to do that? Not me! Well....

    It was a tough thing for me to come to terms with, and I struggled with the decision to come on a mission for quite a while. (To read more about how I came to the decision of going on a mission, click here.)
    But I finally made the decision and did all that I had to do to get out here. The call letter came, I opened it, and it said I was coming to Montana. My life has been changed forever because of that.

    I had all these reasons to not come on a mission, and I'm sure each and every prospective missionary has ones that are a lot more legitimate than mine. In fact, I know many do. I am so privileged to serve with amazing young men and women who have given up so much to be out here: Going without seeing their families for two years or more (sometimes siblings leave for missions right before they get home); Missing the hunting season; College athletes giving up scholarships; leaving behind pretty lady friends whilst returned missionaries are waiting to swoop in; parents, grandparents, and siblings passing away; the list goes on and on.

    We missionaries all have weaknesses. We aren't the best teachers in the world. But we have been called by a prophet of God to share what we know. We know our message is true. That's why I'm out here doing what I do. That's why tens of thousands of other young men and women are serving as well. We know that Jesus Christ really was born of Mary in Bethlehem. We know that Jesus did perform the Atonement and that through Him, all mankind can be saved by obedience to the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. That's all someone needs to know to come out on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


    I have received so many blessings for serving a mission. It's amusing to me to see how pretty much all of my concerns I had with coming out here have been resolved.
    1. I'm going to do so much better with school. I'll be taking higher level courses and the study habits I have learned as a missionary will help me to do well in those.
    2. I have been away from the family for nearly two years. I appreciate them so much more now and I know I will treat them even better. Our relationships will be much stronger.
    3. The growth that has taken place in these short 21 months would have taken a lifetime to achieve. I'm so much further ahead of the person I would have been if I had not served a mission. This is the best path I could be on.
    4. I will be a much better father and husband because of the experiences and growth that have taken place as a missionary.
    I know that serving a mission is the best decision I have ever made in my life. It's going to set the stage for the rest of my existence. Oh, and I don't feel all that old anymore. Missionary work seems to be the fountain of youth (because I hang around a bunch of 19-21 year old missionaries every day). (It could be that, or that I'm really immature for my age.)

    I know that serving a mission is the best decision I have ever made. I've sacrificed a lot to be here, but so have many others. We are all receiving so much more in return. But as with all things, we should ask God if its what we should do.

        Friday, November 25, 2011

        More Than a Mighty Change of Hair...Part 3!!!

        I was pretty hesitant to share this part of the story because it is something that I have held very close to my heart. It's gotten me through very difficult times and has pushed me to never return to where I was. I have prayed about it, and feel that it can be helpful to someone. So...

        Beautiful St. George, UT
        It was a tradition in my family that my siblings wrangle up their spouses and kiddos and head down to St. George, Utah to turkey it up at my parents. I love St. George so much because this is where my spiritual rebirth began to take place.The house was just starting to get packed as we awaited our feast. I was still really sick and not feeling my best. But I had to put on a good show, because it was time to be Uncle Elder Ika.

        I have the greatest nephews and nieces anyone could ask for. They are my joy and happiness. Being away from them while serving a mission is definitely in the top three most difficult things I have had to go through. I have always been close to them. They were my first reason that I wanted to change and be better. It's because of the love I had for them, and them for me.

        At the end of a very tiring and physically trying day, we set up shop in the living room to watch a movie. I had my little sweet pea (one of my nieces) as well as her two goofy brothers. We popped up some corn and started to watch the movie "Meet the Robinsons". We laughed and had a good time all the way through it. I remember how happy I felt as I listened to the laughs of these little tikes that I love so much. I remember their smiles and the hug that my little sweet pea gave me right before she fell asleep in my arms. The movie was just about to a close when I realized that my two nephews were asleep as well.

        I was about to get up and turn the movie off, but a song started to play. I love music, and it didn't sound too bad, so I decided to listen to it. Here are the lyrics:

        Let it go,                                                               Let it slide,                                                      All of my regret
        Let it roll right off your shoulder                            Let your troubles fall behind you                     Will wash away some how
        Don't you know                                                     Let it shine                                                       But I can not forget
        The hardest part is over                                        Until you feel it all around you                         The way I feel right now
        Let it in,                                                               And I don't mind
        Let your clarity define you                                    If it's me you need to turn to
        In the end                                                            We'll get by,
        We will only just remember how it feels               It's the heart that really matters in the end


        The lowest of low...
        As I heard the words to this song, I felt something burning within me (nope, not heart burn). I was enveloped in love. I looked around me and saw three little angels, my two nephews and my niece. I felt a greater love for them than ever before. I now know that I was surrounded not only by those visible angels, but also angels unseen. I know my nephews and nieces who hadn't been born yet were there. My Grandparents who passed away years earlier, as well as many others, came to buoy me up.

        In that moment, I knew the hardest part was over. I knew that I could put all the negative behind me. It was at that moment that I knew that all of the regret, disappointment, shame, guilt, sorrow, and every other thing that was weighing me down, could be washed away. I didn't understand how, but I knew that I would find out. I prayed and thanked God for my nephews and niece. I prayed and thanked Him for everything. I gave the most sincere prayer of Thanksgiving I have ever given Him.
        To happier than I have ever been!

         A few years later and Pow!, here I am. I'm a missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My life was transformed. God changed my life and gave me what I always wanted: true peace and lasting happiness. He continues to do that for me. I know that God can do the same for you. He will help you to overcome any weakness you have. He loves you. Don't take my word for it. Ask God what He can do for you.

        Saturday, November 19, 2011

        More Than a Mighty Change of Hair...Part Two!!!

        I felt like this little truck! Crushed!
        Day two, three, four, five etc. were so lame for me after that incredible experience that fateful November 14. What in the world could happen you might ask? The anguish and pain I described in that last post was spiritual. Then I got hit with something I didn't really expect. I honestly thought that all of my problems would be over from the "you'll be OK" feeling I got after I had prayed. But pow!!! God saw to it that I would be humbled even more. Physically, I was crushed! I got sicker than I have ever been in my life. I started to experience physical pain that nearly destroyed me. I had experienced my spiritual rock bottom, but then I was blessed (yes, it was a blessing) with the opportunity to hit a physical rock bottom as well.

        To summarize how I felt at this point in my journey, let's go to the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. In  the opening chapter, Moses describes exactly how I felt in verses 9-10.
        "... and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing..."
        I felt that I had been left to myself spiritually through my bad choices, but that I now needed to be left to myself as much as I could take. I was left unto myself, and all my physical strength left me. I felt near to death, and it scared me. I continued to pray with greater fervor than ever before. I would spend hours on end praying and pleading in my heart. It was so difficult to get through, but eventually I started to feel better.

        Not an actual pic of me...but you get it!
        This event humbled me so much, that I was becoming increasingly aware of the Spirit of God wanting to communicate with me. I found in those humble days that I was completely incapable of saving myself. This led to one of the most incredible experiences of my life; a night when I was literally surrounded by angels.

        Tune in soon to read the end of this series. I promise, it's good. In the meantime, what blessings do we receive from humility?

        Wednesday, November 16, 2011

        More Than a Mighty Change of Hair...

        So I'm not going to be as goofy as I usually am on this one...well, I probably still will be. Oh! The music references will come later... This week is a bit of a special one to me. I consider it my own personal holy week; a week of remembrance. It was four years ago this week that I truly started on a journey that has changed every aspect of my life for the better. It's going to take a few posts to get this all out, but let's start with day one of the rest of my life...
        Look up "idiot" in the dictionary and you'll see this picture.

        Go back with me to the night of  November 14, 2007. Yep, that's me in the pic alright. What a dufus I was! To summarize a really long story, let's tell you where I was in life on that day. For one, I was at rock bottom. It was truly the lowest of the low. Miserable doesn't even begin to express the depths of my sadness. I was living a life that wasn't in line with God's teachings, and I was suffering the consequences. My life came crashing down on me, and the weight was almost more than I could bear. I felt a lot like how the Prophet Alma from the Book of Mormon did before his conversion took place. Here is what he says, "...I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments...yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror." (Alma 36:12-14)

        Sounds pretty terrible right? Well it was. I will never forget that night and the way I felt (and I am so grateful I can't forget it!). It was in the quiet of that night, in my moment of greatest distress and humility, that I finally got down onto my knees and offered the first sincere prayer of my life. I pleaded that I would be delivered from the hell that I had gotten myself into. I petitioned God that He would lift the weight of my sins and give me some degree of happiness. I asked forgiveness for the hurt I had caused my family and friends. I remember at the end of the prayer, I screamed out, "I'll give up everything! Please take this away from me!"

        After that prayer, I felt something within me telling me that everything was going to be OK. I didn't realize it then, but I had truly felt the power that earnest, sincere prayer has. I felt that I would get better, but it sure as shootin' didn't happen immediately like I wanted it too! The next few days were lame sauce...

        Come back again soon to find out what happened next. In the mean time, ponder this question: What blessings have you received through adversity?

        Thursday, September 29, 2011

        What did Bob Marley and Mormons have in common?

        Probably more than you would think! I love reggae music, and although Bob Marley isn't my most favorite reggae artist, one of his classics has been on my mind lately. It's the song, "Give thanks and praises". In contains the lines, 

        "Glory to Jah, the Prophet is come (through all these ages);
        Glory to Jah, the Prophet has come (through these stages)."

        For your information, Jah is the shortened Rastafarian (Bob Marley's religion for a large portion of his life) way of saying YHWH or Jehovah. Bob Marley believed in a living prophet, and he sang his beliefs beautifully. That simple statement has summed up how I have been feeling in preparation for this weekend. What is this weekend you may ask? It is the weekend of General Conference! In this conference, we have the opportunity to come and listen to a prophets voice! What a grand thought!

        We have the supernal blessing of being able to hear the words of a living Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. He will testify of Jesus Christ and will give us the guidance and direction that our Heavenly Father wishes us to have. I know this from personal experience.

        About two years ago, I was wondering around a bit. I was very indecisive of what I wanted/needed/should do. I had the choices before me: 

              AGo on a mission
              B: Stay home, finish school, get married, have kids

        Thomas S. Monson, Prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ
        At the time, I had a lady friend, and that made me start to think more about marriage. I wanted to stay home and be with my family. I wanted to do the second one, but I felt uneasy about it all. It was getting close to decision time, and I prayed my heart out. I pretty much told Heavenly Father that "B" was the way I was going. A week later was general conference, and in the back of my mind was the question, "What should I do?". I started to watch conference with the question still bouncing around in my mind. President Monson got up to speak first, and lo' and behold, 2 minutes into it he spoke about missionaries. The Spirit confirmed to me that staying home wasn't an option. I was to get out on a mission, quick! 

        I followed what I knew to be right, and it's the best choice I ever made. It doesn't matter who you are, or what kind of opposition you face. You can take whatever challenges, issues, questions, or problems you have to Heavenly Father in prayer, and I promise you that you can receive the help you need from something that will be said in General Conference. Put it to the test and let your life be blessed! Glory to God, the Prophet has come!

        To watch General Conference, click here.





        Monday, September 26, 2011

        Mumford and Sons/Josh Garrels Collabo! (in my blog)

        I feel like this little guy sometimes! All feared up!
        I've heard it said that we shouldn't take any counsel from our fears. Unfortunately for me, fears and doubts have been running rampant through my mind. So what am I to do? Well, thank the good Lord for music and how it has again helped me to come a little bit closer to overcoming my weaknesses.

        The song "Children of the Earth" by Josh Garrels is about becoming like a child again. It has been ringing so true to me. In the song is the line, "Make my mind free from fears, you know I can't do it on my own." This has helped me to remember the absolute necessity of prayer in overcoming our fears. I love the statement the Lord makes in the Doctrine and Covenants. In section 6 verse 36 where He tells us to, "Look unto (Him) in every thought. Doubt not, fear not." It's so simple, yet so powerful. If we will remember the Lord in all our doings, and turn to Him at every moment of weakness, doubt and fear will begin to disappear. This thought reminds me of another song by Mumford and Sons.


        The chorus pierces my soul and reminds me of the love of Christ that is available to me, if I will allow it to sink in. It says:

        "And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
        And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
        Get over your hill and see, what you find there,
        With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair."

        Check out Mormon.org then!
        I know my hair is pretty awesome, but to have flowers in it would be a little weird. I think you get the point though. When we are in the midst of trials, trials which can bring doubts and fears, we can take courage in knowing that the trial will someday end. There will be a better day, if we turn to Christ. We may wish the end to get here sooner than later, but it will come. We can look unto Christ in every thought, let His love mend the heart, and dismiss all fears.

        Monday, September 19, 2011

        Sooner or Later, God'll Cut You Down!

        "You can run on for a long time, run on for a long time, run on for a long time
        Sooner or later God'll cut you down"~ Johnny Cash
        It's a lesson that we all need to learn. Hopefully you can learn this one by watching others. But for me, the Lord has repeatedly retaught me this throughout my life (I hope it sinks in this time!). But what is the lesson?

        Running on for a long time? Well, to me it means trying to go about life and do things my way, instead of the Lords way. How easy it is to be prideful and attempt to follow ones own path without yielding to the promptings of God. I look back on my life however, and see that the Lord will let me go off on whatever I want to, because He respects my agency. After a time (sooner or later) He cuts me down, or I go through a very humbling experience or trial. The beauty of it is that after the dust begins to settle, I come to see that God's cutting me down has allowed me to see things as they really are (to a point), which allows me to learn and grow. His cutting me down is in reality Him helping me come to a point of humility where I have the choice to let go of pride. If I do let go, then great blessings begin to flow into my life.


        It may be difficult in the humbling situation because of the uncertainty of the future. But God has a pretty good track record as far as I'm concerned. A few examples? I have a big one for you! I ran on for a really long time, ten years in fact. Then, God cut me down (my poor choices are what lead to it, but God nudged enough to awake my soul) and I was as low as low can get. As a result, I came back to church and every aspect of my life has improved for the better. It was really difficult and it took quite a bit of time to get back on the right path. The blessings didn't come to me alone though. I was able to help my sister and parents back to activity as well. Then, I was able to help a friend of mine back to the church, and now he's on a mission sharing the good news as well! My life will forever be changed for the better because God loved me enough to cut me down.

        The better way to go however, is to find humility before humility finds us. The Book of Mormon teaches this very plainly in Alma 32:16 "...blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God...without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know..." We can humble ourselves, and in turn save ourselves from the pain that can come from compelled humility.

        Thank you kindly, Mr. Cash, for reminding me of the blessings that can flow from God cutting us down. I am trying to be a little more humble each day by looking to the example of our Savior.
         

        Tuesday, September 13, 2011

        Looking Beyond the Blue

        I love the power that good wholesome music has to assist me in introspection and conveying my feelings, because it's a fact: I seriously lack effective communication skills. Here's some lyrics of a song that's been helping me out lately. It's called 'Beyond the Blue' by Josh Garrels.

        And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn
        To listen, to love, and to pray and discern  

        We all go through times of trial. I for one bring most, if not all of my trials upon myself. But we can always learn from the opposition in our lives. There is something to be gained with each difficulty we face. If we are prayerful and open to God's understanding, He will give it to us. We will learn and grow.

        And to do the right thing even when it burns
        And to live in the light through treacherous turns 


         Doing the right thing, even when it burns. Who wants that?!? This could apply to so much, but for me, this has been speaking of forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness from Heavenly Father and from those I have wronged. But also imparting forgiveness to those who have hurt me, intentionally or unintentionally. Fortunately, the Lord has helped me to truly forgive all that have hurt me. It's not to just do the right thing on occasion though, but to turn to Jesus Christ and His example with every treacherous turn we face.


        A man is weak, but the spirit yearns
        To keep on course from the bow to the stearn
        And throw overboard every selfish concern
        That tries to work for what can’t be earned 

        Yes, I am a very weak man. My weaknesses continue to be more and more apparent with each passing day. They strive to distract me and get me off course. I am amazed at how quickly God comes in, shows me my weaknesses, helps me to see the mistakes I have made, the problems I have caused, and gives me the chance to repent. He helps me to throw away every selfish, and self-centered thought. He helps me to get my desires in line, and gets me on track.

        Sometimes the only way to return is to go,
        Where the winds will take you 


        I get myself in some pretty sticky predicaments. I distance myself from God with each mistake I make. Then, I try to fix things the way I want them to be fixed, not the way God has presented. The only way to get back closer to God is to submit to His power. It's to submit to His love. It's to go wherever He will take me and to do whatever He asks me to do, no matter how difficult it may be.

        Jesus Christ, the Hope beyond the blue
        And to let go, of all, you cannot hold onto
        For the hope, beyond,the blue
         
        In any situation we find ourselves in, we have the option to get better, or drag things out. We can analyze and dwell on things that have hurt. We can rationalize our behavior and justify our sins. On the other hand, we can honor wisdom, and learn. We do this by choosing the path of repentance, forgiveness, and hope for a brighter day. We can seek forgiveness from God, we can seek forgiveness from those we have harmed, and we can forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have made. We can let go of the damage of the past, and move on. We can move closer to the Son, who is beckoning us from beyond the blue.

        Friday, September 2, 2011

        Don't You Quit!!!

        Sometimes, life is tough. No, it's a lot more than tough. In fact, I often times get slapped so hard upside the head that I don't know which direction is up anymore! Albeit, I bring most if not all of my trials and difficulties upon myself through impatience, pride, and selfishness. Regardless of how opposition comes into our lives, what are we to do? When the burdens of life, with all it's twists and turns become more than we can handle, how do we keep from crashing? I testify that "for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are better days and good things to come."


         
        No matter what our problems may be, it is the Savior and His teachings, the Gospel, that will help us the most. If we will learn to "trust in the Lord with all (our) heart(s); and lean not unto (our) own understanding..." the Lord will "direct (our) paths for good."(Proverbs 3:5-6) It may be difficult, but we must never quit or give in. I know from experience that there are better days and good things to come as I continually embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm able to learn, even if it's slowly, to let go of impatience, selfishness, and pride. Great things lie in store for you as well! So embrace it and be happy!

        To learn more, click HERE

        Friday, August 26, 2011

        Apostasy? Dispensations? What?...

        God reveals His Gospel through Prophets. He has done this since the beginning of time. We read about it in the Bible. Did God love those people more than He loves who live in the modern day?




        To learn more about truth restored visit MORMON.ORG

        Saturday, August 13, 2011

        Thank You Kindly Jesus!

        I've been a bum lately. Why? Because I have been so ungrateful. I've been ungrateful to my family for the support they give me. I've been ungrateful to my fellow missionaries for the great friends they are. I've been ungrateful for the trials that I have been going through, which I know will make me stronger. I've been ungrateful to the Lord for all the blessings He gives me. I'm so pumped to repent!!! I'm going to start on my repentance right now by saying that I am grateful for my family, friends, and especially to the Lord for all that He has given me. Check out this video to see what random people on the streets of New York are grateful for.



         

        What are you thankful for?


        Saturday, July 30, 2011

        How Can a Family Find Peace?

        “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” remains “a clarion call to protect and strengthen families,”-Elder M. Russel Ballard



        Learn more of how the Restored Gospel can bless your family here.

        Friday, July 22, 2011

        Ryan 'Willie Mays' Hayes: Til' We Meet Again...

        Ryan Richard Hayes-Miss ya buddy.

        This past week, I received the sad news that one of my best friends from my childhood passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. So many things run through the mind when something tragic like this happens. My first thoughts turned to his parents, especially his dad Sean. Ryan is the light of Sean's life. He was his pride and joy. My heart goes out to his family and friends, and all who have been affected by this great loss. I just wanted to share a few of my memories of my brother from another mother, Ryan Hayes.

        I have seen many Facebook posts and the like talking of how great of an athlete Ryan was. Saying that he was a great athlete is an understatement. He was one of the best to ever come out of Sandy, Utah. He was the game changer in many of our football games. A great memory I have is from our Alta Hawks days years and years ago. We were getting pummeled, and we could not get the ball moving down the field. Running the ball was our bread and butter, because Ryan was our half back. We stuck to the running game, but could not get the ball in the end zone. Ryan was so frustrated after a few attempts of getting to the line of scrimmage and then being tackled by a swarm of defensive players. He came back to the huddle and looked at me and started yelling "I can't do this all myself! Open the hole!!!". I was ticked off at first, but I then realized what he was saying. He was a great athlete, but he still needed the team (specifically us fat lineman) to block for him so he could have a chance to get the ball rolling. He got us fired up, and then we got that ball rolling. McDougal and I opened up a hole, and after he got a few yards pass the line of scrimmage, it was the 'Willie Mays' Hayes show. He darted off, made a few cuts, broke some tackles, and we were able to score and get on the board. Even though he was a phenomenal athlete, he understood that there is no 'I' in 'Team'. He built up his fellow team mates and was a leader that we all looked up to.

        A few years later in life, Ryan, myself and my friend Josh were going through some pretty tough common family troubles. I will never forget the help that he gave me. He was always there, willing to help out in any way he could. Whether it was a phone call to go and hang out (and by hang out I mean chase the girlies), or just an invite to go and eat some grub with him and his Dad, Ry was always reaching out to try and help me. He had such giving heart. He would always ask me if I was doing OK. He worried about his friends and he wanted to see them happy and smiling. That was one of the things he did best. He could get the room laughing in no time. He helped me to get through that difficult phase of my life, and for that I will be forever grateful.

        I remember seeing him just before I left to come out here on my mission. He looked so good. He looked better than I had seen him in years. He had so much life in his eyes. I told him I was coming on a mission, and he reacted in a way I didn't expect, although I should have. First off, Ryan was not a member of my church. While growing up, he and I actually made fun of the "Mormons" a lot. I thought he was going to crack the same old jokes and give me a hard time. After I told him what I was doing, he looked me in the eye and said, "I'm so happy for you man. Your going to be great out there. Don't forget me while your gone." I let him know that I would be praying for him and that I would see him when I got back.

          I have thought of him often while I have been out here. I was looking forward to the day when I would get off my mission and be able to see him. Now, I am going to have to wait for a little while to make that promise come true. I know that I will see him again. I know that with all my heart. I know that God loves him, and is taking care of him right now. I won't forget Ryan and the incredible person he is. I won't forget the love, respect, friendship, kindness, laughter, and hope he shared with me.

        I love ya Ryan. I'll see you again someday. My life is better because of the friendship we shared.

        Saturday, July 2, 2011

        Gotta Love That Freedom!

        As the 4th of July quickly approaches and the smell of bbq's and fireworks begin to fill the air, I have reflected upon the significance of the word freedom. I opened my handy dandy dictionary and found a slew of synonyms that I like which read,  
          
        "Freedom  emphasizes the opportunity given for the exercise of one's rights, powers, desires, or the like: freedom of speech or conscience; freedom of movement."
        Here in the U.S., we see the 4th of July as the day we gained our freedom to live as an independent nation. We were free from many things. But the word freedom isn't reserved exclusively for those things that we are free from. It also implies that there are things that we are free to do. Elder F. Enzio Busche teaches us that choice and agency is freedom.

         I am grateful that I have the freedom to live, worship, and pursue happiness the way I do. I am grateful I have the freedom to choose what I want in this life. I am grateful for the blessings that come as I follow Jesus Christs example more fully. These are just a few of the freedoms I am grateful for. Comment below and tell me yours.

        Wednesday, June 29, 2011

        Plagiarism Is My Friend

        (FYI:I've copied and pasted this from lds.org)

        In keeping with the long-established pattern of the Lord, several key events had to occur for His Church to be restored:

        The first occurred in 1820, when, through the First Vision, the heavens were opened and Joseph Smith learned the true nature of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and received instruction from Them.

        Second was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, providing a second witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ and confirming that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

        Finally, the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood provided the authority to administer the ordinances necessary for salvation.

        “We declare to the world that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth.”
        —Elder L. Tom Perry

        Saturday, June 25, 2011

        Am I crazy, or just stupid?


        I'm a little bit of both! But that's an entirely different topic. If you asked me five years ago if I thought that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, I would have told you he was false. I fought against the church that he established bitterly, and would have no part in it. Today, I declare that Joseph Smith is indeed a Prophet of God. Through him, Christ restored His church, and the complete availability of His Gospel to the Earth. What changed my mind? The Book of Mormon.

        Saturday, June 18, 2011

        He's Short. He's Brown. He's Wicked Sweet! He's........ My Dad!

        I have the coolest Dad in the world. I have to admit it. He's pretty swell. He was born in the Kingdom of Tonga and moved to the United States during High School. That's just one of the cool things about him. My Dad is the humblest person I know. He is incredible! He's not one to brag about his accomplishments, so I will...

         He began his career in law enforcement as a prison guard at the Utah State Prison. His abilities and talents helped him move up in the ranks quickly and was a member of the K-9 unit. He spent several years on the special weapons and tactics (S.W.A.T.) team as well. Much of his career has been spent as part of various task force's and units in the Salt Lake area. He even did a stint for a certain federal agency. He is now a probation officer and sitting behind a desk (in an office which is half the size of my moms. Haha, had to throw that in there. They work at the same place.)

        This is just a few of  the cool things that he has been a part of, but there's much more to my Pops. Boy does he know how to cook. Best chop suey ever. He is so buff! The man has mammoth calf muscles that put mine to shame. He is the greatest example of repentance, forgiveness, love, charity, and patience that I know (besides my Mom of course). There is no one in this world that loves his children, and especially his grandchildren more than my Dad.

        He has been patient with me throughout my life, and has continually shared his testimony of the restored Gospel. He watched me struggle and pushed me along in life, and would continually be a support to me, regardless of the choices I made. He was there for me in my lowest of lows. He never gave up on me. He now rejoices that I have a testimony of the Restored Gospel and that I am serving a mission to share the things I know to be true.

        Heavenly Father has really blessed me. He gave me a Dad here on this earth that would do many of the same things that He himself would do if He were here. Just like my mortal father, my Heavenly Father has been patient with me. He watches me struggle, and pushes me along. He is my constant support. He is here for me in my lowest of lows, and He rejoices with me in my highest of highs. I know that He lives and that He loves me. He loves you too. I pray that I can be like my Dad, who is so much like my Heavenly Father. Happy Father's day!

        Here's a little more

        Wednesday, June 8, 2011

        Love one another, even the smelly guy at the computer lab

        The Heavens have blessed us all. Isn't it marvelous?
        So, I've been here in marvelous Missoula for a couple three days now, and I have to tell ya, it's a great place to serve. The city is nestled snugly right up against beautiful green laden mountains with a river running through it (as you can see above). The streets are crazy with Subaru's zooming by in every direction. All the streets are laced with big leafy trees that just put a smile on my face. There are hippies everywhere, and we all know that I love hippies. What more could a guy ask for?

        Well, right now, I could ask for a different computer at the library. One thing about some of these hippies is an adverse reaction to cleanliness. The stench that is wafting through the air is a bit icky. In fact, it stings the nostrils. But you know what? I still love the guy. I would give him a big ol' hug right now if it wasn't so weird. I would tell him that Jesus is his friend and that He loves him too (which is sometimes pretty weird to people too). Christ didn't care about people's money, intelligence, how many friends they had, or even if they smelled noxious. He loved everyone and has commanded each of us to love our brothers and sis' all around us. Really, if you look at it closely, He loves me, so He has to love everyone. Right? So get out there and be kind, and remember to love everyone around you. Wait! Real quick, would you rather be trapped in a room--- with three hippies for a week, or me for a week?

        Saturday, May 28, 2011

        Confuzzled & Don't Know What To Do? Well.......


        What do I do?
        Where do I run?
        Why am I fearful?
        Is this the one?

        Why would He lead me here?
        Where do I turn?
        What is the truth,
        For which I yearn?

        Who has the answer?
        He, only one.
        But can I trust Him?
        Follow His Son?

         He will answer.
        He does care.
        How can I know it?
        One simple prayer.



         
        "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
         And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.''-Moroni 10:4-5


        Saturday, May 7, 2011

        My Mom is cooler than your Mom!


        Mom with her youngest grandchild
        "The holiest words my tongue can frame,
        The noblest thoughts my soul can claim,
        Unworthy are to praise the name
        More precious than all other.

        An infant, when her love first came,
        A man, I find it still the same,
        Reverently I breathe her name,
        The blessed name of mother"
        By George Griffith Fether


        Don't try and compare, it just doesn't work out. We could argue about this all the day long. My Mom is the best. That's a fact. How do I know this to be true? How have I come to this conclusion? I could tell you but it's science so you wouldn't understand. Haha! OK, OK. I'm just kidding. I know there are a lot of great Mothers out there. My life has been greatly influenced not only by my own Mother but myriads of others. To all you wonderful women I say Grazie mille! But to my beautiful Mother, what can I say? Words cannot express the love I have for her. I look at her and see a woman who has had so much opposition in her life, yet she has continued to push forward and overcome. What is my Mom to me? She is diligence. She is love. She is patience. She is charity. She is kindness. She is so funny. She is goodness. She is all that and so much more. I love you Mom. Thank you for it all. Thank you for holding my hand leading me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for being patient with me as I put you through hell before (and probably still after) I received my testimony that the Restoration is true. I miss our car rides with good vibes and talking about life. Tomorrow I get to skype home, and it's going to be great to see and talk to you. I love ya Mom! Your the best!

        Thursday, April 21, 2011

        What's wrong Mr. Grumpy Gill's???

        Life is difficult sometimes. It's just the way it is. We face tough times and the way gets a little rough. I know that I have experienced some very hard times in my life and that my attitude is what usually made the difference. This is especially true about the mission. We face extremely challenging circumstances as missionaries. If we are not careful, we can easily become discouraged. That's why it is absocritical that we make sure we have a positive attitude and just keep working hard. If we can learn to keep a smile on our face and find joy amidst our trials, discouragement, one of Satan's greatest tools, will have no power over us. I think Dory from "Finding Nemo" says it best.

        When life gets you down, don't be like Mr. Grumpy Gill's and complain. Just keep swimming along. Keep moving forward and the Lord will give us strength. We can find that strength in the hope of Jesus Christ and His atonement. Not only did He atone for our sins (see 1 John 2:2), but He took upon Himself all of our weaknesses and infirmities (see Alma 7:11-12). Because of that, we can rely on Him for all our support. What do we need to do to qualify for that help? We need to just keep swimming. We need to keep moving forward. If we mess up, we need to acknowledge our misstep and start over. It can be especially discouraging when we continually succumb to the same sins over and over again. Christ is going to forgive us as many times as we are willing to repent. Brother Brad Wilcox  stated in his book The Continuous Atonement "Would Christ who commanded us to 'continue to minister' to the afflicted (3 Nephi 18:32) if he were not willing to continually minister to us in our afflictions?" He will step in and help us get control of our lives as soon as we are willing to let Him. It may take us a while to realize it, but He will start to help us immediately. He will do it over and over again until we learn and grow and overcome through His grace.

        I know that as we do what we can on a consistent basis, we will overcome every trial, temptation, sin, weakness, and every other thing we are here on this Earth to conquer. We just have to keep on swimming and find joy in the journey by trusting in the Lord and His promises. If our attitude is one of optimism, persistence, and hope, then we will have a happy and peace filled life no matter what we are facing.

        How can you find out more about Christ? Click here

        Friday, April 15, 2011

        Empty my hands...

        I consider myself a pretty competent person. I learn very easily (well, knowledge at least. Wisdom...not so much). I believe that I can achieve pretty difficult tasks. A portion of this feeling of ability comes from the knowledge that I am a child of God and that He has given me certain talents and capabilities. But there is a bigger thing that overshadows this. I tend to forget that what I have is from God and get off into the foolish notion that I am pretty cool. I get caught up in my abilities and start to think that, "Hey, I am doing pretty well here. I'm kind of a big deal. Look at how good I am at _______." I forget that I of myself "am nothing". That "in my own strength I am weak" (Alma 26:11-12). I start to do things my way instead of His way. That's when I really get into a pickle. Luckily, God knows what to do in situations like me. I think Johnny Cash said it the best in his repentance proclaiming ballad "Sooner or later, God will cut you down."

        The amusing thing is, when I submit myself to the Lord, I prosper in every aspect of my life. When I start to get prideful and start to do it my way, thinking I can do it without His help, the Lord withdraws His support and I am left to myself. Things start to go downhill. What's the solution? Give up control. Submit my will to the Lord and stop being such an idiot. How do I ensure that I am always moving forward and that I don't get bogged down? Submit my will to the Lord. Give it all up.

        Brother Lawrence F. Corbridge sums it up better than I could. He stated, "Just give up. Surrender your will to Him. Unconditionally. Withhold nothing. Turn it all over to Him; all of your desires, wishes, dreams and hopes. Be true and faithful in your head and in your heart, not just in your behavior. Trust in Him. Trust Him who knows all things. Trust Him who has all power. Trust Him whose love for you is perfect. Trust Him, who alone suffered, paid and atoned for you sins, and for your weaknesses as well. Trust Him that He will make of you, immeasurably more, than what you will ever, ever in all eternity, make of yourself. He will create of you a masterpiece. You will create of you only a smudge. You will create an ordinary man. He will create a God."

        If we trust Him, we will be transformed. If we trust Him, He will guide us back to our Heavenly Father. If we trust Him, we won't be tossed to and fro', driven like the waves of the sea. My real issues come down to trust. When I don't trust that things will turn out the way the Lord promises, I try and take matters into my own hands and I end up getting less than what I want. Sometimes, I have righteous desires that of themselves are not bad, but they are not what the Lord wants for me at this time. That's when we really have to dig deep and let go of control, putting total trust in the Lord. It hurts, but it's worth it. I have to let go of what I want and seek the Lord's guidance and direction in my life, for everything.

        Again, music  is the only way that can say what I am trying to say. I couldn't find the not so loud version of the song, "Empty My Hands" by Tenth Ave. North, so here you go.

        Wednesday, April 13, 2011

        Remember Him!

        One year ago today, I got on a plane and came to the beautiful State of Montana. I had been in the Missionary training center in Provo, Utah for three weeks and was anxious to get out and start teaching people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first day we got into Billings we went through a series of orientations and saw the beautiful Temple. We also filled out a bunch of paperwork and forms. One of the things they had us do was write ourselves a letter for our one year anniversary. I received mine and was surprised at what I wrote myself. I feel prompted to share it.

        Elder Ika,

        You better be working hard! Remember the long road it was to get back involved in the Church. Don't ever forget your Savior and what He has done for you. Remember Romans 8:16-17 and how we are all "heirs" to our Heavenly Father. Those you are teaching need to know that too. Remember to be patient, to be agreeable, and above all to be charitable. Remember the night it all changed. Remember how you cried out for deliverance and finally received it. Don't worry about the family. The Lord will watch over and take care of them. He is blessing them in ways you don't even imagine. Remember to be enthusiastic and happy. It is the Gospel of Happiness, the Great Plan of Happiness. Look for the best in others and ignore the rest. Talk less, say more. You are on the Lords time, and you only have one year left so make it count! Gird up your loins and go to work!

        I have been so distracted lately. I have been distracted by my own selfish desires and weaknesses. This letter has helped me remember why I came out here. I am here because Jesus Christ has wrought a mighty change in my heart. He has given me a remission of my sins and He has given me a newness of life. He preserved me for a reason. Part of that reason was because He loves me and wants my happiness. Another part was so that I could be used as a means to help bring some of His other children back to our Father in Heaven. I'm trying to remember all those things that I told myself. I sometimes forget that I was once lost and wondering in the world, but the Lord found me and got me back on the path to our Father. I am trying to be better and do better so that others who are lost can get on the path, and that's what the Lord asks of me. He asks all of us to remember Him and submit ourselves to His will. With that, we are promised that we will have His spirit with us and that we will be happy. It's by remembering Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for us that we can escape temptation and receive peace amidst all our trials. 


        Wednesday, April 6, 2011

        You Will Be Freed

        Satan is a trickster he is. Don't let him fool you. Even if he has you in his grasps, you can break free. Through Christ you can be freed and cleansed from sin. There is no substance on this earth that is more powerful than the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Heroin or other pain killers? Nope! Alcohol or tobacco? Nuh-uh! Christ conquered all things with His infinite Atonement. He will help you to overcome anything. Don't believe me? Here's what an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ has to say about it.

        Thursday, March 24, 2011

        Yes, I was a Nanny

        If someone was to ask me what I was doing on any given day before 24 March 2010 (the day I left on the mission), a safe bet would be that I was with my niece's and nephew's. They are my everything. It all started when I held my oldest nephew Parker for the first time almost 14 years ago. The relationships I have with them give my life so much meaning and fill it with some of the greatest joys I've experienced. Each one of them saved my life. That's the honest truth. It's because of them that I pulled out of the funk I was in for 10 years and decided that I needed to be a better person. I first changed for them. They have taught me so many valuable lessons. It was the 9 months I spent right before coming on the mission being a "nanny" that I learned the most.
        After getting active in church again, I had difficulty deciding whether I would come out on a mission or not. After getting my Associates Degree I came to decision making time. I knew I did not want to continue on at the same school for my Bachelors, so I needed to decide if I would go on a mission or continue in schooling elsewhere. After much prayer and fasting, I knew that I needed to come out. I had some things to take care of before I could go, so I decided to move to my brother's house in the Salt Lake area. It was after bumming around at his house that I kind of fell into watching his kids while he and his wife were at work. I had a 3 month old bouncing baby boy that I cared for from morning until between 3-5 pm as well as the other four at various different times in the day. My love and appreciation for the sacred trust of being an uncle grew more and more over the 9 months I was privileged to spend with them while I prepared to come out.
        Today is a sobering reminder of what I left behind. One year ago today, I came out on the mission. Today is also OJ's 2nd birthday (my youngest nephew...he's in the picture on the left). The greatest obstacle I have faced while being out on the mission is missing him and my other nephew's and nieces. There was one day in particular, the hardest day of the mission for me, that I wanted to go home and see them because I missed them so much. I tried to put it out of my mind. I tried to just work through it, but none of it helped. I went into a room and just sobbed and sobbed. For anyone who knows the type of relationship I have with my nephew's and nieces, they can understand how difficult being away from them is for me. I was praying for help and guidance, and this scripture came into my mind. It is Alma 7:11-12 and it is talking about what Jesus Christ would do for each of us.
        "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions...of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains...of his people.
         12And he will take upon him.... their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

        I remembered this scripture and was reminded that Jesus Christ took upon himself all things, even when I have a case of the wheepies and am missing the fam. With this reaffirmed knowledge, I was able to get out and go to work trusting that I will be able to see my family soon enough and that He would make sure they are ok. It always gives me comfort to know that we are only away from our loved ones for a little while. Christ gives us the opportunity to have our families be forever and eternal. I know that is true, and I will do all that I can to make sure that that happens for my family. I am out here on a mission working to bring that same possibility to the people of Montana and Wyoming. It's a great day to be a missionary!

        To learn more about how families can be forever, click here.

        Wednesday, March 23, 2011

        One year

        Mixed emotions right now. I'm feeling a little weirded out. It's been one year since I said my farewell's to my family, friends, and the life I once knew. One year ago tomorrow I was thrown into the mix and became a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had no idea what I was getting into! I didn't realize how difficult missionary work could be. I didn't realize how challenging teaching can be. I didn't realize how complicated finding could be. I didn't realize how arduous being without my family, especially my niece's and nephews would be. Most of all, I didn't realize how demanding the Lord would be with His work. After my first day as a full time missionary, I determined I knew two things:
        1. I was not as prepared as I thought I was.
        2. It didn't matter, because I knew that the Book of Mormon was true.
         I have come to a few new realizations since that fate full day of 24 March 2010. I didn't realize then that I would become a new person. I didn't realize that I would be able to talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere. I didn't realize that I would be able to work 14-15 hour days, 7 days a week. I didn't realize that I would find out that home was not just in Utah, but also in Lander Wyoming, as well as Lewistown and Billings Montana. I didn't realize that I would be led to some of the best friends I would ever have. I didn't realize that God is aware of my every trouble and pain. Of my every heartache and sorrow. I didn't realize that I would have more fun than ever before in my life. I didn't realize that I would be tried and tested so much, yet each time have my faith in Jesus Christ strengthened more and more.

        I knew the Gospel before I came out. I had experienced it's transforming power. But I had no idea what was in store for me. I had no idea that the Lord would bless me so much. I have seen so many miracles in this one year of service, and I am terrified that I only get one more. One more year is all that the Lord has allotted me. After one year of service I have determined I now know 7 things:
        1. The Lord uses weaklings like myself and qualifies us for His work.
        2. God the Father lives.
        3. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and through Him we can return to our Heavenly Father.
        4. Joseph Smith was a prophet and through him the gospel, Christ's church and priesthood were restored.
        5. We have a prophet on the earth today, Thomas S. Monson, who is the Lord's representative.
        6. The Book of Mormon is the word of God.
        7. Coming on the mission was the best decision I ever made.
        I sure do love this work. It's great to be a missionary!