It’s your turn to rise again: A letter to a sinner

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all our lemmony things

I thought of you today.

It’s a day before Easter Sunday and I was finally able to see “Son of God” in theaters. A fitting time, if you ask me.

Throughout the movie I tended to focus on a particular person: The sinner.

Judas, who betrayed Jesus all for a handful of coins and ended his life because of the shame of it. Peter, who denied Christ three times and couldn’t even bear to sit at the foot of the cross because of his shame. The woman caught in the act of adultery, who cried at Christ’s feet and expected nothing except a stone.

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The woman in the crowd who reached out to simply touch the hem of His garment–hoping that it would simply make her clean again. The pharisees, who within their doubt and corrupted laws, hammered nails through the purest hands that ever came to earth and then fell to their knees when…

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The Guardian of an Angel #BecauseofHim

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To write a sort of preface, this short story is a combination of real life events and perspective gathered through practice of the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had an experience that allowed this story to be created in my mind to accurately depict one of the numerous amounts of blessings available because of Jesus Christ and what He did for us. And when I accepted the Easter Challenge to post about the Savior and things that can come to pass because of Him, I felt it was time to release this short story. I’d like to thank Kelsey Warthen, who helped with the editing, information, some wonderful additions and proofreading, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to be able to write this, to be able to feel the truth that is presented in this perspective. #BecauseofHim Please read, share, comment and reflect on the blessings available by and through Christ!

“Johnathan Castilian is a noble man,” his closest friends would say to describe him.

“I couldn’t ask for a better husband. I already have him,” his wife would say.

“If I need help, John is the first one to come,” his neighbors and co-workers would state on numerous occasions.

He was a best friend, the moral compass in many instances, and a person that anyone would be proud to associate with.

Despite all the praise for his efforts, Johnathan was unsatisfied. He had feelings of inadequacy which he kept to himself because he couldn’t quite explain them. These hidden feelings were always very strong. But they felt the strongest every time he tended to his 1 year old son – his only son – who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Up until that last year, Johnathan had never felt so incapable. He was raised in New York and was taught to take all situations and find the best in them. He made this attitude a guiding principle in his life with his wife and two daughters. Then Alex was born. Everything changed. Johnathan tried desperately to hold on to hope, but his hope and strength and breath were seized by the crushing vice grips of helplessness.

The doctor explained Alex’s condition to them. He explained that Alex would need dozens of surgeries just to stay alive. There was fluid on Alex’s brain. His body was so tiny. Johnathan heard the words but could not see how his small son, his perfect son, his beautiful son could have something so hard ahead of him. Johnathan and his wife lived in and out of the hospital for months and then they finally got to take their little boy home. The doctor explained that Alex would live his life in wheelchairs. Alex would need special beds and braces. They went to classes and support groups. Johnathan learned how to how to care for Alex. He followed what he learned with a robot-like quality of obedience. He refused to make a mistake, and when something went wrong, he felt it was always his fault. It wasn’t long before he began to feel that the reason his son had such a condition was because he had done something wrong. Something made him rationalize that the condition was a direct result of his own mistakes. He felt as if this was some sort of punishment. He felt like he must have done something wrong and now his sweet boy was paying the price.

He went to church. He heard the stories of miracles. People were born paralyzed and Jesus healed them of their conditions. He envisioned a day where his faith would allow his son to walk. But every time he looked at his son in a medical helmet or watched his wife hold Alex’s head up from falling too far, his faith would wane.

One Sunday, the teacher spoke of the power of prayer. He said that all God’s children have a right to answers to their questions. His chest leaped at the mention of an answer. He felt his faith strengthen again. “If I pray with a sincere heart, I can know what the Lord intends for my son!” He thought. Though it was hard for him to admit, he wanted to know if this was his fault. He wanted to know if he had done something in the past that had caused his son to suffer.

The next day, he stepped hastily out of the room where Alex slept. His insides were writhing in anxiety for what he was about to do. He kissed his wife gently and told her he had to step out to take care of something but he would be back before she went to sleep. He headed out the door with a place in mind. Behind a small myrtle grove, which had been in the Castilian family for three generations, there was a small clearing. This was Johnathan’s favorite place to think and to pray. It was so peaceful. He walked quickly in the cool evening air. He knelt and tried to speak but the words caught in his throat. He swallowed hard, determined to seek the answers to his most terrifying question. He started to speak and this time his voice, though shake, quietly sounded in the night. He shared his burdens and feelings with God.

“I have done everything that I know that would help me draw closer to thee,” he said, choking. “I did all I could because I wanted to be responsible for one of your sons. I’ve loved your daughters that you’ve sent me. But I knew that if I could do everything possible to show thee my desire for a son, thou wouldst grant me this. Now I have him, this precious boy…”

At this point during his prayer, he entered into a new depth of sincerity. The emotions began to take over. Tears forced their way down his cheeks and he could no longer maintain his composure. For the longest time he kept these troubled feelings to himself, hoping they would go away. Now, as he knelt before his God, he could no longer hold it in.

“Father, I have him. I’ve wanted him for so long and now I have him. He can’t speak. He can’t walk. He can’t open his hands long enough for me to hold them…” Johnathan said. He was no longer trying to hold back his emotions. In that clearing, he didn’t have to be strong. He didn’t have to paint on a smile and tell his wife or his little girls that everything would be okay. He didn’t know. He didn’t know that everything was going to be okay and he couldn’t honestly see any outcome where everything would be okay. Alex was broken. It was not okay. It was not okay at all. His shoulders sagged as he felt all the tension and worries release from his body.

“I have chosen to take care of him to the best of my ability. But I cannot help but wonder, Father, did I cause this? Am I to blame for his condition?” Johnathan spoke so freely, he couldn’t tell if what he was saying was fair to himself. It went against what he taught, but the thought of it ate away at him, cancerous and unyielding. There was to be no release from the misunderstanding till he asked for wisdom in faith.

After mentioning one more time in prayer how much he loved his son, he ceased speaking and sobbed silently to himself. The guilt from his feelings of inadequacy he confused for being ungrateful. And the longer he reflected on it, the more he felt that what he had said was incorrect.

The feelings of guilt were suddenly dissipated and a comfortable warmth filled Johnathan’s chest. He raised his head and looked into the sky.

The feeling in his chest gradually spread until it filled his whole body and he knew that his prayer had been heard. He turned his attention to the strengthening warmth coming from within. The feeling helped him realize that this was divinely planned from the beginning, orchestrated by a loving all-knowing being who understood the trial, and knew Johnathan was capable of passing through it. As Johnathan focused and listened, he heard a voice.

“Do not forget the miracle you already have been given. I’ve sent you an angel. I’ve sent you my angel and he may not be able to do all those things. But he can still smile.”

Johnathan thought back to the times when he would feed his son and see him grin from ear to ear. When he would sing and Alex could not stop laughing. The moments when he would say hi after being at work and Alex would switch from his normal curious face to one of pure joy.

Johnathan stood up from the ground and looked in the direction of his house. Holding his hand to his chest and feeling the comfort from within, he said out loud,

“Then I will remember his smile.”

Johnathan did just that. As he cared for Alex, he watched for that smile. He looked forward to his son’s wonderful beaming face. With ever smile and ever laugh Johnathan’s feelings of inadequacy left. The guilt left as he focused his efforts on watching Alex’s joy. And there were moments, too sacred to mention, that Heavenly Father would allow Johnathan to know that Alex was a miracle.

Three more years passed and complications took Alex’s life. They mourned but Johnathan felt no despair. He was sad to see his precious boy go, but he knew if he did all he could to return to God, he’d see Alex again. He held onto those precious memories, especially the memories of Alex’s smile.

Those memories got Johnathan through all the tests and temptations till he crossed the veil himself at the age of 87.

From the room where he passed away, led by a man robed in the most exquisite white, Johnathan could not describe the feelings he had as he saw family members greeting him, shaking his hand, hugging him. They all thanked him for his hard work and diligence in following Jesus Christ. He met aunts and uncles, grandparents, and soon he began to meet people he only knew by name through written record and books. While the crowd of relatives flocked around him to greet him into the new setting of life, Johnathan could see a being, surrounded by the most brilliant light, descending a staircase and parting his family members in order to reach him.

The incandescent individual walked closer to Johnathan, freeing the space around him until they were the only two facing each other. The visitor’s hair, figure and clothing was illumined by the most incredible light, emanating a beauty beyond words. His face, form and stature was perfect, and there was not a single defect that could be seen anywhere. Glorious beyond anything Johnathan had seen while on the other side, the visitor rendered Johnathan speechless. Before he could say anything, the radiant being fell to his knees.

He threw his arms around Johnathan, buried his face and wept. After a moment, this magnificent being looked up, choking on his words, and said two simple syllables.

“Thank you.”

Then he smiled.

I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind.

  • Jeffery R. Holland

A MM&B Night – Moon, Mars, and Burglars

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Two blog posts in one day? I must be down with the flu or something. Or two consecutive life changing events inspired by gospel understanding principles makes this a special occasion.

I had the chance to catch the lunar eclipse that took place where I live at 2 A.M.

And almost catch a thief in the process of breaking and entering.

My sister and I had made an early decision to see the first total lunar eclipse for this year, and there was a special bonus because it happened the same night as the closest approach of Mars to Earth in years.

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon is full and passes through part or all of the Earth’s shadow.

So the Red Planet and Blood Moon shone together. It was absolutely breathtaking. A powerful reminder of the wonders and marvels that this creation that was made specifically for us, is capable for us.

Don’t you know that? All these wonderful events, all these special phenomena that take place on the face, and outside the face of this earth, is specifically made for us. How special is that?

Sadly enough, as marvelous as it was, it didn’t instill the reverence that it has in the heart of one man I saw that same night.

After I had made several attempts to get my sister’s glasses from her room, she reported to me the suspicious appearance of a man who was walking down the street. I believed it was a mere runner or perhaps another stargazer, such as ourselves.

But as I was taking photos, she said softly, “there he is again.”

And I looked, stopping dead in my tracks.

The man was crouched, weaving in between the pockets of darkness that were made by the neighbor’s car off of the porch light, attempting to either break into the vehicle, or the house itself.

It didn’t take long for the both of us to figure out what was going on. And attempting my very best to not terrify my sister (I have no images to hold, I was truly fearful) I called 911 and explained the situation.

The man dressed in black took off running before the cops came to find him. And we were pretty upset.

But nothing feels better than to hear a police officer thank you, and tell you that you just stopped a burglary.

Lessons from this?

First, trust in the Lord, and act. If you see something going on that shouldn’t be happening, then do what you can to fix it. This includes calling in on suspicious activity. Each and every single one of us is engaged in a good cause, to better this society. One of those ways is allowing those who descend to the pits of criminal activity to find penance and redeem themselves by paying in full.

Second, don’t attempt a robbery during an astronomical event. Chances are, there will be people watching.

  • Jeremy Unitt

Playing the Ones Who Prepared the Way – 2014 Stake Youth Conference Pioneer Trek

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First of all, I definitely have to apologize for my lack of stories, for some strange reason I found myself not having the opportunity to share my stories of the special events in life due to, well, life.

As I was asked to participate in my stake youth conference, I felt it would be the perfect opportunity to redeem myself and try to get my writing back on track for all of those who actually find my life interesting.

Or at the least bit, a place they can draw some much needed light from.

As my primary goal in life – or at least the one I’ve established for myself – is that of inspiring others to achieve their full potential and worth, to grasp the light that is available everyday

Being asked to participate in youth conference was a beautiful privilege, a chance to make my purpose and intention fulfilled in part for the youth in my geographical area.

And I dressed to be a missionary from frontier era America of the late 1830s-40s, to play the character of a missionary serving in frontier America asked to inspire the participants of the pioneer trail to participate in missionary labors.

The subjects were varied, and to me and my companion’s delight, quite inspired by the Spirit and the needs of the individuals participating in the conference. We spoke of gaining a testimony, setting goals and preparing to serve the Lord, the role of spiritual gifts (see my last blog article on spiritual gifts) and shared my most touching missionary stories.

Reflecting on both the missionary past of the church as well as my own occupations in the labor was a priceless gift to give the weekend for, and I know I’m a bit stronger in understanding, and feeling, how the mission has affected my life.

Truly those men of the 1830s were some blessed honored pioneers.

So what to get from this post? Don’t forget the role the people of the past have on your future. Don’t forget the sacrifices they’ve made. Don’t forget the challenges they went through to allow you to be where you are today.

Instead, remember.

Remember and honor. Make decisions, and apply the stories you read of forefathers and ancestors. They did what they did for you. So you could live life the way you do now.

If you feel your life is not in a state that it should be, then change it. You now become the pioneer. You might not make it good for you, but make it good for those that will follow your footsteps. Children, the next generation, etc. Prepare the way for those that will come after you.

And I can promise that the feeling you will get for it, for being able to make a way, prepare a way for your future generations to accomplish their full potential, is beyond words to describe. Absolutely beautiful.

  • Jeremy Unitt

Reading the Scriptures – No Pain NO GAIN (#8PagesADay)

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Throughout the ages of the world it has been common instruction from leaders of the Church to encourage us to read our scriptures.

Frankly, however, it’s not the easiest thing.

I love reading my scriptures. I set the goal to do so daily. In fact, there’s a current challenge I was issued and have issued, to read the Book of Mormon 8 pages a day, to prepare and be finished by conference.

(#8PagesADay on Facebook)

But even I struggle with it, because for one reason or another, focusing on the word of God takes some concentrated effort. 

And it’s gotten me to think, why is it that the best things in life are the hardest:

Why is it so gross to be healthy?

Why does it hurt to exercise?

Why is it so expensive to save energy? 

And it goes for the word of God as well. So many people now and days struggle with finding the time to just sit down and ponder over a passage of inspired text, perhaps the greatest place they could go for answers to their question. They are just too busy for that.

On Facebook, a young man posted that his faith was waning and his trust in God weakening. When concerned readers posted suggestions to help this young man restore his faith, the most suggested comment was reading the scriptures.

His reply: I don’t understand them.

I felt a desire to cry when I read that. From that I wanted to find out what exactly is the reason the best books in existence – so diligently prepared for us in this era of confusion and craziness, sealed with the blood of martyrdom, and carried and trusted upon from generation to generation – is just so hard to read?

I found this quote a while back that captured my attention: 

One must prospect through and dig into the scriptures like a miner searching for precious metal. Scattered here and there are nuggets, some pure, and some alloyed with other doctrines. Occasionally one strikes a rich vein which will yield all that you are willing to earn, for the scriptures do not explain nor interpret themselves.

I’ve never mined before. I did a dig for fossils back when I was like 8, and that was some extensive work. I remember the digging through sand and sifting with my little pail, and everytime I bagged a fossil, despite all the hard labor to get it, I found myself gripped by the most fascinating and special feeling of success as if I unearthed some lost treasure worth millions. Even if it was a simple ammonite.

Makes me think back to those times when I played The Legend of Zelda and I would have Link reach into the treasure chest full of light and pull out something he really needed. And his face was always one of wonder. 

Now that was sand, and it was hard work. I could only imagine earth. Or the infinite patience required for panning through rivers. 

And as I thought about it, I found myself led to consider one of the more earlier verses of “hard work” we have in the scriptures. 

Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread

Cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread

Sorrow? Cursed? That’s all sort of depressing isn’t it? How the good things in life are hard?

Well, sorrow is the English noun that was used to describe the Hebrew word atsav, meaning to labor, toil, sweat, do something very hard.

We also have to remember this:

The record says “the ground” was cursed, not Adam. Then the Lord added “for thy sake.” This means for his benefit; also for your benefit and mine.

The laws of this mortal sphere are established by a just and loving God, and are not intended to be vengeful acts of disappointment. 

Like one leader presiding over the mission that includes my town said:

It’s the hard that makes it great! 

It’s been scientifically proven that the human body is better able to retain healthy organs and functions, and a very strong immune system, when patterns of stress-recovery such as hard work is experienced. Work is essential to physical health, so why is the spirit any different? As it has been revealed in the truths of the Restoration:

There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure.

Spiritual health comes from spiritual hard work. I feel that’s why reading the scriptures is hard. It’s like trying to punch through a wall to get to the other side where you know there’s something good for you waiting. 

Sure it’s going to hurt, but the healing process is so much more glorious, even as you hold that thing you were diligently looking for in your protective grasp – the answer to your most profound questions. And once your spirit is healed, through that stress-recovery process (you could call that prayer or partaking of the sacrament), it’s so much stronger for the harder things that might come. 

So, after you read this post, do your spirit a favor and set a reading schedule. You can participate in the current one right now, or set one that works better to your needs.

If you agree with me, share this post with your friends with the phrase: PUNCH A WALL, GET A TREASURE.

That might get them interested. 

Also, hashtag your posts! I want to see the conversations going on about the 8 Pages A Day Challenge! 

Comment, like, follow, get excited, read the scriptures! 

– Jeremy Unitt

P.S. Coffee is NOT good for you. Scriptures are a better dieting choice tenfold.

Footnotes

  • First Quote: Boyd K. Packer, A Tribute to Women – Ensign July 1989
  • Second Quote: Genesis 3:17-19 and Moses 4:23-25 Cross Reference – Bible with Restoration Scripture
  • Third Quote: Eldred G. Smith, Opposition in Order to Strengthen Us – Ensign October 1973
  • Fourth Quote: President Thurston, How to Prepare For A Mission – Texas Dallas-Fort Worth Mission July 2007 – July 2010
  • Fifth Quote: D&C 131:7

Book of Mormon Reading Request – From Friday/Saturday to Conference in April

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Today I was issued a challenge from a good friend that has a lot of potential:

“Starting on Friday or Saturday, start the Book of Mormon over and read 8 pages a day. That will have you finishing it right at General Conference in April.”

Not only will it gear you for personal revelation, this activity is actually going to help my friend out with a fellowshipping activity she is conducting. She wants to show her friend she’s inviting back to church that she’s not the only one preparing for Conference by reading the Book of Mormon.

Who’s up for it? 8 pages a day!

Comment below if you are ready to take the reading challenge!  And if you are, tag a blog post 8 Pages A Day or put #8PagesADay or #pray4laurie on your Facebook shares to read from others taking the challenge!

– Jeremy Unitt

Damages of Misunderstanding: The Pope Francis Fraud

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Pope Francis Condemns Racism And Declares That “All Religions Are True” At Historic Third Vatican Council.

Today, I came across a news post on my Home feed that was shared with two friends of mine.

This link was in Spanish, and was titled “No hay fuego en el infierno; Adán y Eva no son reales”, expone el Papa Francisco. on the Yucatán Hoy news webpage.

The story on the Yucatán Hoy page was published on the 10th, Friday of last week, and a member of my faith posted it on Tuesday, which led to 3 shares, 2 of those shares ended up on my wall post today. I then, without the slightest attempt to verify the information, shared it with a friend of mine, and told my Dad about it over the phone.

Can you see how nightmarish a misunderstanding can become through today’s capacity to share information?

The original post comes from another WordPress user running a site called Diversity Chronicle, who posted the article December 5, 2013. I have put the original post for the sake of readers who want to read the original account. There’s a disclaimer on the blog, saying that the content on the site is largely satirical. The blogger says:

I created this blog for my own personal amusement.

But at what cost? He may not have had any intentions to promote misunderstanding. But his blog post went big and all of December was in a uproar till the Vatican had a chance to silence it January 13th.

That was about a month ago, and the word is still being cycled through the internet about the misunderstanding.  

Here’s what the Vatican News page posted on it:

Dear friends, we have been notified by many readers that there are stories currently circulating all over the Internet spreading statements by Pope Francis with regard to a number of issues, concerning the Bible’s content, the relations between religions, the renewal of the Church’s doctrine, and even the calling of an alleged “Third Vatican Council”, which are FALSE. These statements were spread by unknown sources. Therefore, we would like to alert all readers to be careful and not to trust too soon news about the Pope that are not from the Vatican.

One of the reasons my blog was designed was to share light about the concepts of the Latter-Day Saint faith, so those who come across misunderstandings can come here and read and be enlightened rather than confused.

That doesn’t mean I’ll let misunderstandings about other faiths or anything else continue in circulation.

This reminds me of what Barack Obama recently said about blogging:

I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.

I ask you all as readers, to take this negative energy that is building up from blogging, and turn this new information sharing activity, this chance to be more open and share our lives with each other and connect and our digital fingerprints which have such lasting effects on our soul, and use it to build up goodness and light on all subjects.

Pope Francis did not say anything that was mentioned in that satirical post. But who’s to say the amount of damage upon a person’s faith it may have created?

On a Catholic forum page I visited I found these two thought-provoking questions I have decided to redirect to my readers. And this goes not just for this story, but for all stories, all faiths. The fact that the LDS faith is so generally misunderstood, those readers that share my belief system will recognize the damages of misunderstanding in their own lives and the lives of others, to include the loss of friends and family support, ridicule and shame.

So an effort to be more civil and seek more rather than aimlessly post like Obama says, I hope readers of this post will recognize the dangers that come from not checking your sources and discrediting a worldview!

Read these questions, ponder and comment below your thoughts! (From the Catholic Forum, thread link below)

What are some of the ways for us to continue our Apologetics in the face of such obvious distractions designed to confuse, misinform or muddy the waters?

How do we engage social media like Facebook to charitably assist those well-meaning people who do not check facts behind stories before they quote, share or comment on them?

Footnotes