Monday, April 28, 2014

Week 37 - Another side of the Atonement

Iakwe everyone!
Another good week in Hawaii. Our old branch president moved to the Marshall Islands, so we had our new branch president called and sustained this past sunday. He's a little Japanese guy who served his mission in the Marshall Islands. When our stake president was introducing him, he mentioned that his mom is from Japan and teaches Japanese, and his father is Japanese raised in Hawaii. He said that if there was anyone he would have picked to servein Japan, it would have been this guy, but instead he served in the Marshall Islands, and apparently there was a reason for it because he's needed as the branch president of our branch.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about a talk I read about the Atonement. It was a really good talk about how the Atonement isn't only for sinners like we most often talk about, but it's also for saints. Probably the most incredible aspect of the atonement is how we can be clensed from our sins, because without that, all of us would be lost, cast off forever. But the atonement is also meant to help the saints become better. This is achieved through the strengthening aspect of the atonement.
It talked about how once we come to better understand the atonement, we view differently how it applies to our lives. The story was shared of Nephi when his brothers took him and bound him. Most people would have prayed to God asking Him to deliver them from their circumstances. But instead, Nephi prayed for the strength to break the bands, or in other words, instead of praying to have his circumstances changed, he asked for the strength to deal with the circumstances he had been given.
Another example is shared of the Nephites in bondage to the Lamanites. The Nephites prayed for deliverance, but instead of miraculously delivering them, the Lord lightened their burdens that they could not feel them upon their backs. He gave them the strength to deal with thier circumstances, then once they had overcame he delivered them out of captivity.
I feel like so often when we're given opposition we want it to be over and ask for the Lord to change our circumstances. But in the scriptures we learn that the Lord will never give us more than we can handle, and that every trial we go through will be to strengthen us and be for our good.
I know it's definitely something I can work on, and something that would help us all develop a closer relationship with our Savior if next time we're faced with a trial, to try asking for the strength to overcome, rather than asking for the easy way out.
I love you all and thanks for all your support!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 36 - Another Week In Paradise

Aloha everyone!
So with Easter being this past sunday, I wanted to talk a little bit about the significance of our Savior's crucifixion and resurrection. I feel like we talk about these a lot in the church, but don't take the time to reflect on the importance of these events and how they relate to us.
One of my favorite stories to relate to the atonement is the story of the bicycle. I'm sure it's one that most of us have heard, or at least heard a variation of it. In the story it talks about a little girl who approached her dad saying that she wanted to buy a bike. Her father told her that if she saved up as much money as she could for a month, that he would cover the rest and they would go out and buy a bike together. So the girl saved and saved the whole month and at the end of the month went to her dad ready to buy a bike. When her dad asked her how much money she had saved, she proudly held out 41 cents. Her dad told her that he would keep his promise and together they went to the store to buy the bike.
The small amount she had worked to hard to save up wasn't even close to being able to buy the bike, but with her dad's willingness to cover the gap, to fill in at those places where she fell short, she was able to attain the bike.
Most times I've heard this story in relation to the church people relate it to how we do all we can, and then we're saved by the Savior's grace. Although this is true, along the lines of this story I like to think of it as the Savior already bought the bike, and the money He has us work for is to help us value the bike.
An important thing to remember is that the Atonement isn't something the Savior wanted to do, rather it was something he was willing to do. In the Garden of Gethsemane he cried out to His father "let this cup pass" or in other words, isn't there another way that this can be accomplished without me having to go through with this? But Christ says "Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook". The Atonement was the hardest thing any person on this earth has ever gone through, and I'm just grateful that Christ loves us enough to go through what He did.
In addition to paying the price for our sins, the Savior also broke the bands of death for us.
By being resurrected on that Easter morning, he allowed for each of us to be resurrected. He gave that free gift to all of us, the ability to live again. Giving us hope.
Whenever we teach the plan of salvation to investigators we emphasize that Christ is the key to it all. He is central to the plan and without him, there would be no plan. And even greater than what he did for us, is what he does for us. He lives! And continues to help us, comfort us, guide us so that we can all become glorified and return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father. I'm so grateful for my Savior and for what he did for me. He truly loves us and I hope all of you feel of, and know of that love.
Elder Merrill

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Week 35 - More Conference?

Family and friends, aloha!
Sorry to give another email about conference, but it does only come twice a year. Plus general conference is like Christmas for missionaries. It's all we can talk about before and after it happens.
This past week in district meeting, we went around the room and shared what we liked about a certain talk and why we liked it. Really brought me back to the good 'ol seminary days.
The talk that I chose to share was one from the priesthood session. I think the talk was given by the second counselor in the sunday school presidency, and I chose to focus on one story in particular from his talk.
He shared the story of a father who experienced tough trials as his son began to turn away from the church. It started in high school and he just continued in this downward spiral. The father had always hoped that his son would serve a mission, but his hopes were dashed when his son announed to their family that he would be married in a few months, not in the temple.
This father felt prompted to tell his son to get his patriarchal blessing before and pleaded with his son to do this. His son finally agreed and receiving his patriarchal blessing a little while later, but insisted that he go by himself. When he returned home after receiving this blessing, his father said that he was changed. Something was different about the boy who left, and the one who came back. He took his fiancee outside to talk. His father recalls looking through the window to see them embraced and wiping away eachother's tears. He came back inside and shared his experience with his father.
He said that during his blessing, he had a glimpse of what he was like in the premortal world in the war in heaven. How valiant he was in persuading his brothers and sisters to follow Christ's plan. He basically said once he realized how much of a force for good he had been, how could he not do all that he could to once again save his brothers and sisters and go on a mission.
In the scriptures we learn that the earth was the only place wicked enough to crucify their Savior. But we have also been told that in contrast, the earth is home to some of the most valiant of God's children, and that he has saved his most valiant and strongest for these days.
A prophet said that after this life, those pioneer ancestors who crossed the freezing plains will commend us on our staying true in the midst of opposition.
We're all here at this time for a reason. How then, recognizing how valiant we must have been, could we not do all that we can to live the gospel and share it with all those around us?
 I love this work and know that no other is more true.
Aloha, Elder Merrill

Monday, April 7, 2014

week 34 - Suffering for Him

Aloha everyone.
I hope you all had the opportunity to watch conference this past weekend, because it was amazing! It seemed like every talk gave an answer to something I've been facing, or a question that I've had. But the one talk that I wanted to focus on, was Elder Holland's talk in the saturday morning session.
He began with the story of a sister missionary who had a bad encounter with a man in the town square. He threw food at them, spit at them, and then proceeded to swear at them. She said she wanted to grab this man and do something to him, but she didn't. Elder Holland went on to say that she had joined a circle who, with others, have experienced Christ's suffering and borne His cross.
As a missionary I don't claim the privilege of knowing exactly how Christ felt and suffering all that He did, but I feel I can at least say I've walked a couple of steps with the cross on my back. Experienced a few moments in the Garden of Gethsemane.
We, as members of the church are asked to do exactly this. As Elder Holland said, Live the gospel. Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.
As members of this church in the world today, it's seldom easy to do what we are asked to do. The world becomes a place that is less and less respectful of someone devoted to living a religious life. But in the end it's always worth it.
He spoke of how many churches look only for a God who will speak smooth, soothing, and easy things unto them. They don't want a prophet or God who "binds them down" and cricitized their wrong doings. He said "talk about man creating God in his own image".
I can personally testify how important it is to live gospel standards. Being here in Hawaii it is especially tough for the youth where morals are loose and temptations abound. Many of the youth can't stand up to the pressure, and fall. But those who stay true to what they believe and take a stand are the same ones who find true happiness.
You can't find happiness outside the plan of happiness. It's easy sometimes to say the grass looks greener on the other side. It seems more fun to not obey. But it is only through obeying all of our Father's commandments that we can find happiness and eventually, eternal life.
Our job, or duty, as members of this church is to be disciples of Christ. A disciple is simply someone who exemplifies Christ, who lives His teachings. Being a discple means you are willing to "stand as a witness of Him at all times, and in all things, and in all places, even unto death". Now Christ rarely requires us to offer our lives in His service, but he does ask us to make some sacrifices. And as long as we are willing, the reward will far outweigh that which we give.
I know that living the gospel will always be worth it. And that if we are willing to suffer for Him, we can lay up our treasures in heaven. So stand.
kon iakwe,
Elder Merrill