Where Our Path Begins

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Where Our Path Begins by Ben Whatcott 

This video was submitted to the efy video contest last year. It is a short film discussing the paths we choose and how they affect the rest of our lives.

My Conversion, Your Conversion – A Story of a Convert’s Struggles

10601213_879971235366185_1623375285_nFor those of you who don’t know me, my name is Adam Krstich. I live in Romeo, Michigan, and I have been a member of this Church for about 11 months now, and I have a story to tell. It’s a story of conversion, of hate, pain and neglect, but one that ends in love, strength and hope. I have been asked to tell my story to you all today, and so I pray that it will bring to you whatever you need, and that you take something of use from it. Thank you.

My story begins back in 1997, in a village outside of Izmal, in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. An 18-year-old woman gave birth to her second son, and life was not easy. She was selling herself to feed her drug addictions, and when those needs were satisfied the kids were then taken care of. That son was me; my name was Carlos at that time. My father was involved heavily in the drug cartels of southern Mexico, and therefore life was dangerous for those who were attached to him in any way, especially for his family. Deals went wrong, and my mother and brother and I eventually ended up in America. My mother took my brothers and I (She had another along the way) up to Hispanic Village in Detroit, Michigan to live with our aunt and cousins. Sadly, it wasn’t long before my mother got wrapped up in her old problems and began to cause trouble again. She was caught in a car chase after a set-up drug deal. The officers were probably surprised when they found three boys in the back seat. After many dodged court hearings and probation violations, my brothers and I were legally emancipated from our mother, and her parental rights were terminated entirely. We were put into foster care. My older brother got adopted by a family, leaving my younger brother and I alone. Meanwhile, in Troy, Michigan, a family was looking to adopt another boy, after the loss of their youngest son. They stumbled across my younger brother, and decided to adopt him. However, the adoption agency did not want to tear the two of us apart, so they asked my parents to adopt both of us as a set. They agreed, my name was changed, and we all began our new life together!

Now, I wish I could say that this new life was a happy one. After all of the child abuse and neglect from my birth-mother, most would say that I deserved a happy life with a happy family in a happy home. Sadly, that idea was always just a dream for my entire childhood. My family that adopted me did not want me. I was beaten, locked in closets, and emotionally torn apart on a daily basis for most of my childhood. I was not raised with hugs, kisses and “I love you’s”. I was not raised with family trips, with catch with my dad, or with story time at night with my mom.  I was raised instead alone, sad, and afraid. I was raised with no trust in adults, and low self esteem, and a burning pain in my heart, that grew with each fight. When I got older, things did not get better. Junior High brought only more violent fights, and more knives thrown into my soul. Child Protective Services visited more times than I can remember. I was alone. I hated my life, and I hated myself. And more than anything, I hated God, for allowing all of this to happen to me. I’m sure you can imagine how I felt about families by the time I reached High School. I just wanted to die. I wanted to release myself from all of the pain and anger of my home, but there was no way anything could change. I was to be hated forever. I was to be alone and unloved forever. I had made up my mind. But then, everything changed.

It all started at a bonfire after a football game my sophomore year. I had found myself with nowhere to spend the night. My parents were out of town, and my friend had decided to bail on me. I was so alone. I was even contemplating spending the night at a nearby park. Then, my life changed forever. A kid across the yard had overheard my problem, and so he approached me. He lent out a hand, I shook it, and he said “Hi, my name is Anson, and you’re gonna spend the night at my house, okay?” I laughed at first, but I quickly realized he was serious. I wasn’t sure why this kid, who was a very popular football player, was talking to very unpopular me, let alone offering me a place to stay for the night. I hesitantly accepted, and before I knew it, we were walking to his house and began to talk.

It turned out that I had more in common with this kid than anyone I had ever met before; we were even both adopted! When we went to bed that night, I asked him one more simple question: “What religion are you, or do you not have one?” He smiled and said he was Mormon, which surprised me. But I when I asked him what specific beliefs Mormons had, he told me, “We believe families can be eternal.” Something stirred inside me when he said that, a feeling I cannot begin to describe. He then added, “And we believe we are all children of God, and he loves us all. He loves you too you know.” That was the first time I had ever heard those words. I couldn’t shake the feeling I had gotten out of my head, so I decided to ask Anson if it would be alright for me to go with him to Church. I’m sure you all can imagine the field-day he was having in his head, since I had asked to know more about the Church, and had asked if I could come next Sunday all within 10 minutes.

Soon that fateful night turned into Missionary Lessons, Weekly Mutual, Church every Sunday, and a perfect Seminary attendance. After some heavy reading, 13 Elders, 3 Sisters and over a year of persistently fighting with my parents to get permission, I finally had a date set for a baptism. On September 21st, 2013, my best friend Anson baptized me a member of this wonderful Church. Before stepping into the font, I hugged him, and cried and thanked him for all he had done. I thanked him for not being afraid to be Mormon. And when I walked down into the font and turned to see all of the people there for me, because they loved me, I got that special feeling once more. All of the pain, the anger, and the sadness in my heart was gone completely, and replaced entirely with love and joy.10615902_879970668699575_2070238598_n

That is my conversion story in a nutshell, but that is not the main focus of this message. There is a lesson to be learned here. For those of you who are members of the church, you have all heard the generic cut-and-paste “every-member-a-missionary” spiel, and quite honestly, I know we all find ourselves tuning in and out of these talks and lessons because we feel we’ve gotten all that there is to have from the message. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! I want all of you to think for a moment about why you are Mormon. Yes, you’re personal testimony is vital to your conversion, but that’s not what I mean. If it wasn’t for faithful parents, a family member, a teacher, a co-worker, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a friend, a stranger, or even a 14 year old boy if you wish to go back that far, none of you would have had the opportunity to even be a part of this church or to gain your testimony. If you think about it, everyone is in a sense a convert. It doesn’t matter if it was your parents, or those old-teens with the badges that taught you about the gospel, we all have to gain a testimony on our own and in our own due time.

I am so grateful I have this Gospel in my life now. It may be hard for some to imagine what it would even be like not being LDS or knowing all of the Eternal Truths we know. I promise you, it is so much better on this side of the fence. My life is exponentially different now that I am a Latter Day Saint, and the struggle to get here is forever worth it; the benefits are literally eternal!

I recently had the privilege to attend a session of EFY in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. It was flat-out one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much about myself, and about the Atonement, but one of the most important things I learned was the eternal worth of our souls. Heavenly Father’s plan for us was never intended to and never will fail. There is no room for hate, or anger in the Plan of Happiness. It is our duty, to carry out that plan, which in turn includes lifting the burdens of others, and actively displaying the Love and Light of Christ. It includes hastening the work, and bringing the salvation of man to pass. The EFY theme this year was to be “Anxiously Engaged”, coming from D&C 58:27 which states: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” We must be anxiously engaged in missionary work. It is the greatest miracle we can partake in, to bring someone to Christ through the Restored Gospel. There are people out there, waiting for you. You promised them in the Pre-Existence you would find them and help bring them back to Heavenly Father through the Gospel. Don’t break that promise! Now that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I am a new man. I know, and you all do too, the wonders and blessings that come through membership in this Church. We should do everything in our power to make sure that other people can experience that. That’s what Christ did after all, He wanted to make sure that everyone who crossed his path heard His message. Christ was anxiously engaged in the Salvation of Man.

In closing I would like to remind you all of the contrast of my life pre and post baptism. No more yelling, or crying myself to sleep. No more depression and anger. Only love and happiness fills my heart now, and that is because of the Church, and because of Missionary work. We are all so important, and so loved. We are all so powerful as well, whether you realize it or not. It is our responsibility and solely ours to build God’s Kingdom here on Earth. The EFY theme song, Anxiously Engaged states: The faith that moved the mountains, the power that calmed the sea, is the saving strength and promise, that’s living in you and me. We were made for greatness, we were created to be, Anxiously Engaged. That says it all to me. We WERE made for greatness, and we WERE created to be anxiously engaged, in being a light to everyone, especially if that means missionary work of any kind. Missionary work is so important! Just Remember. We are all converts. We are all missionaries. We are Mormons. We’re Latter-Day Saints. We must seek after these things, and accept our call to share this Gospel, to spread it to all of the ends of the Earth. But most importantly, if you can gain anything from this message, let it be that no matter what our story is, we all have one, and in the end, we are all still Children of God, and everyone deserves to know that.

Preparation, Service, and Love

Preparation, Service, and Love

Over April break, I had the opportunity to serve a mini mission.  During this time I shadowed the sister missionaries for four days.  I followed them and  kept the missionary standards- including wearing a dress for four days in a row, which for me is a feat in itself- and did what the sisters did.  We taught investigators (those learning about the gospel) visited members’ homes to share spiritual messages and extend invitations to them to work on their missionary goals, did service, and attended planning meetings to go over our goals.  The entire experience really strengthened my testimony and taught me so much.

First, I learned the importance of preparation.  Every morning we would go over our schedule on who we were going to teach that day, and what the lesson would be focusing on.  During scripture study, we looked for messages we could share with those we taught that would be helpful to them.  We put together a lesson plan and prayed for direction.  Having a lesson prepared helped things to go smoothly, and allowed for the spirit to be with us.  Even more important, perhaps, was the long term preparation.  Sometimes during lessons I would feel prompted to share a comment or add something that we hadn’t specifically planned.  I know the ability to have experiences like those is strengthened when we allow God into our lives.  When we pray, study our scriptures, attend church meetings, and live the gospel standards we are,“extending our antenna to God.” These things prepare us to have spiritual promptings and act on them.  In Doctrine and Covenants 100:6 the Lord promises that when we are prepared, “it shall be given you in the very hour, yea in the very moment, what ye should say.” Watching a bunch of crash course videos may help you the day before an AP exam, but if you really want to do well you have to read the textbook and study throughout the year. (not that I would know anything about the first option).  In the same way, the best way to succeed in the test of life is to continually do these things.  It truly makes such a difference.

I also learned a beautiful paradox of missionary work.  The more you strive to serve others and remain selfless, the more you gain for yourself.  In the mission, a huge emphasis is placed on serving others.  When we studied our scriptures, we did so focusing on the needs of those we were teaching.  In return, my scripture study became more meaningful.  I gained more inspiration during scripture study and throughout the day.  When we prayed, we focused on gratitude- thanking the Lord for what he had given us.  We also prayed for our investigators, for members, for leaders, and for other missionaries.  When we prayed for ourselves it was for guidance and strength in teaching, rather than asking the Lord for material things or to make our day easier.  As we did so, we received strength and guidance, because God wishes to grant us our righteous desires.  He blessed us with more opportunities and I felt my relationship with Him grow so much stronger. Service is one of the greatest way to build a relationship with someone, and as we learn in Mosiah 2:17, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” While serving others, I grew closer to them and to my Heavenly Father.  As I grew closer to my Heavenly Father, I felt his love- both for me and everyone around me.

I also saw in the sisters such love and selflessness. Because the sisters had such great love for others, they were truly happy when their prayers for them were answered.  Love is truly the greatest missionary tool.  When you love someone, you desire happiness for them.  The gospel brings greater joy than anything else can.  When you invite with sincere love, others know that they are not just a number to you.  You do not want them to join the church and be baptized just to add a name to a list.  You want them to learn about the gospel because it is the greatest gift in your life, and you want them to also have this gift, just as Lehi desired for his family to taste of the delicious fruit in his vision (1 Nephi 8).  I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  It has blessed my life in countless ways.  It has brought me great friends.  It has given me great role models- both in the scriptures and in my leaders today.  It has given me direction, and following its principles has protected me from so much pain that I see my peers go through.  It has taught me responsibility and how to have fun without having to turn to substances.  Most importantly, it has given me hope and a relationship with My Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ.  It is the greatest blessing I have in my life.

Relationship with God through Prayer

 

by Natalie Olsen

Everyone faces daily trials. Everyone experiences pain, sorrow, loss, and hardships.There have been countless trials and challenges that I have faced in school, in family, and even in the littlest situations. These trials seem to spark the question, why is this happening to me? The one being that I am truly thankful for to have as a constant companion when experiencing these trials, is God; our Heavenly Father. Whenever you are facing a trial or experiencing a hardship, don’t think, just drop to your knees and pray. I cannot express how much prayer has changed my life. Through prayer, your questions can be answered. Through prayer, your sorrows can be uplifted. Through prayer, you can communicate directly with your Father in Heaven who has endless love for you and every individual no matter what hardships they are going through or choices they have made. Your Heavenly Father loves you and knows you personally.

personal-prayer-272817-galleryThe ultimate way to speak to Heavenly Father is through prayer. When you are kneeling down and thanking and asking your Heavenly Father for help and support, He is there listening to you. We don’t always have to pray at our bedside; we can pray throughout our daily lives whenever and wherever we go. Heavenly Father helps us accomplish even the littlest things. for example, before tests or finals, I can pray to remember the things I have studied. We can use prayer to ask Heavenly Father for guidance if we’re lost on the road. We can pray for anything and He will be for us. I recently heard a story from a little girl named Pheobe. Pheobe is 4 years old, and one day, she was trying to open the lid to her nail polish. She was having a hard time so she knelt down and prayed for Heavenly Father to help her accomplish this task. After the prayer, she tried again and she was able to open the lid to her nail polish. She then announced, “Heavenly Father helped me!” It is absolutely incredible to know that our Heavenly Father is there to help us through taking a test, finding our way, opening a nail polish lid, and through everything we are encountering in our lives.

In my experience, whenever I pray I feel as though I am talking to my best friend. A best friend is always there by your side and comforts you when you are in need of comfort. Heavenly Father is my best friend. He is there beside me through everything I do. He comforts me and knows what I am going through. The only way to keep in touch with my best friend, is through prayer. Every time I pray, the closer I become to my Father in Heaven; my best friend. He is our Father, he is our friend. I cannot even count how many times my prayers have been answered and my hard times have eased because of my Heavenly Father. I don’t know what I’d do without prayer, just like not knowing what I’d do without a best friend. He brings me happiness when I’m sad, I can feel his embrace when I’m depressed, and I can receive truth and guidance when I am lost. Our Heavenly Father knows each and everyone of us more than we know ourselves. He is constantly by our side. If you are lost, depressed, confused, and in need of someone, pray. I know that He will answer your prayers and you can receive guidance and feel His love for you. I know this with all of my heart. Create a relationship with your Heavenly Father through prayer and you will never be lost. You will never be alone. You will always have someone to turn to. I know this to be true, I have felt true joy through prayer, and I know that you too can have this relationship with our Father in Heaven and truly receive guidance and happiness throughout your life.

Finding Faith in Christ in Times of Trial

I’ve often gotten sick in the winter, so when I had a virus in mid February I didn’t really think twice about it. I figured I’d be back to school in three days maximum. Days turned into weeks, and I kept feeling sicker and sicker. I went to doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. In March I finally started feeling better, but more sad. I couldn’t understand why everyday I felt these overwhelming feelings of sadness. I thought something was wrong with me. I felt hopeless and so so alone. Eventually my sadness got so bad I was admitted to the hospital for depression. When I got there I felt angry and alone. I thought I didn’t belong there and that it was a waste of time. I participated half heartedly and couldn’t understand why I felt so horrible.

The first night I knelt down and said a prayer. The next day was still hard but I felt more at peace. I started participating more, I started feeling more like myself, and I started to appreciate the power of the Atonement. On a particular hard night I was praying my heart out and I felt like I wasn’t getting any answers, so I picked up my Book of Mormon and flipped to a random page. 3 Nephi 22:4 really stood out to me “Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.” To me, this verse means that although we may have problems in our youth, in the whole scheme of things our struggles will be forgotten. Verse 7 also says, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.” In our lives we are going to have times of trial. We are here to be tested and to learn. We wouldn’t be able to learn if we didn’t have times of trial.

Through this experience I learned how to pray better. At first I would pray to have this trial lifted because I thought I couldn’t do it. But as soon as I realized I could do it, I changed my prayers to “please help me to be able to bear this burden.” As soon as I did that, and when I  decided to put all my trust in Heavenly Father, it got easier. President Uchtdorf said, “You are stronger than you realize, more capable than you ever imagine.” Heavenly Father knows what we are capable of. We don’t. Although this trial has been hard, I did it. I am beyond grateful that I had this trial. Before I never appreciated my parents as much as I should have. I also never valued Priesthood  blessings like I should have. Through this experience I grew closer to Christ and Heavenly Father. I now know how blessed I am, and appreciate how much the gospel blesses my life.

 

Standing as a Witness

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a witness is someone who has a personal knowledge of something.  In the case of members of the church, this would be the gospel.  However, how do we stand as a witness if we aren’t ourselves witnesses yet?  You can’t have someone testify in court who didn’t even see the crime.

Although we don’t have to know all you are standing up for perfectly, we must at least believe it.  We strive to strengthen our knowledge of the gospel and all it has to offer.  We must first put forth effort to gain this knowledge. There are some cases where the knowledge came to someone through a great experience, but for most of us it comes slowly through hard work, determination, and love.  We can’t sit at home watching TV and eating our cheese puffs, just waiting for some great epiphany. No, we must work.  With hard work we can gain this knowledge.  I myself find that I can get caught in a daily routine of just reading my scriptures and saying my prayers without actually paying attention to what I am reading or saying.  When I put off my daily communication with my Heavenly Father by just doing these things because I’m told to, the experiences I could have had, don’t happen.  This can often result in a feeling of loneliness, like no one is there to guide us, but He is always there. If we will just reach out our hands as far as we possibly can, our Heavenly Father will grasp them and pull us up from the raging waters we are so close to drowning in, but we must try. We must read our scriptures as if they are the next Hunger Games.  We must learn to love every “and it came to pass…” and “in the reign of the judges…” We must also strive to gain a relationship with our Father in Heaven.  He is the best friend we could ever ask for.  He is never too busy or likes someone else more than you.  He will never ditch your plans.  He will never ignore you or talk about you behind your back because He is perfect, and every imperfect soul needs someone perfect to look up to.  I know every single one of you looks up to someone. Whether they are famous or just an average person, for some reason you strive to have the qualities that they posses.  This person should be our Heavenly Father. We should want to be like Him, not because we are told to, but because in our heart it is our dream.

Another way we can become closer to our Father in Heaven is to learn.  We must fully understand the atonement and the gospel.  When we understand and take advantage of the atonement’s healing power our bond with the Savior grows.  Like a rope, each little string is what-in the end-binds us to our Heavenly Father.  If we are to overlook these little strings that seem unimportant and useless, our rope will rely solely on others and a little bit on our own weak testimony.  Once we have grasped the gospel and have become a witness we can show others what they too can become.  Be the example for them. You don’t have to go around showing everyone that you have high moral standards and are wicked cool because of it. No, we must be humble, and when the time is right share.  If someone looks up to you they are more likely to listen to what you have to say.

It’s a process. You must first become a witness, then become a friend and example of the church, then lastly-if the time is right-teach.  Would you listen to some infomercial telling you that if you drink this product you will have the perfect body in just two days? Or are you more likely to listen to your friend who tells you this instead of some weird guy that interrupts your favorite show?  So if we are more likely to listen to people we look up to and love, we must strive to be those people.  We must try our absolute hardest to be examples to others of a good friend and person.  People often look up to their friends.  So go out there and make friends. Be an example to them.

I personally have an experience where I talked about the church in my class.  This was a class I was very comfortable in.  I am a friend with everyone in it, including the teacher.  One day we were talking about the book we were reading, and how it is very centered around the Catholic religion.  The topic of religion then came up, and my teacher-who is Catholic-starting asking questions.  Her first one was if any of the Catholic kids enjoyed their church.  To my surprise, none of them said they did.  They said it was boring and not at all exciting.  She then asked if any members had questions about the Catholic religion.  All the Catholic kids raised their hands explaining that the church as a whole was confusing, and had many parts they did not understand.  My teacher’s next remark was that she didn’t quite agree with the fact that their priests and popes couldn’t get married.  She then asked the class if anyone else in another church was allowed to get married as a priest.  I raised my hand and explained that we did not have just one person appointed to speak every Sunday, but that we picked members of the congregation to speak.  This amazed my teacher.  I explained that we had a bishop that ran the ward, but it was the members who were given topics they were assigned to speak about, and that I myself had talked in church too.  After my remarks she asked me if I enjoyed my church.  Unlike the others, I responded that I absolutely loved my church and loved going.  This surprised everyone, and my teacher ended on saying, “See? Churches can be fun.”  Afterwards, I was talking to my friend who told me that our church seemed so fun and how she loved the dances and everything.  This lead into a discussion about the basic principles of our church.  I was talking about it with two of my friends.  It was because of our friendship that they listened and were willing to bring it back up with me after class.  I had been an example of our church to them.  And now that my entire class knows, I find myself striving to live a better life and be an even better person.  As we stand as witnesses out strength and experience grows along with our testimony.

Tolerance

Tolerance is quite a large subject, so I will be focusing more on how tolerance has to do with kindness. While researching on LDS.org for some talks for inspiration, I came across a talk called “Tolerance, the Beginning of Christlike Love” by Sister Ann N. Madsen from October 1983. Sister Madsen starts off her talk by recalling a memory of her childhood. She says, “One of my earliest childhood memories is of my father, who was a blessed peacemaker, settling disputes in our family by using a saying which meant ducks are different- or, in other words, each of us is unique, be tolerant. People are different, but thats not necessarily bad.” I feel like this is a very important saying that should be more present in our daily lives. Today, we are meeting people from lots of different places who are different than us. I remember when I first moved to the Netherlands in the 4th grade. I was very excited to start school because I thought that school was fun; my thoughts have changed over time. I thought that everybody would be like me, from America. When I walked in on the first day I felt like a stranger, not just because I was the only American in my grade, maybe even my whole school. The realization sunk in that I had moved away from my childhood home and my old friends that I had known forever, to a new place with new people, most of them from Britain, who thought that it was absurd to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I knew, as a 9 year old in 4th grade, that I was different. At the time I thought it wasn’t a nice thing to feel. Getting older, and moving back to America, made me appreciate how nice it was to be different. It felt nice to be unique, even if it was just in a school community. I know that my friends have showed kindness to me by knowing, understanding, and appreciating the fact that I am different. 
 
One way to be tolerant is to be kind, or having Christlike love. We know that two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors. These things should be our highest priorities in life. We read this in Matthew 22:37-39, which says, “Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbor as thyself.” Being kind to others is a key way to have tolerance. Just as Christ loved everyone, we should do the same. We all live on this earth together, and we are all children of God. Although it may be challenging, we must love our enemies too. Reading Matthew 5:43-45 we see the same, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth the rain rain on the just and on the unjust.”  To me, this means Heavenly father treats us all equally; he doesn’t give more privileges to the people who do good, so we should treat others equally too.
 
There are many things that can make tolerance difficult to have. In Sister Madsen’s Talk from October 1983, she goes on to say some challenges that we might face when trying to have tolerance or Christlike love. She says, “We separate ourselves from others by the differences we see. We feel comfortable with those who dress like we do, think like we do, and act like we do; and we feel uncomfortable with those who are different.” As much as I regret saying this, what Sister Madsen says is true. In our world today, I am finding myself feeling a little uncomfortable with some who are a little different than I am, which I am ashamed of. It should not be okay for us to judge others and take pity on them because they are different than we are. As members of the Church, we should be giving non-members or anyone else a warm welcome, instead of making them feel uncomfortable because they are different than we are. Sister Madsen also says, “Some differences don’t matter at all and should never divide us. Most cultural differences also fall into this category. We are a worldwide church and represent many different cultures. We cannot afford lapses into provincialism.” To those of you that don’t know, provincialism is where people view things with a very narrow mind. An example of that is thinking that others aren’t as good as you are, because they don’t do things the same way as you do.
 
Tolerance has both good and bad sides. When we have tolerance, we need to be careful. In an April 1998 talk called “What is Tolerance” by Russell M. Nelson, he says, “Tolerance is a virtue much needed in our turbulent world. But we must recognize that there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue.” I definitely agree with what Elder Nelson says here. It is good if you tolerate someone’s differences, but it is not good if you allow yourself to tolerate what they are doing wrong. Many things today that we as members of the Church believe in are happening. If we tolerate these things, it isn’t making the world a better place. Instead we should do what is right, because things, no matter what they are, can have impacts on our lives.
 
I would like to end by reminding you all how much our Heavenly Father loves us. He loves us so much that he gave his life for us. He should be an example to us, not to take our lives for those we love, but to love everyone. D&C 133:52 says, “And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that He has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.”

What it Means to be a Peacemaker

By Justin D.

I am a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. I have a few hobbies including playing basketball, playing video games, cooking, and watching sports with my dad. My family and I have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for about eight years.

Lately I’ve pondered the question, “What does it mean to be a peacemaker?” Other questions I had were, “How have I been a peacemaker?” and “How does being a peacemaker relate to being a child of God”?

What it means to be a peacemaker. What is the opposite of peace? I think of hostility. Beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve, there has been hostility, war, and unrest on the earth. Today, we experience stress, anger, anxiety, and hatred in our daily lives. However, even with the challenges we endure, in times like these, when things are at their worst, we see the best come out of some people. There are people throughout history who put their personal interest, pride, and humility aside for the good of others. Hopefully we can all look to someone in our own lives that has these same traits. To me that’s what a peacemaker is: someone who can fight through the smoke and chaos that comes with challenges and see the best in people, and the best in situations, and makes it their central focus and goal to nurture and spread that good.

There is someone at my school that comes to mind who bears these qualities. He has inspired me to be better. He is a mediator: his job is to try to help students find peace, whether that means peace in their lives at home (should they be struggling with personal issues), or peace at school (if they are having trouble with a classmate).  Every day, when I see him in the hall dealing with hostile, angry kids, I wonder “wouldn’t he just love to smack that boy?”  But then it dawns on me, that would only make him feel good, and only for a short time.  To do his job as a mediator, or a peacemaker, and bring peace — true peace that lasts — he has to find a way to put aside what might make him feel good and think about what might make the other parties feel good and bring peace to the situation.  Resolving that conflict would bring a much longer, sustained, lasting peace.

How have I been a peacemaker? I have three sisters at home: one older sister and two younger sisters. Honestly, I love my sisters. They have taught me a lot, and have really been a blessing. However, they have struggles trying to get along, share, and understand each other. Sometimes peace at home requires more skill than negotiating between Israel and Palestine.

To me, a peacemaker’s priority is to remain calm and centered with the Spirit when situations are at their worst. When two people are in a disagreement, a peacemaker must step in and help each side see the other’s opinion. Even if the two sides don’t agree, the important factor in peace is that they understand the other’s opinion. This isn’t easy, particularly at home. We get so heated, thanks to emotion and frustration, over our desire to get our point across, that we block out the possibility of being open to listening to the other’s point. I try to create peace by stepping in and helping each of my sisters understand each other. These experiences are helping me grow personally. They are helping me grow stronger, and making me a better peacemaker.

How does being a peacemaker relate to being a child of God?  Well, to simplify things for me a bit I guess, there’s one simple rule when it comes to being a peacemaker. You have to be at peace. You can’t share something you don’t have.

Peace to me is a gift. You can’t make it in the kitchen, you can’t win it playing a video game, and you can’t fake it. My father gave me the opportunity to receive peace when he made the choice to convert to this church. My baptism gave me the first taste of peace. My covenant with Heavenly Father continues to give me the opportunity to grow and become more peaceful. Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated in a talk entitled “Blessed are the Peacemakers” that peace can prevail only when the natural inclination to fight is superseded by the determination to love one another on a loftier level. He goes on to say this can only be done by living through Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us how to live with one another. He declared two great commandments, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:30-31). Just before his death the Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27).

These scriptures are great reminders that peace is a gift that we are commanded to share. We are all brothers and sisters thus making us all children of God.

My favorite scripture story comes from Mark chapter 4. This is a story of Jesus and his disciples being swept up in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The story tells us the waves beat at the walls of the boat and Jesus asleep at the stern. The disciples cried out to him, to which he awoke and, standing calmly, with authority,  rebuked the wind. He said to the waves “Peace be still!”, and the winds ceased, the clouds broke, and the rain stopped.

If the Son of God can say “peace be still” and silence a biblical storm, He can speak to your heart and calm the storm you may be feeling right now. His is the ultimate peace.

It is our moral, civic, and Christ-given obligation to share and spread this peace in a way only His peacemakers can.