A New Year in Zion…
Last night I met with my branch president for tithing settlement. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mormons or our practices, it is a tenet of our faith to pay 10% of our income to the Lord as a tithe, and at the end of each year it is a requirement (though not forced) for us to meet with our local church leaders and declare whether or not we have been a full tithe payer for the year. If you’re a full tithe payer, then good for you. If you are not, then you are kindly invited to begin living the Law of Tithing and partaking of the great blessings that are promised those who live the law (see Malachi 3:8-12). – My meeting with my branch president, who presides over my local congregation, proved to not be about tithing though. Sure, I had taken my checkbook and hoped to get some last minute blessings (why lie about it), but instead this dear man, whom I believe is fully called and guided by the Lord Jesus Christ, looked deeply into my eyes and told me to “hurry up and get married” as soon as I could, and “build up a family in Zion”. I laughed, wanting to ask him if he knew of my blog and its name, but I just smiled instead and said, “Yes sir.”
Of all the things I could say about 2011, the most important and upfront in my mind is the opportunities I have had to truly get to know my Savior Jesus Christ more fully, and on a much more personal level. I’ve seen dear friends baptized into the Church. I’ve seen beloved associates return to fellowship in the Church. Missionaries have finally came back to our small part of the vineyard, and we’ve had a new branch presidency come to guide us in our spiritual journey. But the greatest parts of 2011 have been the many nights I’ve sat here in my little apartment, in my favorite chair, and reading. I’ve read The Book of Mormon. I’ve read The Doctrine & Covenants. I’ve read the four Gospels twice each this year, and made a thorough study of the Book of Revelation and the Second Coming of the Lord. And in those sacred pages I’ve not just read of my Lord, but I’ve came to know Him anew, come to love Him so much more deeply, and have came to truly know His voice. The Lord says that His sheep know His voice, and boy oh boy am I trying to be a good little sheep (because the goats never end up having fun in the Scriptures).
It’s not just in the Holy Scriptures I’ve come to know the voice of the Lord more adeptly though. It has been through studying the lives of his holy prophets. From Adam, to Abraham, to Isaiah, and Paul I’ve been keenly impressed over the past year of study to see how the Lord has always worked with His servants in their lives. But as a Latter Day Saint I’ve been blessed even more fully to read of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s encounters with God the Father and the Savior. As I’ve studied the Restoration of the Priesthood, of Priesthood Keys and temple blessings, I’ve felt the Spirit within me burn and impress upon me the grandeur of the Gospel.
The Melchizedeck Priesthood was restored only after a night of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery essentially running for their lives through the woods of southern New York and northern Pennsylvania. Worn out, battered, bruised, and exhausted from a farce of a trial by their enemies and an escape into the woods, then and there on the banks of the Susquehanna River did the ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John come to restore keys, power, and authority. – The booming voice of the Lord literally commanded the Twelve Apostles to reorganize the First Presidency in December of 1847 in a small cabin with a leaking roof. The Saints were scattered, poor, and ragged, and yet the Lord spoke. – And President John Taylor received no less than eight revelations directly from the Lord which were recorded, and some of which were published to the Saints, all amidst hiding from federal marshalls who wanted to imprison him for polygamy. – Isn’t that just amazing?!
The Lord has always spoken to His servants. He always will. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and indeed the words of Amos were true when he said “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). – Those who wish to circumspect or limit God’s power by saying that He cannot speak to us today baffle me. They do not understand His teachings or the Scriptures.
2011 was a great year for a lot of reasons personally. It was also truly a historic year as dictators fells, governments reformed, economies collapsed, and technology advanced throughout our world. But above it all, as I sit here in my tiny apartment, sitting in that favorite reading chair of mine, I reflect upon the great mercies of our God, and look forward to a new year.
My branch president invited me last night to follow the Lord’s teachings, to get a wife, and begin a happy life together. And so as I enter 2012 those are my hopes and prayers, among a multitude of other things to “build up Zion”, and enjoy the great blessings that this life has to offer.
Whomever you are, and wherever you are as you read this, it is also my hope and prayer that 2012 will be an amazing year for you. I hope that you are happy. I hope that your life is fulfilling. I hope that you are surrounded by people that you love and who love and treasure you. And I pray for the Lord’s choicest blessings upon you. I don’t care whether you share my same beliefs with me or not, but I do desire for you to have a deeply personal and meaningful relationship with our Heavenly Father. You may not be “BFF’s” with the big guy upstairs, but I personally testify to you that He loves you, that He cares for you, and that He is there for you at every moment of every day. Take a chance to get to know Him better. Even try to say a prayer. It won’t hurt ya, and I promise you’ll be glad that you did.
Happy New Year’s Eve all y’all! And Happy New Year!
Here’s to making 2012 our greatest year yet.