Welcome! I am Samuel Young, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This website, previously a blog about my experiences as a missionary, is about my post-mission life. If you have questions about anything, feel free to ask me! You can send me a Facebook message or leave a comment. The things that I write or post here are my own views and are not authorized or official statements of the Church. Make it a wonderful day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Addiction recovery

We visited someone who had overcome an alcohol addiction and recently been baptized but then fell into his old habits and stopped coming to church. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is so important because many of us fall even after we make sacred covenants and promise to live the commandments.

A stake president in my last area said that life is like a single tennis match. The outcome of this match decides your destiny forever. You have been playing for three or four years, but on the other side of the court is Satan, who has been playing for twenty trillion years (figuratively). You cry out to Heavenly Father for help because there is no way you will defeat Satan on your own. Heavenly Father promises you two things: first, he will send Jesus Christ to be your partner on the court (like a doubles game). Jesus Christ will catch all the hits you miss. Heavenly Father will also send the Holy Ghost, which can tell you where the tennis ball will go before it gets there. If you use this help, you cannot fail.

Two ways Heavenly Father helps us become free include:
  1. Avoiding addiction in the first place, or preventing it from happening again (the Holy Ghost).
  2. Recovering from addiction if you mess up (Jesus Christ's Atonement).
After we repent from sins, we often sin again and again. Heavenly Father understood and planned for this possibility! He gave us commandments knowing perfectly well that we would sometimes surrender to temptations, be weak, and rebel against His commandments. Just as Satan's temptation isn't turned off in this life, we also must not turn off our efforts to repent each and every day. While the Atonement doesn't give us license to sin, it can help us recover.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints runs an Addiction Recovery Program for anyone who is struggling with any kind of addiction. It is based from the Twelve-Step Alcoholics Anonymous program but includes gospel principles from the scriptures and prophets and apostles in our day.

Friday, February 7, 2014

"Master, the Tempest is Raging!"

One of my favorite musical numbers in the October 2013 General Conference was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's performance of what is maybe a lesser-sung hymn, "Master, the Tempest is Raging!" My experience with discouragement makes this hymn personal to me. The setting is from Matthew 8:23-27:
And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
The beautiful chorus shows Jesus' assurance that with His help, we can be calm and overcome any tempests in our life.

The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.

I know that Jesus Christ is far more powerful than Satan will ever be. Through His Atonement, we will overcome all challenges if we follow His commandments, just as Joseph Smith and Jesus' Apostles did.

Faith precedes miracles

In the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni talks about how we must exercise faith in God before receiving His promised blessings. In Ether 12:6, we read:
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. (Underline added.)
When we talk about Joseph Smith's First Vision, we focus a lot on the fact that Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ both appeared to Joseph Smith and not as much on the intense tribulation that immediately preceded Their visit. Joseph Smith had decided on a time and place to ask God about what church was true, the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York being the place where "the place where [he] had previously designed to go" (JS-H 1:15). After beginning to offer his prayer, Joseph Smith was attacked by Satan, who did everything possible to prevent Joseph from asking God the question that would lead to us having Jesus Christ's true Church on the earth again (JS-H 1:15-16):
...I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God...just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
Only after enduring Satan's trial did Joseph Smith see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

I too occasionally have experiences like this on my mission. I will feel terrible and discouraged in the morning, which leads to feelings like those of depression. Often I won't want to do any work at all but will still feel horrible sitting in our apartment. Many missionaries (probably most of them at some point) will experience serious trials of faith. But by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, praying for strength through His Atonement, and getting up to work anyway, we can and do overcome these discouragements sent from the devil. Once I start working, I always feel much better. First exercise faith, and then the blessings follow.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What proof is there for the Book of Mormon [Part 2]

How do we obtain proof?

In the October 2013 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland described the pattern we must follow to obtain the Lord's help: "If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation."

For example, if I were to take an examination in school, He will not--indeed, He cannot--help me earn a high grade on the test if I pray for success without first putting forth my honest effort to study the material. He simply will not cheat for me. To learn academic truths, I must humble myself and not only pray but also sacrifice time and effort to read the course material, practice doing problems, and ponder the truths I have learned.

To learn spiritual truths, I must humble myself and sacrifice time to read the scriptures and the words of modern prophets, practice and apply the principles described in those words, and ponder what they mean. In other words, only once I am taking action can I expect Heavenly Father to answer a prayer about whether the things I am reading and learning are true. As President Spencer W. Kimball once said, "You must go to the spiritual laboratory, use the facilities available there, and comply with the governing rules. Then you may know of these truths just as surely, or more surely, than the scientist knows the metals, or the acids, or other elements" ("Absolute Truth", Ensign, Sept. 1978).

For example, how can we know that the Book of Mormon is true? Heavenly Father would expect us to read from the Book of Mormon and then pray to Him and ask Him in prayer what we have read is truth. The more specific our questions are, the more clear the answer will be.

What proof is there for the Book of Mormon? [Part 1]

We were talking with a man (I'll call him John) the other day who was uncomfortable with the Book of Mormon. John opened his Bible, which in the first few pages contained annotations and maps and historical notes about events in the Bible and effectively said to us, "When I open my Bible, immediately I have maps showing missionary tours of the Apostles , I have historical dates, I have archaeological evidence of Christ's life, and much more. When I open your Book of Mormon, none of that is there."

In other words, "Where is your proof that your Book of Mormon is true? Where is the evidence? Where are the dates and the history? Why should you expect me to blindly accept as true a book of scripture supposedly translated by one man? Why do I need to have blind faith in the Book of Mormon when my Bible is replete with evidence?"

The answer is that God doesn't require blind faith. He expects you to read from the Book of Mormon and then sincerely pray and ask Him if it is true and if the Prophet Joseph Smith was really a true Prophet. One of the answers given on Mormon.org puts it very clearly:
Over my lifetime, I have heard countless theories concerning Joseph Smith - his intellect, his integrity, his sanity, everything about him. Some of the stories about him being a prophet sounded convincing... but then, some of the stories of him as a criminal sounded convincing, too. Then I read about Joseph Smith's visitation by the angel Moroni. Moroni told him that his name would be "had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken among all people." Well, that was certainly a true prophecy. So, it seemed, whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or not, tons of accusations and slander would be said against him anyway! That realization made me understand that only God could confirm whether or not Joseph was truly called of him. I got a strong confirmation of that truth. When others tell me that they "know the truth about the Joseph Smith," I always question their sources - it's usually a book or magazine article, possibly even by an esteemed, intellectual person. But I cannot and will not question my source of the real answer. -- Mike
As missionaries, our calling is not to prove to you the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Instead, we invite you to find out for yourself by going straight to the Source of all truth: God himself. Only through praying to our Heavenly Father and receiving an answer through the Holy Ghost can you know for sure, beyond any doubt, that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

Our imperfect human bodies

I often have a lot of trouble sleeping at night and my missionary companion has trouble waking up in the morning. Nevertheless, the Lord has called us to be missionaries for His Church in this area and though we have had some slow weeks, we are blessed with teaching appointments and the ability to share the gospel. We are teaching a man who has muscular dystrophy and has grown up in a very rough life. Nevertheless, the Lord has helped him overcome his weakness and blessed him with good business skills and a desire to recover from his past mistakes.

I think of Elder Russel M. Nelson's remarks in the October 2013 General Conference about our weaknesses:
...It seems that in every family, if not in every person, some physical conditions exist that require special care. A pattern for coping with such a challenge has been given by the Lord. He said, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves … and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” [Ether 12:27]. Stellar spirits are often housed in imperfect bodies.
All of us have different weaknesses. For example, I have a lot of trouble concentrating on the scriptures and missionary lessons during studies in the morning. I also have a tendency to let conflict build in my mind without discussing it with my companion, which makes it difficult to concentrate and be happy. But as I think about Christ and the love He had for all people, it makes me able to put myself aside and begin to love them in the way He would.

I think of the examples of people who have disabilities much more challenging than mine. A woman who lost both of her legs continues to work and even swim:

Also, a man who has muscular dystrophy has nevertheless grown up into a successful businessman and father: