Let me share with you all something that is very personal to me: lately I've really been struggling with faith.
Lest you misunderstand, let me first say that my testimony is strong and secure. That will never change. But lately I've been consumed with fear about my own personal progress.
Many years ago I made the decision to live my life by the Spirit. I know not all the answers will be given to us and we need to figure out a lot on our own, but I always try to remain worthy of the Spirit so I will be ready to receive guidance and direction when it is available. This has been a wonderful decision and it has greatly enhanced the quality of my life. But the thing is, when you prove to God that He can trust you, He'll begin to ask you to do more things that require YOU to trust HIM. And that can be a major test of your faith.
Over the last several months God had asked me to do some really scary things, like remaining at my part-time job even though I have bills to pay and putting unimaginable amounts of time and effort into projects that I'm not even sure will ever succeed. It's scary. I'm about to turn 26 and will soon need my own health insurance, which adds even more bills to the pile. I honestly don't know how I'm going to make it--except on faith, which, as I mentioned before, I'm struggling with.
The day I received those promptings and I began this current course, I felt that it was right - so much so that I immediately quit my nearly $1000/week job to go back to working part-time for the Church. And every time I've felt afraid and desperately pleaded to God for guidance, His response has been the same: "Just trust me. I know what I'm doing. Follow my direction with exactness, and when the time is right, I will show you the way."
But last night as I opened my evening prayer, the first thing I said was this: "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified of what you're asking me to do. I'm honestly afraid that the sea will not part and I'll end up underwater."
Even though I felt it was right, even though I have had countless witnesses telling me it will be okay, I still have this overwhelming fear. Satan knows that good things are in store for me if I continue on this path, and so he is doing everything he can to get me to quit. He almost succeed a couple times. But despite my fears, I've come too far to turn back now; I'm past the point of no return. I'm either going to end up a broke, miserable, failure, or an incredibly grateful (and humbled) man. The closer I get to God's deadline, the tighter I brace for impact, and the more I hope that it will be a smooth landing.
And it is that hope that I'm holding on to.
This morning I had the most incredible privilege of singing in the choir at a meeting at which Elder M. Russell Ballard presided and spoke (a miracle in and of itself, but a story for another time). After closing his remarks, the choir sang "Redeemer of Israel" - my favorite hymn. As we triumphantly came to the final verse, I openly wept. I just couldn't hold back what I was feeling.
"As children of Zion,
Good tidings for us.
The tokens already appear.
Fear not, and be just,
For the kingdom is ours.
The hour of redemption is near."
Even though I have fears. Even though I have doubts. Even though I am sometimes utterly terrified of what lies ahead, I know that God loves me. I don't know HOW He loves me, but I know that He does. And that is ultimately what gets me through to another day.
"Life is tough, but so are you."
That's the theme of this book, and when Elise Hahl asked me to write a review, I got excited! I've been going through some difficult times in my life and I knew I'd learn a lot from reading it.
So what did I think?
At first I was disappointed (but bear with me, this isn't a negative review!) I was disappointed because I realized that my life was nothing like that of the authors (there are 8 of them). I thought to myself, I've never gone through what they went through. My trials weren't even remotely close to theirs. How was this book supposed to help me with my own unique struggles? I've never moved to another country, I've never played on a football team, my mother has never been to prison, I've never had to deal with paralysis, I've never been rejected by my family. How could I relate to these stories?
And then I realized something.
I've never had to leave my home and travel 8 years in the wilderness while my brothers tried to kill me, and yet I still love and learn from the stories of Nephi. I've never been the only member of the church in my entire city, and yet I love and and learn from the story of Abish. And when the story of Joseph in Egypt was told twice in this book, I realized that I don't have to have these same experiences as they did to learn from them. So do you know what I did? I read the book again. Just sat down and read it all the way through. This time I asked Heavenly Father to help me learn things from these experiences that would help me get through my own. And that's exactly what he did.
I recommend this book to everyone, because there's something in it for everyone. Though we may not have the same trials, we do all have trials, and these eight authors guide us through them in a fun and engaging way. I had heard of some of the authors, such as Al Carraway and Hank Smith, but most of them were new to me. It was fun to get to know them! They are all people who decided to put God first, even when it was hard (or maybe because it was hard). I learned so much from them.
If I were to sum up the message of this book it would be this: trust God, do everything you can to succeed, and never, ever give up.
You can purchase "You've Got This!" here:
Are you preparing to serve a mission? Are you currently serving a mission? Did you just get back from a mission? Are you simply trying to figure out your life's mission? Then this book is for you!
I've always loved good mission stories. I grew up listening to my dad tell of his adventures in Italy, and then later listened to my brothers-in-law tell of their experiences in Louisiana and Brazil. I myself served in California and have quite a few stories to tell. The thing that's always struck me about mission stories is that people can serve in vastly different places, and yet learn the very same lessons.
In this book, Ben Bernards does a beautiful job at teaching those lessons through stories. From being chased through the jungle by angry tribesmen, to receiving golden name tags, there's a lesson to be learned on every page.
The subtitle of the book, "7 truths for your eternal mission," helped me realize that there's so much more I can be doing. My mission isn't over. While reading I was motivated to be a better missionary, a better friend, and to never stop strengthening my faith. There's so much we can learn from our experiences.
The truths taught in this book are life-changing. I'm confident that anyone that diligently learns from them and applies them will be well on their way back to their Heavenly Father.
I'm grateful Ben reached out and asked me to write this review. I'm going to read "Faith and a Life Jacket" several more times, making sure I mark all the things that I can personally do to better fulfill my eternal mission. Like Ben says, "It won't be easy, but it's so worth it."
You can purchase "Faith and a Life Jacket" here:
And if you like it, share it with a friend! :)
Ive been wanting to address this topic for over a year, but as someone who loves my church with all my heart, and who also has an ever-increasing number of friends who are gay, I wanted to make sure I did it right. I've spent the last year pondering and praying, trying to figure out how to both live my religion fully, and support my friends at the same time. This post is written based on the personal revelation I have received in that time.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the "Mormon Church") is, and always will be, against gay marriage. The official doctrine of the Church states that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" and that "the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife." We believe this to be not only a matter of policy within the Church, but also a commandment from God. And God never changes.
As active, faithful members we do our best to uphold this truth, but when we're faced with the reality that many of our friends and family are gay, we don't always know what to do. How do we hold fast to our beliefs while also holding fast to our family/friends? How can we firmly stand for what we believe without people thinking we hate them? That is the question I have been pondering this last year, and I think I've finally found the answer: we prioritize our obedience.
Now, you may ask, "How can we prioritize the commandments? Don't we need to keep all of them?" The answer is yes, we do need to keep all of them, but some are more important than others, and those are the ones that should be kept first.
In the Law of Moses there were 613 rules/commandments. One of those was "thou shalt not commit adultery." Today many Christians, including Latter-day Saints, believe this includes all issues of chastity. When asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37-39, emphasis added).
Here we see Christ Himself prioritizing the commandments, and the Law of Chastity is not in the first two. Now, once again, this commandment is important, but not as important as loving God and our neighbor. So as we interact with people who are gay, we should focus more on being kind and loving them than on condemning them for their actions.
We should also stop trying to change them.
I hear a lot of talk in the Church about how if a gay person tries hard enough or prays hard enough or goes to the temple often enough, they can be "healed" or "cured" of their homosexuality. I hear people say that God wouldn't possibly let a person stay that way for their entire life if it's against the commandments. They say that if they just have enough faith in the Atonement, they can change and become attracted to the opposite sex.
Why do we say this? Why do we want them to change? Is it out of love for them? Is it because we know that true happiness comes from keeping the commandments?
No. That's not why.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson (an LDS Apostle) has said that "The invitation to repent is an expression of love." I thought this is what we were doing: inviting them to repent. But are we really?
No. We are not.
Repentance is one of the most personal things a person will ever experience, and suggesting that they change on our time table or by using our methods is not inviting them to repent. Instead it's demanding them to conform to our limited view of God's plan for them. It's putting our feelings and beliefs before theirs. Often times it's attempting to pull the mote out of their eye before casting the beam out of our own (see Matt. 7: 1-5).
Let me remind you that homosexuality itself is not something that needs to be repented of. Being attracted to someone of the same sex is not a sin. The main reason why the "pray/try hard enough" method doesn't work is because there's nothing wrong with being gay. There's nothing that needs to change. Yes, we believe that acting on homosexual feelings is wrong. Yes, we believe that that is something that needs to be repented of. But no, we do not believe that gay people need to somehow change who they are attracted to. That would require changing their biology, something which most straight people would be incapable of doing as well. (In fact, if you really want to put into perspective how ridiculous that expectation is, imagine trying to change your sexual orientation from straight to gay. Not so easy, is it?).
So, as God-fearing Christians, what do we do when our friends or family are gay? How do we live our religion?
I'll tell you:
We love them like we've always loved them. We listen to them like we've always listened to them. We include them like we've always included them. And if they come to us for help, we help them. If they ask for our advice, we give it to them. If they do want to change, we help them change. In short, we love them as we love ourself, because even though all the commandments are important, this is a greater commandment than even keeping the law of chastity.
Now, in addressing this I want to say that when it comes to a member of the Church being gay, I don't know what the right course of action is for them. That is something extremely personal and I can't possibly claim to understand what it's like, so I will leave it up to them and God.
Finally, we now come to the question I asked in the title of this post: can God heal gays?
The answer is yes, He can heal them. He can heal them from the hurt we have caused them. He can heal them from the scars our expectations have left on them. He can heal the relationships that have been broken due to lack of understanding on both sides. And yes, he can even heal the pain that comes from sin. Your sins. My sins. Everyone's sins. No one can be perfect in this life. We all have challenges and make mistakes. We all have the need to change in some way. But on God's timetable, not someone else's.
I have many friends who are gay. You know who you are. And whether or not you have come out publicly, I want you to know that I love you. I always have. I always will. We may have differing beliefs, but we're all the children of God. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here. If you need a friend, I'm here. I'm not going to change my core beliefs on this topic, but that doesn't mean that I won't listen to yours and do my best to be your friend.
Because that's what good humans do.
When you feel sad, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel angry, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel frustrated, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel lost, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel hopeless, read the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon holds the answer to all of life's problems. Read it.
I'm 25 years old and still single. Might as well start digging my lonely grave now, right?
At least that seems to be the attitude here in Utah. But let me tell you something you probably haven't thought of:
Maybe I'm still single for a reason.
John Bytheway once said that "Moroni did some of his greatest work as a single adult." That work included traveling around North America dedicating temple sites, abridging the Book of Ether, and writing 12 chapters of his own. Do you think he would have had time to do those things if he had a wife and family to take care of? Probably not.
Maybe you're still single because God NEEDS you to be single.
I invite you to take a look at your life and see what more you can be doing to serve those around you. Being single gives us so many unique opportunities to help other people. If you're not happy with your relationship status try strengthening your relationship with God. Spend more time studying the scriptures. Spend more time bearing your testimony. Do everything you can to move God's work forward. I promise you that living the gospel more fully will bring you more happiness than changing your relationship status on Facebook.
Remember, Moroni did some of his greatest work as a single adult.
So can you.
A letter I recently wrote to my mission president and his wife, which I would now like to share with all of you:
"Dear President and Sister Alba,
At our last mission reunion I shared with you some of the miracles I have seen while sharing the gospel online. I'd like to tell it to you now in a little more detail.
On my mission I developed a sincere love for the gospel and I wanted to share it with everyone, but my introverted personality made it difficult to talk to people on the streets. I remember Elder L. Tom Perry coming to our mission and saying 'When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook he had no idea that he was hastening the work of the Lord.' When I became a Facebook missionary I instantly saw its potential and I knew it was something I could do.
The last few months of my mission I was determined to not get trunky (as Elder Spencer Davis will testify), and so I convinced myself that my mission would never end and my return home would literally just be another transfer.
With that attitude I returned home (August 6, 2013) and immediately began searching for opportunities to share the gospel. But, as I had discovered on the mission, talking to people wasn't exactly my strong suit. In my desperate desire to share the gospel with someone, I started a blog. I called it 'My Experience in Truth.'
I began posting short inspirational messages on it and it was read by a few of my friends, but then one day I felt a strong prompting to write about my experience with bullying in school and how I overcame it. I immediately began writing and the next day I posted it with the title, 'Just Be you.' I shared it with my friends on Facebook and then went on with my day. Less than an hour later my notifications started going crazy with people commenting on it and thanking me for being so open. I began to get messages from people who had experienced similar things and even some from people I had known in school who now wanted to apologize for not making more of an effort to be my friend. Soon people began sharing it on Facebook, and that's when the miracles started.
That week the post was read by over 1,000 people in seven different countries. I had a woman from Italy contact me to thank me for writing it. I had a someone I had never met come up to me and say 'You're the guy who wrote that blog, aren't you?' She then told me how much it had helped her daughter. My institute teacher came up to me after class one day and told me that the blog was circulating around seminaries and institutes and it was being recommended by teachers to students who were struggling.
I knew the internet was a great place for sharing the gospel, but I never dreamed my posts could reach so many people. As of today, April 14, 2016, my blog is being read in 17 different countries, including the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ukraine, Moldova, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Greece, Belgium, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. Needless to say, I'm glad I followed that prompting. :)
But the miracles don't stop there.
Although I've made an effort to share the gospel via Facebook since I got home, it eventually began to dwindle as a priority. A few months ago as I was contemplating where I wanted my life to go, I received a very powerful prompting that I needed to consecrate all my online efforts to building the Kingdom of God. So, as I'm now learning to do when I receive a prompting, I immediately went to work. I purified my Facebook profile of everything that didn't uplift or inspire and I began sharing uplifting messages every single day. I also created a couple other pages called 'Testify of Christ' and 'Just Be you.'
Next I moved to Instagram and Twitter, where I've seen huge success. On Twitter each of my posts reach about 2,000 people, and I've seen some reach as many as 8,000. I also receive messages from people all around the world thanking me for what I post. One man from Hong Kong told me that he had seen missionaries but hadn't had a chance to talk to them. He had questions about the Book of Mormon, so he and I chatted for about 30 minutes. After that I moved to Pinterest, quickly attracting more than 5,000 followers. Just this week I also expanded to Tumblr and Google+, both of which I have good feelings about.
In all, there are over 15,000 people following these accounts. That means I literally get to share the gospel with 15,000 people every single day. How cool is that? God wasn't lying when He said He's hastening His work! Just think about it: the testimony of one average guy from Utah is reaching all across the world. Not a day goes by that I don't thank my Heavenly Father for giving me such a privilege.
I am so grateful for my mission. I will never be able to adequately describe it, but in the words of Jeffrey R. Holland, 'I loved my mission as I am sure no young man has ever loved one before or since.'
Thank you for being a part of it. Thank you for being such great examples to me. My life was forever changed the day God called me to Santa Rosa. No other mission on earth could have inspired me like ours did. God really does know what He's doing, of that I am sure.
-Elder Jordan M. Anderson"
Hey guys, it's been a while since I posted on this blog. These last few months have been some of the most trying, as well as the most educational months of my life. I learned so much from the trials I faced and so I'd like to share with you some words of wisdom.
You are the master of your own life. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
As you can tell from my last post ("Broken"), life hit me pretty hard. When people ask me what I've been doing lately, I tell them I've been hibernating, because truthfully, that's the best description I can think of. Most of my recent trials have involved relationships with people. I've was betrayed by family members, cheated by friends, and at times I've even felt abandoned by God.
When I was younger, I discovered that when a room or a drawer or a backpack is so messy that it becomes unmanageable, it's often easier to just remove everything and only put back what's important rather than trying to sort through the mess. So that's what I did with my life.
The time I spent alone with basically no responsibilities, deadlines, or expectations was immensely satisfying. It gave me time to focus on myself. With no pressure to worry about other people's lives, I was able to turn inward and focus all my energy my own. I was able to seriously contemplate who I was, who I wanted to become, and what I needed to do to get there.
Four months later I'm finally back on my feet. I know who I am and I'm okay with it. I know who I want to be and I'm excited for the journey that will take me there. I'm finally starting to put things back together the way I feel like they're supposed to be, but rest assured, I'm only putting back what's important.
So my advice to you is this: don't let the distractions of the world stop you from becoming your very best self. As important as serving and helping other people is, you can't spread yourself out too thin. Take time to focus on who you are. Do things that you enjoy. Don't be afraid to make yourself happy. You are the master of your own life; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
If I'm not too tired after work, I often take a stroll around Temple Square. As I do, I can't help but think about how blessed I am to be a member of this church. My wanderings usually lead me to a bench in the southwest corner, from which I have a view of the Assembly Hall, Tabernacle, Conference Center, Salt Lake Temple, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and several statues of pioneers. As I sit, I think about my purpose in life and what I can do to be a better disciple of Christ. When my ponderings are done, I take a picture, say a prayer, and resolve once again to do all I can to build the Kingdom of God. These are sacred moments, for in them I am given a witness that I truly am a child of God.
WHY IS LIFE SO FREAKING HARD??? Why does it have to be so confusing??? Why does it have to hurt so much??? I'M GOING TO SCREAM!!! I just want things to work out! I just want to be happy! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK????
I'm so freaking tired of being let down. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth it. Why do I even try? I spend years putting my whole heart and soul into something only to have it fizzle out and die. WHAT'S THE POINT??? Why do my dreams always go up in flames??? WHY CAN'T I SUCCEED???
That's it. I'm done. I'm done trying. I can't handle the headache. It's just too much.
I'm going to simplify my life and remove anything that is not necessary for survival. If I don't I'm afraid that I might literally lose my mind.
Wonderful! Fantastic! Absolutely brilliant!
That is how I would describe Al Carraway's new book "More Than the Tattooed Mormon." Scriptures aside, I have never been more affected by a book than I was with this one. Let me tell you why:
First of all, I want to point out that this book is dedicated to the reader. That means you and me. Right from the start Al decided to make it personal. All throughout the book she reminds us that the book is not about her, it's about us and our relationship with God. She teaches us that life, although difficult, can be absolutely glorious if we put our trust in Him.
Next, this book made me feel incomplete. but not in a bad way. Maybe a better way of saying it is that it made me "hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Matt. 5:6) Reading this book made me realize that my life could be so much better than it currently is. It made me realize that when you put God first, He takes care of your needs and He blesses you more than you could ever imagine.
My third reason is similar to the previous one: it made me crave gospel knowledge. I was raised in the Church and was taught the gospel from a very young age, but this book made me want to start all over and study like I was an investigator. It made me want to give more priority to the simple things like developing my faith and saying more meaningful prayers. It made me want to appreciate the scriptures more and it has motivated me to study them every day. It reminded me that we are never done learning and there is always something more we can do.
My last reason for loving this book is that it gave me a new perspective on life. After reading it I wanted to live the gospel with every bit of my heart. I wanted to trust God more and appreciate the things that He does for me. I wanted to do more to be a light in the lives of those around me, I wanted everyone to see the treasure that I have found, for the gospel truly is a treasure worth sharing.
To me, "More Than the Tattooed Mormon" is more than just a book, it's a tool that God has given me to enrich my life and bring me closer to Him. I'm grateful that Al has heard His call and has chosen to answer with all that she has to offer. She has been a blessing in the lives of millions of people.
Thank you Al.
You can purchase her book here:
Read Al's blog here:
Today I saw the most heart-wrenching scene I have ever seen in my life: a sister missionary from France, holding back tears and staring longingly up at the French flag on Temple Square. Dear Sister, my heart goes out to you! My eyes were wet the moment I saw your face. Never in my life have I seen such anguish! I can't imagine what you are feeling, 5,000 miles from home! I know you are trying to be strong, but I can see the pain you feel in your eyes! Oh, dear Sister, don't be afraid to cry! God Himself is shedding tears over the tragedy that has befallen your country. You are not alone! Let the tears flow, dear Sister, for we will be here to catch them! May God speak peace to your heart, and may God take care of your country!
There's a phrase that's being said a lot lately and it REALLY bugs me. When talking about different races, people say: "God doesn't see color, and neither should we."
And so here's what I have to say:
Are you serious??? Do you really think that God is colorblind? Do you really think that he doesn't see people's skin color? Do you really think that when He looks at us we're all the same? That's definitely not the God I know.
The God I know MADE color, and He made us. If your skin is black, God made you that way! If your skin is brown, God made you that way! If your skin is white, God made you that way! Of course God sees color! And the best part is, He loves it! God loves color! God loves diversity! God wants us to be unique and He wants us to see each other's uniqueness! He wouldn't have put us all here on the same planet if He didn't want us to see each other's color.
Somehow in the fight for equality, we lost individuality. I don't care who you are, where you came from, what color your skin is, or what language you speak, as long as you're proud of it. Be proud of who you are, no matter who you are! God loves you and He sees your individuality. So why shouldn't we? Why shouldn't we call people "black" or "white?" THAT'S WHO WE ARE!
I firmly believe that every single person on this planet is incredible, and I believe that they should be treated with the highest respect and honor we can give, but that doesn't mean we all need to be the same. The only way we can truly love someone for who they are is if we allow them to be who they are. Don't just mash them into a big ball with everyone else.
We need to stop trying to make everybody "equal," because we already areequal. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, written in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
Did you notice what that said? These truths are self-evident. Do you know what that means? It means we don't need to prove it. We are born equal. We are also born different. That is a fact. And that must mean that we can be equal and different at the same time.
So basically here's my point: treat people equally, but love them because they're different. If God didn't see color then He wouldn't have made rainbows.
"The Shedding Tree"
There is a forest near my home
Where through the ages trees have grown.
Tall and mighty, towards the sky
these trees have grown to please the eye.
But though they're tall and heaven bound
their roots are shallow in the ground.
They grow too quickly to give thought
to the parts that eyes see not.
For many years the trees stand tall
but just one storm can cause their fall.
And when they finally hit the ground
they split and crack with thundering sound.
And so their growth is all for naught
and all their wood is left to rot.
Now here we learn a lesson true:
that looks and status will not do.
Though fame and glory we adore
to grow up strong we need much more.
Another tree stands near my home
out in a field, it's all alone.
It is not pleasing to the eye
it's wind-worn, crooked, all awry.
But there it stands, still in its prime
this tree has stood the test of time.
While other's grew up tall and fair
this tree grew with much more care.
It knew that storms would come its way
and so it readied for that day.
When autumn came it shed its leaves
and saved its strength for greater need.
Though unattractive, cold, and bare
this tree shed its worldly care.
It grew deep roots that none could see
and through the storms they held that tree.
And when the spring had come again
it bloomed once more with pink and red.
So when it comes to you and me
often we're not much to see.
But life is not about the fruits,
more important are the roots.
Be the best that you can be
by growing like the shedding tree.
Love your little, crooked arm,
your messed up hair, your lack of charm.
You don't have to please the rest
you just have to be your best.
Grow up honest, strong, and true
but most important, just be you.
One day while serving an LDS mission in Benicia, California, my companion and I were knocking on doors looking for someone to teach. Anyone that has served a mission knows well the days of endless rejection. This was one of those days.
Near the top one particularly large hill we knocked on a door, and almost immediately we heard the sound of two young boys running to answer it. The following dialog is what we heard through the door:
(we assume they were looking through the peephole):
Younger Boy: "I want to see who it is!"
Older Boy: "I'm older so I get to see first."
Younger Boy: "I never get to see first!"
Older Boy: "You can see first next time."
(Older boy looks out)
Younger Boy: "Who is it?"
Older Boy: "I don't know, it's just a couple weirdos."
Younger Boy: "I want to see! I want to see!"
Older Boy: "I'm still looking."
Younger Boy: "Let me see! I want to see!"
Older Boy: "Okay, fine."
(Younger boy looks out)
Younger Boy: "Hey! Those aren't weirdos! Those are angels! Mom! Come look! There are angels at our door!"
Their mom came and opened the door, but when she saw us she just told us to go away. I remember walking away from that house thinking "If only she could see through the eyes of her son."
That day not a single person let us in, but what that boy said forever changed my perspective on missionary work.
Angels are messengers sent by God to declare glad tidings to the world. We usually think of them as heavenly beings, but we forget that they can be you and I. If we live good lives and do our very best to follow God, He will use us to bless the lives of many other people.
It is my prayer that each of us will seek out opportunities to love and serve others. God needs more people that he can trust as messengers of truth. He needs more of us to give Him our heart; to love Him more than anything else in this world. I promise from my own experience that He will guide you, and you will be a light in the lives of many other people.
So, if these angels do show up at your door, let them in. You have no idea how much they have sacrificed to be there. You very well may be an angel to them.
That's it! I can't take it anymore! I have to address the topic. I am absolutely SICK of how big the porn industry is getting! It's absolutely disgusting! Until now I've just sat back casually, hoping that the Fight The New Drug movement would do some good, but I now realize they can't do anything without us. It's time for us to join them. It's time for all of us to fight!
Porn is disgusting. It makes me sick. There is nothing good about it. It distorts the mind, harms the body, and ruins the soul. It's a drug more harmful than any other. PORN KILLS LOVE. That is a fact.
What an absolute tragedy it is when someone trades real love for the temporary satisfaction of porn. It literally brings me to tears when I hear of a family torn apart by it's vile influence. I can't stand to think of how many hearts have been shattered because of it.
Do you know what real love is? I mean real, lasting, meaningful love? Let me tell you. Real love is completely selfless. It awakes in you a willingness to sacrifice everything you have for that one special person. When you are in love you put their needs before your own, no matter how inconvenient or difficult those needs may be. Day or night, near or far, rain or shine, through thick and thin you are there for them. Always. Forever. No matter what.
THAT is love. THAT is what we are fighting for. THAT is what the world needs. REAL. LASTING. LOVE.
Not only is porn the opposite of love, it destroys everything that love is. It distorts the mind into thinking that love is temporary and isn't worth fighting for. Why do you think more than half of all marriages in the Unites States end in divorce? It's because we are forgetting how to truly love.
We can change this. We can be the generation that rids the world of porn. I plead with you; I'm begging you to stand and fight! We can do this! We can fight this drug! We can fight this industry! Make it known to all the world what porn really is: a love killer.
Become a fighter. Join the movement. Spread the word. Fight for love.
One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is accept God's will when everything inside of you wants the opposite. It's difficult when you try for months to make something happen and then God tells you no; that it's time to stop; that it's time to move on. It feels like my soul has been ripped from inside of me and I'm left empty; wandering without a purpose. I know that God is real and I know that he wants the best for me, but it's so freaking hard to accept! How do you move on? How do you start over? I really really really don't want to do this!....Please don't make me do it!......please......
.....ok.....I'll do it.....
I have spent years trying to forget most of the things I am about to write. I'm going to tell you about the most miserable time in my life. My experiences during this time are the single worst memories I have. The only reason I am doing this is because I feel like there is someone out there that needs to hear it. There is someone out there that needs to know how I overcame the hardest trial of my life. This story does have a happy ending, but I went through hell to get there.
So here we go.
This is me in 2004:
I was a scrawny kid just out of elementary school, headed into junior high; scared, but also excited; pretty much your average 7th grader.
I remember my first day at Elk Ridge Middle School. It took me so long to get my locker open that I was late to my first period. Once again I was your typical seventh grader sprinting through the halls with a map of the school trying to find his class. I remember that I was especially excited for this one: Tech Lab. I'd always been good at building things and now I got to do it in school! I was beyond excited. By the end of the class I was ready to take on the world. These were going to be the best years of my life, I just knew it!
But I was wrong. What happened next troubled me greatly.
For reasons unknown, every one of my friends left me. Not only would they not talk to me, but they began to tease and bully me. These were friends that I had known since kindergarten, friends that had come to my birthday parties, friends that had been there through every one of my childhood adventures. And now they were gone.
I've always been a nerdy, clumsy, somewhat introverted person. I never had any interest in sports, but give me a computer and I'd be sucked in for hours. That's just who I was and I never thought anything of it...until that day in 7th grade.
When my friends left me I began to question who I was. They were quickly becoming the "cool kids" and I was left behind. I tried fitting in, but I just couldn't. I was nerdy, clumsy, and introverted, and it was beyond my ability to do so. It wasn't long before I was officially given the title of "loner," and that was when my self-esteem took a plunge into the mud. I didn't fit in. I wasn't cool. I couldn't throw a football or hit a baseball. I didn't know how to dance and had never been to a real party. No one wanted to be around me. I began to view my strengths as negative things. I felt absolutely worthless.
The bullying continued throughout middle school and into high school. I was constantly being told that I was weird and that I wasn't cool. My lack of social skills made me an easy target because I couldn't defend myself. I just took it. I soaked it in. I believed it. I wanted it to stop, I wanted to change, but I couldn't. I did my best to stay strong but it eventually broke me.
By the time high school came I had no hope. I hated school, I hated life, and above all I hated myself. I hated who I was. Life just wasn't worth it anymore and I stopped trying. Right when grades really started to count, I failed every class. Right when I was old enough to start dating, I didn't dare talk to girls. And right when I should have began preparing to serve a mission for my church, I stopped believing in God.
When I felt that I couldn't go any lower, I began to lie to make myself seem better than I was. I began to steal to make people think I had more than I did. I rebelled against everything I had been taught because it obviously wasn't working. My life was dark and full of hate. I was miserable and there was no cure. I was alone and there was no one who cared. 11th grade started and I resolved that this was the year that I would kill myself. I just couldn't take it anymore.
But this is the part when the hero enters the story.
Junior year, 2008:
Day one of 11th grade, seventh period biology. I walked in, took my seat in the corner furthest from everyone else, put my head down and sank into my own misery. Not a minute later I heard someone sit down next to me. I didn't bother to look up to see who it was, they were probably doing it on a dare; that was one of the many ways people mocked me and I was used to it by now. To my surprise, the person said, "Hi, what's your name?" I looked up to see a girl smiling at me. Not only did she seem happy, but she was glowing. No joke. She was actually glowing. Confused, I told her my name, to which she replied, "Hi Jordan, I'm Kelsi. Is it okay if I sit here?" Still confused, I agreed.
To my even greater surprise, she sat next to me the next day, and the next, and every day after that. She talked to me like I was a human being. She asked me real questions and listened when I responded. I had never met her before that first day, but she treated me like her best friend. And every day she continued to glow.
Kelsi Richardson probably has no idea that she literally saved my life that year; I never told her all that I was going through, nor that I was planning on killing myself. I don't know if she even remembers any of this. I haven't seen her since high school. She'll probably find out through this post exactly what her kindness did for me.
Change is not easy, and very rarely is it immediate. Mine sure wasn't. Kelsi's kindness gave me hope. She showed me that I wasn't worthless. 11th grade was a tough year, but it gave me the confidence I needed to begin rebuilding my life.
Senior year, 2009-2010:
My senior year was the first time in five years that I was actually happy. I wasn't one of the "cool kids," but I was finding more confidence every day. I started to get more involved and was even the president of the school's German Club.
With my newfound confidence I tried hard to fit in. By the end of my senior year I was literally able to change my personality to fit in with just about any of the major social groups, from the jocks, to the nerds, to the emo rockers. Now that might sound like the happy ending, but it's not. High school ended and my group-hopping skills were rendered useless. Once again I didn't know who I was.
A year passed and I was finally ready to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I didn't have strong faith in God, but I had the confidence to try.
Those two years changed my life 100%. Once again, it was not immediate nor was it easy, but it was definitely worth it. On my mission I developed real social skills. Not only was I able to talk to my friends, but I was able to talk to complete strangers. As my faith in God increased, so did my ability to look beyond myself. For the first time in my life I was able to sacrifice my own desires and focus on the needs of others. It really is true, the saying that when you lose yourself in the service of others, you find yourself. I learned that I was special and unique. I have talents that I can use in many ways. For the first time in my life I actually believed in myself. I'm still nerdy, clumsy, and somewhat introverted. I still don't know how to dance and I've completely given up on an athletic career. But that's okay. That's who I am. And that's all that matters.
It's been a year since I returned from my mission and I have learned so much in that time. I tried living my life like people expected me to, but I just wasn't happy. I am a person that likes to break molds and disprove stereotypes. I don't like to just "go with the flow." I'd much rather forge my own path and do things that no one has ever done. That is who I am and that is what makes me happy.
In telling this story I purposely left out many of the details, mainly because it would take too long to write, but I will to discuss them with anyone that needs to hear them. As I said before, the reason I am writing this is because I felt like someone needed to hear it, and so to that person I say this:
You are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
You can be whatever you want to be, but in your journey of self discovery don't forget to be yourself. You have talents and strengths that people may tell you are small, but I tell you that they are amazing, and I believe in you.
Now one final thing:
On my mission I met a woman that had been beaten down by an unfair and miserable life. She was weak and had very little hope. We did everything we could to serve her. We listened to her, we prayed for her, we showed her that she wasn't worthless. One day she told us that when we came she could literally see a light around us. It was what kept her going. My thoughts turned back to that day in biology class when I saw that very same light, and how it kept me going. I realized that it was the light of Jesus Christ, shining through someone who had taken time to serve someone else.
It is my hope that you will find your place in this world, but when it comes right down to it don't be afraid to just be you.
Because you are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
This is what I live by, my motivation to be a better man: How will I be remembered?
At the end of your life don't let it be said of you: "He was late, forgetful, and disorganized. He always said he would reach his goals, but never did. His is a legacy of failure."
But let it be said instead: "He was honest and true, always keeping his word. He was a strong leader that could be trusted and relied on. He was always one to act. His is a legacy of success."
What kind of legacy will you leave behind? Remember that our decisions determine our destiny. Choose your path and never leave it.
Life's a garden. Dig it!
I wrote this poem two weeks before the end of my mission. It is my witness of the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
"Whom Shall I Send?"
My head was high, my smile proud
My heart was hard, my laughter loud.
I loved myself, and me alone
My brother lacked, I had a throne.
I saw him lonely, with a frown
To build me up, I tore him down.
I laughed and mocked his lonely stare
The pain I caused I did not care.
The praise of man, my only goal
Caused me to lie, destroyed my soul.
To change my ways, I had no thought
In my own eyes I had a lot.
I spent my life on useless things
I gave my all to worldly dreams.
Then came the day when all was lost
With nothing left I felt the cost.
The pain was great, my soul was racked
I lost my strength, my body slacked.
I fell upon my knees to pray
"Dear God" I said "take me away.
I see my sin, I cannot bear
To stand beneath thy piercing stare.
I never knew such dreadful pain
But this I know: I am to blame.
Take me now and seal my fate
I can't be saved, it is too late."
Then in my mind I saw a tree
With olive leaves, Gethsemane.
I saw a man on bended knee
His head hung low, I heard His plea:
"Thy will be done, not mine" He said
And then He fell, His body bled.
From every pour how great the pain!
I heard His voice, He called my name.
I looked and saw another tree
Up on a hill called Calvary.
I saw Him there up through the fog
The Son of Man, the Son of God.
The King of Kings, a crown of thorns
With nothing more was He adorned.
I looked at Him, He looked at me
And then to God, I heard His plea:
"It is now done, I've paid the cost
That this poor soul will not be lost.
I've done the work thou gavest me
Now take my spirit back to thee."
His head hung down and then He died
With nail-marked hands and wounded side.
Back on my knees I changed my plea:
"How could this all have been for me?
I am not worthy of thy love
Thou art so great, the God above."
And then the voice I heard before:
"I came to earth among the poor.
The broken heart I came to mend
I am He whom God did send.
To show the world He loved it so
I told my Father 'I will go.'"
"Oh Lord my God I know it's true
You really lived and suffered too.
But if the price was really paid
And if you suffered on that day
Why must I still feel such pain?
What victory does my suffering gain?"
Another voice came in reply
My Heavenly Father told me why.
He said "My son, I called you here
To feed my sheep and have no fear.
You had to know what Christ went through
I have a work for you to do.
But pride had filled your foolish heart
And you could not fulfill your part.
Your head was high, your smile proud
Your heart was hard, your laughter loud.
You loved yourself and you alone
Your brother lacked, you had a throne.
You saw him lonely, with a frown
To build yourself, you tore him down.
You laughed and mocked his lonely stare
The pain you caused you did not care.
The praise of man, your only goal
Caused you to lie, destroyed your soul.
To change your ways you had no thought
In your own eyes you had a lot.
You spent your life on useless things
You wasted all on worldly dreams.
You are my servant and my son
There is a battle to be won.
I have some sheep for you to find
They lost their way, got left behind.
They need to know what Christ went through
And so to find them I sent you.
I need your might, your mind, your strength
I need a heart that has been changed.
So one last time I'll ask again
To these lost sheep, whom shall I send?"
"Oh Lord, my God, I love thee so
To find thy sheep, I will go.
I give thee all, my very will
I am so small, I know that still.
But now I know what Christ went through
For Him, O Lord, I'll go and do."
My name is Jordan Michael Anderson. My life's mission is to do as much good as possible.