Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Acknowledgement of our Shortcomings

Hello Everyone, 

I'm grateful for the opportunity for the chance to write again this week. 

I've decided to do a little mini-series on how I have come to deal with my doubts.  To kick off this mini-series I want to start at the beginning of course.  The first step to fixing a problem is realizing that there is one in the first place.  Though that sounds incredibly cliche and obvious let's look at this first step in real depth for a second.  

Imagine for a moment that you're walking into a job interview.  You sit down after shaking hands and introducing yourself to your potential employer and wait for the first question.  The first comes and you're completely prepared, and the same with the second, third, and fourth questions.  For every skill related question your employer comes up with, you have the perfect answer.  Then he comes to the last question, and a question that I personally dread.  "What are some of your weaknesses?"

Initially this question seemed like a horrible thing to ask in an interview.  Why would they want to see anything but your highlights and your achievements?  This isn't a question that is meant to degrade you or to show your boss how horrible you are at something.  It's purpose was hidden to me until I was speaking with a member of my Branch here who has conducted many interviews.  

I was told that it is generally a question that shows your humility and how well you know yourself.  It is the true measure of a persons capability to understand who they are and what their shortcomings are.  Why would an employer hire a person who can't see their own flaws and acknowledge that someone else might know better than them.  Rather than show the employer that you aren't worthy, it shows to the employer that you are able to improve and are willing to grow into the position.  

After the conversation with this member I noted that if I were in that interview right now with that question posed at me, I wouldn't have an answer.  It was here that I realized I didn't have a handle on who I was, what my potential is, and how I can get there.  

I encourage you to earnestly look at yourself and what you are doing now, and then to try and realize who you can become.  If you don't know where you stand with God, you don't know how you can improve.  Seek for these through prayer and scripture study.  Specifically pray to have your weaknesses be manifest unto you.  I did that for only a week, and I had quite a lot of weaknesses shown to me.  But now that I know my weaknesses I can work at them one by one until they are strengths.  As I've said a couple of times, the Lord doesn't give us weaknesses for kicks and giggles, they are meant to be acknowledged and then turned into strengths (Ether 12:27)

Now this post is not meant to drag anyone down into an existential crisis, that's the opposite of my intent. Relax, take some deep breaths because this is only the beginning.  

As with all first steps there are several more to come.  To touch on the next step lightly I turn to a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland, the same one I reference in last week's post: 

A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. 

I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.”...I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction...

Now, with the advantage that nearly 60 years give me since I was a newly believing 14-year-old, I declare some things I now know. ...

What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested in this or any season, I invite you to lean on mine.

("Lord I Believe" Jeffery R. Holland, April 2013 General Conference)

Just with the road from belief to faith, you must first acknowledge that you have doubts and flaws so that they can be improved and worked on.  My next post will deal with how diligent work is the next big step in transforming shortcomings to strengths.

I love you all, and can't tell you how much of a blessing it is to me to be able to post every week.  It really is one of the best parts of my week, I learn so much not only about this gospel but also about myself.  

Love, Elder Gailey

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Duality of Doubt

Hello Everyone, glad to be able to write to you all again.  

This week I want to share my thoughts on doubts, particularly in spiritual matters.  

This week my mind has been caught up in memory of the several month period in between receiving my mission call to the New York Utica Mission, and being set apart as a full time missionary.  During this time of preparation, both in things mental, physical, and spiritual, I found myself noticing a creeping sense of doubt entering my mind.  I'd be browsing the internet and read some comment made my some person I've never met and and a question would enter into my mind about the things I held so dear.  As soon as I thought I had resolved one doubt another entered my mind.  Again and again this process would repeat itself.  A doubt would creep its way into my mind, I would resolve it as best I could, and then another would barge in and take the old doubt's place.  These doubts grew larger and larger and become more frequent as I came nearer to the time I was to be set apart.  One night I laid awake for hours wondering "Why?  Why now, and why me?"  I'm so close to throwing myself into this work head first and now is the time I get these doubts?  It didn't make any sense to me.  I had doubts about the smallest thing that seemed to almost paralyze my mind for days and I had doubts about controversial topics and about things I had believed since I was a toddler.  

The point in me telling you about my doubts is to show that I have and will continue to have doubts throughout my life.  And the point in me writing today is to testify to you of the duality of doubt.  

Just as with a fork in the road, doubt has a choice with two outcomes.  There are two choices you have the chance to make when the truth you hold dear is put under intense scrutiny or has an apparent flaw.  You can either shut down, or continue progressing.  With the time I have to write this blog post I want to make it clear why the latter choice is always the correct one.  

My talk is focused on the doubting people, but I wish to take a quick aside to talk to those people that feel they have no doubts: You will doubt, let me make that abundantly clear.  There are many men who claim that they have faith unshaken and are able to "doubt not, but be believing" (Mormon 9:27).  Every man and woman will doubt, have questions, and have their faith tried.  It is a part of this mortal life to question and to search for knowledge we don't currently have.  But a crucial part of our lives should be to work out those doubts, or to "work out our own salvation" by studying in the scriptures and pleading to the Lord in sincere and persistent prayer (Mormon 9:27). 

I return to speak to the doubters, which should include everyone now.  In the Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants we are told by the Prophet Joseph Smith that: 

"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal."

A doubt is nothing more than a question posed at truth.  I can testify that when you have that questioning mind, it is best to turn to the source of all light and truth; our Heavenly Father.  We are promised by a modern day prophet that if we will ask, we will receive knowledge and understanding so that we may know the mysteries of God so that we can have joy in this life and eternal life in the life to come.  

My first plea to all those who doubt, no matter the size or quantity of the doubts, is to seek greater knowledge.  Search in the scriptures for that knowledge that you lack.  The answers to life's greatest moral and philosophical questions are within and there is no shortage of testimonies concerning that fact.  

My second plea to those who doubt is to not give up on the faith you have.  Do not give up that ground you have fought for, for all faith is earned through trials.  A quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland summarizes my feelings on this perfectly:

"In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited...When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have,leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!"  ("Lord, I Believe", April 2013 General Conference)

My third and final plea to those who struggle in this life, which as I've said before includes all of us, is to not consider yourself a failure because you have doubts.  In a speech given by Brad Wilcox in 2011 to BYU students, Brother Wilcox shared this piece of exemplary council to those who feel they 'fall short' of what is expected of them as a member of this church or simply as a human being:

"Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace...When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness."

My testimony of doubts can be well summarized in a quote from a talk given by Truman G. Madsen in 1965 titled "The Commanding Image of Christ":

"I just can't tell you how much I enjoy my existential despair"

Doubts used to be my greatest fear.  I used to think that because I doubted that I was unfit for the Kingdom of God.  I have since come to the realization that doubts have been the cause of the greatest growth in my testimony.  Just as I've come to see how trials and afflictions are a blessing, so too have I come to see how my doubts are great blessings.  Each doubt I've had has caused me to turn to the Lord with greater purpose and with a greater need.

My final advice is this:

Don't quit.  Do not give up because you have doubts.  Do not give up because you feel you have fallen short.  And most of all do not think that you and your doubts are too far gone for the Savior's grace to uplift and help you along your way because "the Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"(D&C 122:8)

I love you all, and can't wait to write to you all again next week.  

-Elder Gailey

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Be Thou Humble

Hello Everyone once again.  I can't believe how fast this transfer is going by, but I've loved every snowy minute of it.  

I have a brief yet compelling story to tell of how being humbled truly feels.  

During a District Meeting last week, a Sister in my district told us of an experience she had about being humbled.  She didn't tell us what she was humbled in, or how she had been humbled, but only told us that she was humbled because she asked for it.  Personally, being humble is something I would pray for, but I rarely would pray to be humbled.  The thought popped into my head later that night to pray for a humbling experience.  I humbly obeyed that prompting and didn't think much of it. 

Later that week I was out to dinner at a small local diner.  I was preparing to pay for my food, when I heard a soft voice say something that cut me deep.  I could trace the words to the person, so I knew it wasn't just an impression to me alone.  But this quiet sentence carried the Spirit with it, and those words hit me hard and showed to me a huge flaw in myself.  In pondering this experience and how a simple phrase like the one I heard earlier could cut so deeply, I was reminded of 3 Nephi 11:3 which reads:

"and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn."

That whole night the phrase was stuck in my head, and was bouncing around my skull constantly.  My mind was on that experience throughout the night until I realized that this is something I had prayed for.  I had actively sought to be shown my flaws, and my prayer had been answered.  It wasn't a great feeling at first, I personally felt like I had been blindsided by a bus.  But the more I pondered on the experience and truly looked at myself and my flaws, the more I began to see how I can change for the better.  

While reading Ether 12:27 last week after the humbling experience, I noticed something in the wording at the beginning of the verse.  

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness"

It's my hope that each of you will pray to be humbled.  As backwards as it may sound to pray for that, it is something that will open your eyes.  Becoming aware of our own faults and flaws is the only way to set goals to change and to improve.  Without knowing where you stand, you cannot know where you need improvement.  

To improve, I feel that Hymn 130 "Be Thou Humble" give some great insights.  The first verse outlines that the Lord will lead us by giving us answers to our prayers.  When you find your flaws, turn to your Heavenly Father in earnest prayer with a desire to change, and he will lead you.  

"Be thou humble in thy weakness, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
Shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers."

If we pray to be humbled, and we work through the Savior to change and improve.  The Lord will lead us in the things we stand in need of.  If we are humble, we will one day be able to be the person our Father in Heaven sees in us.

I love you all, and hope you have a great week. 

Love, Elder Gailey

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Crescendos and Floods

Hello Everyone!  Great to be back online, albeit a little late this week.

I normally email home, including this blog post, on Monday.  Sadly this wasn't the case this week.  We got hit by well over a foot of snow on Sunday night and Monday, so all the libraries were closed and we weren't able to drive to the church to use their computers.  So rather than email yesterday I shoveled snow forever.  But I'm able to email now, so that's a blessing.  

While browsing LDS.org this week looking for a specific talk my eyes flitted to a talk given by Neal A Maxwell back in 1985 during General Conference.  Previous to this I had heard people quote him and had heard things about what his talks were like, but I had never actually listened to one.  A few months back when someone mentioned Neal A. Maxwell they spoke of how his speaking was one of a man with great eloquence and a deep understanding of literature and the gospel.  I had heard him described as a 'Modern-Day Isaiah'.  My curiosity took me to click on the link to his talk, but I had to leave the computer so I merely downloaded the .mp3 on to my USB and told myself I would read it later.  I wound up listening to it yesterday during lunch and I was floored by the man's power in speaking and how deep his knowledge is, both in secular and spiritual matters.  The talk I listened to is titled 'Premortality, a Glorious Reality' from the October 1985 General Conference.  

Right now I want to talk a quick aside to talk a little bit about musical theory.  I want to talk for a moment about what a crescendo is.  A crescendo is a gradual increase from a softer volume to a louder volume.  The crucial part of a crescendo is that it happens over time, it is not an immediate change.  This terminology will be used in tandem with some other ideas later in this post.  

Back to Elder Maxwell's talk.

The talk as a whole is inspirational and is now one of my favorites that I currently have, but I want to speak merely on the first line of the talk:

"In case you hadn't noticed it, in the last days, discipleship is to be lived in crescendo."

This first line, which to me seemed almost out of place in his talk, gives us all a wake up call from the past.  But I wish to compare it with a well known verse from Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

"Behold, I will hasten my work in its time." (D&C 88:73)

Many of us, my pre-mission self included, often view the 'hastening of the work' as simply increasing missionary work.  We think that the hastening will only involve an increase number of missionaries, areas, and countries that are open to hear the gospel.  There things are consequences of the true hastening that is currently taking place and must continue to take place.  The true hastening in these last days will come when members begin to, as Elder Maxwell tells us, live discipleship in crescendo.  The hastening of the work that the Lord speaks of will begin, as it already has, in the hearts of the individual.  I'm sure that there are many out there who wonder how they can hasten the work without wearing a missionary name tag.  

Since we have already taken advice from a past apostle on the importance of living discipleship in crescendo, let's turn to a modern apostle for a tip on how we can go about doing that.  I would like to turn your attention to a devotional given in August, 2014 by Elder David A. Bednar.  His entire devotional is how we can use the benefits of modern technology to spread the gospel faster and farther than ever before.  I encourage you all to watch his devotional, it is powerful and informative.  

There are many parts you can pull out of this devotional, and I encourage you all to use social media to the best of your ability to spread the gospel.  In the words of Elder Bednar "May our many small, individual efforts produce a steady rainfall of righteousness and truth that gradually swells a multitude of streams and rivers—and ultimately becomes a flood that sweeps the earth."

Begin to post uplifting messages that have inspired you or touched your hearts.  Your efforts will influence others to see the good in this life.  Share that goodness and touch a life.  As you share your testimony and uplift others, you will begin to feel the desire to be a greater disciple, and you will feel your testimony and the love of your Heavenly Father and Savior grow within you.  I promise you that though the growth will be slow at first it will continue to grow bit by bit like a crescendo until it is unshakable by the forces of the world.  

I love you all, and can't wait to write again next week. 

Love, Elder Gailey