Saturday, May 14, 2016

2016-05-15 President's Message

Dear Sisters and Elders,

Sister Ostler and I are really enjoying our interviews with you during this transfer period. You bring with you a spirit of faith, humility and love for the Lord that is inspiring to us. Thank you for serving with all of your hearts. Thank you for striving to become consecrated missionaries. You inspire us. You are doing a wonderful job in your calling.

Even though we are all trying very hard to do the Lord's work, we still have weaknesses. One of these weaknesses is that we sometimes criticize, or make fun of, others who are trying to improve. When we criticize others who are working hard to improve, we become a tool of Satan. We hurt the faith of others, and we weaken our efforts to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are speaking evil of someone who has been called by God. This is a serious mistake.
Why do we sometimes do this?

-Is it because we feel badly that we ourselves are not trying as hard as we should?

-Is it because their actions make us feel pressure to improve... and we want to be a bit lazy?

-Is it because we think it is funny to criticize and we are trying to make a joke?

-Is it because we afraid that we are not strong enough or capable enough to do better in our lives?

Sometimes members might say: "Those people are too strict in living the gospel. I want to have some fun in my life. I want to keep all of the big commandments but I don't want to be a so strict." Some people feel that "keeping all of the rules" is not necessary or is too hard. They feel that they can make their own rules.

I have even heard several times that some obedient, hard-working missionaries are called "Robots."  Only someone who is spiritually immature would say such a thing.

I invite you to consider some things...

The first king of united Israel was a man names Saul. He was chosen by the Lord through the prophet Samuel. At the beginning of his reign, Saul was humble and obedient to the Lord. The Lord loved him and so did Samuel. But then the time came that he decided that he would make exceptions because he knew better.

In 1 Samuel 13, Saul had gathered together an army to fight the Philistines. The prophet told him to wait for him before going to battle so that Samuel could offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel was late in coming so Saul went ahead and did the sacrifice himself. Samuel arrive right afterward and asked him why he disobeyed the Lord.

Saul had three excuses: 1-The people are scattering from me. (The people were getting impatient and were starting to go back home.) 2-You didn't come on time. 3- The enemy army is gathering. Samuel then told him that "thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart..."

The Lord expected Saul to be exactly obedient. When he made up his own rules, with his own excuses, he lost the blessings.

Later, Saul evidently received another chance, but he was still not exactly obedient. In 1 Samuel 16 the prophet gave Saul specific instructions for a battle, including the direction to destroy all of their enemies and their cattle. Instead, Saul's army killed everyone except for the enemy king, and they kept the best of the cattle alive. When the prophet heard about Saul's disobedience he cried/prayed to the Lord all night for Saul. When Samuel asked Saul if he had followed the Lord's commandments Saul lied and said: "I have performed the commandment of the Lord." Then Samuel asked: "What meaneth this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" Saul thought he could lie about his disobedience, but the prophet knew.

Saul then made excuses. He blamed "the people" and then he said that the real reason they hadn't followed the commandments was because he had a better idea--he would offer everything as a sacrifice to the Lord at a later time. This probably wasn't true.

Then Samuel gave him this famous instruction: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."

The Lord gives us the commandments to bless us. We are blessed BY keeping the commandments and we are blessed FOR keeping the commandments. Exact obedience to the Lord brings all of these blessings.

Think of the example of Nephi. Was he a "robot?" His brothers criticized him and complained because of his exact obedience to the Lord. Nephi had the courage to stand alone. He had the courage to do what was right even when his brothers physically abused him. He had the courage to do what is right even when it seemed impossible. If they had known the word "robot" they would have used this in criticizing him. But Nephi and millions of people that have come after him have been blessed by his obedience. We have the scriptures because of his obedience. His people stayed close to the Lord for hundreds of years because of his obedience. The same thing will happen for you. If you choose obedience...exact obedience...obedience even when others complain about it or joke about you...then you and your family and those you teach will be blessed for hundreds of years to come.

Nephi said: "I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded..." (1 Nephi 3:7) When they had a setback, he said: "As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us." (1 Nephi 3:15) After almost being killed as he tried to follow the commandments, and after his brothers beat him, he still said "Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord..." (1 Nephi 4:1)

Later in the Book of Mormon, the most legendary warriors--the warriors who fought against impossible odds and saved their nation--were successful because "they did obey and observe to perform EVERY word of command with EXACTNESS; yea and even according to their faith it was done unto them..." (Alma 57:21)

I imagine that there could have been people who made fun of them for being "robots"...for being so strict in their obedience to every single command. But, to quote another Book of Mormon prophet: "Fools mock but they shall mourn..." (Ether 12:26)

Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration had to learn this same lesson. He was a good man, a great man, but he was young when he was called. He wanted to help others believe what he was doing in the translation of the Book of Mormon. When he succumbed to peer pressure to share some of the translated documents, the documents were lost. (One of the things I love about the Prophet Joseph is that he never hid his weaknesses!) The Lord chastised him with these words:

"For although a man man have many revelations, and have power to do many might works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him...You should not have feared man more than God...You should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary and he would have been with you in every time of trouble." (DC 3: 4-8)

Joseph later said: "I made this my rule: WHEN THE LORD COMMANDS, DO IT. To get salvation we must not only do SOME things, but EVERYTHING which the Lord has commanded. The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what he tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular, I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it."

Jesus Christ is our perfect example. He said:

"I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things...I do always those things that please Him...I honor my Father." (John 8:28,29,49) He was faithful and exact in His obedience to God.

Never criticize someone who is trying. Never look down on someone who is striving to live his or her life with exact obedience to the Lord. Never use the word "robot" or "aspiring" or anything else to make fun of someone who is trying. Pray for them. Encourage them...and then look inside your own heart... Look inside and ask the questions the newly humbled Paul asked: "Who art thou Lord?...and he trembling and astonished said, Lord what wilt thou have me do?" (Acts 9:5-6)

May the Lord bless each of us as we humbly see to follow the Lord with exactness and as we love and lift each other along the way. May we adopt the motto: "When the Lord commands, do it."
Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler