Archive for category Spiritual Light from The Land of the Rising Sun
Dear Friends and Family:
I’m grateful to have a (very) few minutes to write to you and tell you about the things that are happening in this mission.
In the Japan Kobe Mission, we are fortunate to know with a great deal of certainty The Lord:s expectations for us in each one of our areas. And for months we have been giving our sweat, our tears, and our blood to try and fulfill them. Somehow, through it all, it was not adding up. We knew The Lord:s will. We knew His expectations. In a particularly rare tender mercy, we even knew his timing. And yet, something seemed to be missing. There was a disconnect between expectation and fulfillment, between hope and realization, between work and results, between sowing and reaping. This missing piece became the subject of tearful prayers and conversations with President Zinke. While he did not from the beginning have all the answers, he was always a marvelous example of steadfast faith in The Lord and His promises.
We have the missing piece. Not surprisingly, it is the power available through the Atonement of The Lord Jesus Christ. Why did it take so many months and so much toil to arrive at such a seemingly simple conclusion? I believe it is because we had to know of a certainty that we could not do this work any other way. We could not rely on our talents and abilities. Mortals cannot do the work that The Lord has called us to do. And yet mortal we are, and we have been called to do this work. Of course, The Lord never intended us to fail. He simply needed a mission full of missionaries humble enough to trust in Him completely.
And now we are seeing the miracles. Not every once in a while but every day, the blessings of heaven are filling this mission, and we are blessed to be a part of it. I wish I had time sufficient to tell you of the things that are happening. At this time, these things are happening largely unnoticed by the world. But this work will astonish the world. The salvation of souls and the conversion to the gospel of their Savior is indeed a grand miracle. In fact, second only to the creation of the world and the Atonement of Christ, it is little wonder that this work is called repeatedly in scripture, “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder.” And all of these miracles were wrought by the hand of the Master whose work this is.
I am seeing hearts touched by the Holy Spirit. I am seeing their souls fill with the hope available only through the Author of their salvation. I know that this mission and this Church is guided by the hand of Jesus Christ, the living Son of the living God.
As the speed of the work continues to increase, I will be left with less and less time to communicate with home. This work occupies all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I have left you all in the capable hands of Him that sent me, so I am assured of your welfare in my absence. I will continue to write as often as circumstances allow, but please be patient in the meantime. In time, we shall be together again and I will have time to answer all of your questions. In the meantime, please stay strong in the gospel. The time is quickly coming when there will not be an opportunity to sit on the fence or even drag our feet. Missionary work is not the only work progressing with increased urgency. Please work with all your might to build Zion in your families, in your homes, and in your hearts. Love Christ. Serve God. Stay faithful. Stay clean. If necessary get faithful, and become clean. The time is at hand, brothers and sisters. I love you, and I know that God loves you.
Until next time,
There is much in the way of stories and news and updates that I could share today, but I feel like there is something else that needs to be said. I am not certain exactly why, but I feel like I want to talk briefly about what I am doing in Japan as it relates to these exciting and tumultuous times in which we live.
The political and economic climate in the United States and worldwide has re-awakened a discussion, centuries in the making, regarding class, welfare, opportunity, charity, greed, and liberty. Opinions on this topic are varied, to say the least, and we could spend hours and longer debating these without ever coming to a satisfying consensus. That is not what I want to do today. Instead, what I would like to do is share a divinely inspired message of timeless truths which can help all of us – regardless of our opinions, views, or circumstances – be happy, healthy, and productive. As an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, I boldly declare the truthfulness of this message and urge all who read it to ponder it and apply it to your lives.
A disturbing report was recently released by the New York Times, stating that for the first time, “more than half of births to American women under age 30 occur outside of marriage” (Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise, “Unwed Mothers Now a Majority Before Age 30,” New York Times, Feb. 18, 2012, A1).
Perhaps there are some of you who read my remarks here who do not share my alarm at this frightening statistic. I urge you to reconsider your perspective! I could cite scripture, prophetic counsel, generally accepted societal practices, or an appeal to common sense in an effort to detail the host of societal ills, of both moral and practical character, that have and will continue to plague the society in which the traditional family is allowed to dissolve. But if there is no other argument which will get your attention, I will appeal to your pocket-books.
Most statisticians agree that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in the United States. In the whirlwind of politically-charged discussion, the exact nature of the cause of this disparity becomes obscure. It is, however, a generally-accepted and amply-demonstrated fact that children born out of wedlock or raised in single-parent homes are less likely to obtain higher education and prosper in the workplace, and more likely to become involved in crime, drugs, and other pursuits which stress societies and further aid the disintegration of the honest work ethic. More than any other single thing, this ethic brings about personal financial well-being. Put simply, there is a direct relationship between the health of the traditional nuclear family and the ethical and economic prosperity of a nation.
This finding seems to agree with a divine promise given once to the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi in 1 Nephi 2:20, and afterwards repeated at least five times to his descendants, eventually becoming the central principle upon which the economy of that ancient civilization was established – Inasmuch as the people keep the commandments of God, they shall prosper in the land.
Prophets, ancient and modern, have made known to the people of the earth the divinely-inspired pattern for family living which The Lord has prepared for us. Far from being a dictatorial decree intended to compel us to a state of bondage and subservience, this pattern was given to promote happiness and prosperity, and to reverse the process of moral, social, and economic decay.
“…Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children…We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as Husband and wife…
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one-another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives – mothers and fathers – will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations…
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of The Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion work, and wholesome recreational activities…
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Family: A Proclamation to The World.)
These warnings are grim, but the message contained in this inspired declaration is one of hope and change. The Lord has not merely revealed the cause of these calamities, but also the solution. We have spoken enough about the diagnosis. Let us speak of the cure.
In the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M Russel Ballard, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, made the following statement: “When people make family and religious commitments to gospel principles, they begin to do better spiritually and often temporally as well.” (That the Lost May Be Found, By Elder M. Russell Ballard. April 2012 General Conference)
What are these “gospel principles” of which Elder Ballad speaks? They are the same as they have always been in every dispensation of time: Faith in The Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, the making and keeping of sacred covenants by means of ordinances such as baptism and marriage for time and eternity The Lord’s House, relying on the guidance of God through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and last of all, remaining true and faithful to covenants made with God and with each other despite whatever opposition may come.
Speaking of these covenants, Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the same Quorum of Twelve Apostles had this to say: “If you have made [them,] keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is still time.” (The Laborers in the Vineyard. By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. April 2012 General Conference)
It really is that simple. We know what we must do. We know how to do it. I cannot promise that it will be easy; nothing worth doing ever is. But I testify in the name of Him who called me to this ministry, that the blessings promised to the faithful and their families in this life and the next await all those who heed this call. You are loved. You are not so lost that The Good Shepherd cannot find you and carry you home to safety. If you remain skeptical, humble yourself, get on your knees, and pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Christ to know if these things are not true. You will come to know, with the same conviction I know, that The Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families, societies, and nations. This is my testimony, and I share it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sometime in the late 1830’s or early 1840’s, a woman by the name of Elisabetha Schneck Stucki gathered her children around her in their family home in the mountains east of Bern, Switzerland. She told them that the Spirit of The Lord had made known unto her that the true gospel had been revealed anew as it had been in the days of Apostles and Prophets. She said that the true Priesthood of God had been bestowed again upon the heads of mortal men. She prophesied that messengers from far in the west would someday come to preach the restored gospel in that part of Switzerland. She said that she would not live to see that day, but that her children would, and that they should look forward to it with eagerness and anticipation.[i]
Elisabetha was a righteous woman who was filled with the Holy Ghost.
In Doctrine and Covenants section eight, verses two and three, we read: “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation…”[ii] The Book of Revelation chapter nineteen, verse ten states, “…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”[iii]
Elisabetha had the testimony of Jesus. She had the spirit of prophecy.
In the True to the Faith booklet we read that, “The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22).” We also learn that he may dwell within us, and that his primary role is to testify of God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. His other roles include: to comfort the distressed soul, to reveal divine truth, to make light that which is hidden, to warn of danger, and to guide the path of the righteous.[iv]
Well, years came and went, and Elisabetha passed on. Her children grew up and started their own families. One of her daughters married a man by the name of Johannes Reber. As a young man, Reber developed a form of rheumatoid arthritis that I am not going to try to pronounce,[v] that left his spine bent and twisted. He was not able to walk straight. He was reported to have a hump on his back higher than his head. He could walk, but it caused him excruciating pain, and it could only be accomplished with the aid of two sturdy crutches.[vi]
About this time, an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by the name of Jabez Woodward came to that part of Switzerland preaching the restored gospel. All of Elisabetha’s children, having heard this prophecy growing up by their mother, eagerly accepted the gospel that Elder Woodward taught. Reber was baptized, and Elder Woodward, after the baptism, laid hands on Reber’s head and blessed him for the healing of his afflicted body. That moment, Reber stood up, and threw his crutches away and walked home. [vii]
Less than a week later, Reber’s Nephew John Stucki reported seeing him walking so straight and tall that he did not recognize him. He went into the house and asked his aunt were Reber could be found. It was explained that Reber was outside chopping wood. For the first time John Stucki realized that it had been the same man. [viii]
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. There was no cure for it in 1858, and there is no cure for it today.
This miraculous healing fulfilled Elisabetha’s prophecy that signs and wonders would follow those who accepted the restored gospel.
This same young boy, John Stucki, was ten years old when he sailed out of Europe, across the Atlantic, and up the Mississippi River to Iowa, where he pushed a handcart across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. A year later Brigham Young called his family, along with about a hundred and forty other families – mostly newcomers from Switzerland – to go settle the Saint George area.
These early saints had no reason of themselves to listen to the counsel of Brigham Young. He really wasn’t the most personable character they had ever met; he wasn’t the most attractive or the most charismatic figure. But the Spirit of God was with him. When he spoke, the Holy Ghost carried the truth of his words into the hearts of all who heard him speak. Contrary to the claims of the Church’s critics in the east, obedience to the Prophet was not blind obedience to a tyrannical theocrat. These saints listened to the words of the prophet and took them to The Lord. The Lord then confirmed, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that these words were true. Then, with unshakable faith, the saints carried out the will of The Lord as it had been revealed unto them.
In the October 2010 General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that Our Heavenly Father has given His children two lines of communication with Him—what we may call the personal line and the priesthood line. All should understand and be guided by both of these essential lines of communication. He said, “…the priesthood line does not supersede the need for the personal line [meaning the line of communication through the Holy Ghost]. We all need a personal testimony of truth. As our faith develops, we necessarily rely on the words and faith of others, like our parents, teachers, or priesthood leaders (see D&C 46:14). But if we are solely dependent on one particular priesthood leader or teacher for our personal testimony of the truth instead of getting that testimony through the personal line, we will be forever vulnerable to disillusionment by the action of that person.”[ix]
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people aren’t perfect. Our priesthood leaders aren’t perfect. Those who have tremendous ability to influence our lives are not perfect. But God is perfect. And because the Holy Ghost works in perfect union with God the Father and Jesus Christ, he can be counted on to help us correctly understand, interpret, and apply prophetic counsel and commandment – provided we are living upright, moral lives. These are the qualifications for living worthy of the Holy Ghost.
This pattern of receiving prophetic direction and confirming it in the Spirit of The Lord became increasingly important to John Stucki throughout his life. As a young father he was called to return to Switzerland, this time as a missionary, to preach the gospel as Elder Woodward had done. Throughout his mission, he tells several stories of heeding the counsel of the Holy Ghost, which led him out of danger and towards those who would hear the truth. These experiences on his mission changed the course of his entire life.
One such experience actually happened when he returned from his mission. Let me set the groundwork. This was an extremely tumultuous time for The Church. If you were told the same story that I was about Church History, you hear about the trials of Missouri, and then moving to Nauvoo, and the trials they experienced there. Then the Prophet Joseph Smith dies, Brigham Young is sustained the President of the Church, he leads the Church to the Salt Lake Valley. The end. Happily ever after. But that’s not how it happened.
The Republican Party, after the civil war, having successfully stamped out slavery in the south, turned their attention to stamping out polygamy in the west. The problem with slavery was that some people didn’t have enough rights. The problem with polygamy, as they saw it, was that the Mormons had too many rights. They really didn’t care how much of the Constitution or our rights they trampled on in their effort to stamp out polygamy. Because Utah was a territory and not a state, we weren’t able to elect our own officials. They were appointed by the federal government. The federal government appointed corrupt territorial officials who moved out here and illegally confiscated Church property, and rented it back to the Church at an extortionist’s prices. They appointed “federal marshals,” and I use that term loosely – they were really more like hired thugs, but they had the badge, which was all that mattered.[x]
A particularly infamous pair of these so-called federal marshals was down in Santa Clara, Utah, which is where John Stucki was living. They were down conducting their regular raid, where they would break into the houses of Church leaders without a warrant, typically beat the occupants to within inches of death, haul them to a federal jail without due process, and lock them up for an undetermined amount of time. John Stucki was reasonably concerned that this might happen to him. So he said a quick prayer, and asked what he must do to be protected from these two men. He did not ask Father in Heaven to protect him; he asked, “what must I do?”
Having perfect faith, he was instructed by the Holy Ghost to invite them into his home. Not even thinking twice – I would think twice; would you think twice? – not even thinking twice he invited them into his home, fed them a good meal free of charge, and then afterwards led them out into his orchard, which had a variety of different fruits, and said “take as much as you can carry for the road.” These men, asking no questions, left him in peace.[xi]
About forty years later, John Stucki baptized his young, eight-year-old grandson. That little boy was Ezra Tobler, my great-grandfather.[xii]
This narrative that I have been unfolding contains just a few examples of how following the Holy Ghost has affected my family throughout its history. Now, there is no such thing as a happy ending, because nothing ever ends. So, I won’t conclude this narrative, but I will bring you up-to-date.
Any of you that know me – and there are a few of you in here who do – know that if you are trying to find me, there is a good chance that I will be on my way to or coming from some high adventure activity with my father. It was on just one such occasion that he and I were driving somewhere out in the region of South Utah, when we got to talking. It happens on long drives.
In the course of this talk we began to speak about the possibility of whether or not I would serve a mission. I had attempted to serve a mission before, but quickly learned how difficult that really is. Due in part to my own struggles, and in part to the decisions of others (and I had my own feelings about that,) there were many obstacles placed in my path, and I was not able to serve. This was, needless to say, very discouraging! I was on the verge of giving up, when the Spirit of The Lord entered into my heart with more force and with more power than I have ever before or since felt. In that moment, I heard the voice of The Lord as clearly as you hear me now tell me that I needed to serve a mission.
Unlike the stories I have been telling, I was not particularly quick to heed the counsel of the Spirit. I wish I had been. I was still discouraged and at this point, my enthusiasm for serving had been squashed by the struggles of getting there. But I did. I went to my bishop – this was when I was in the singles ward – and said, “My mission papers have expired, but I would like to start them up again.” And he said, “Okay. Let’s get you on a mission.”
Brothers and Sisters, this gospel is true. And it’s a good thing too, because from what I hear, what I’m in for is quite the sacrifice! But the gospel is true. The Restoration was actually performed. God the Father and Jesus Christ actually appeared to Joseph Smith. And because that is true, whatever happens to me in the next two years is worth it.
I bare testimony of these things, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 14-15
[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3
[iii] Revelation 19:10
[iv] “Holy Ghost,” True to the Faith, (2004),81–84
[v] Referred to only as “Rheumatism,” probably Ankylosing Spondylitis
[vi] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 16-20
[vii] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 16-20
[viii] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 16-20
[ix] Oaks, Dallin. “Two Lines of Communication.” October 2010 General Conference
[x] See “The Mormon experience: a history of the Latter-Day Saints” by Leonard J. Arrington
[xi] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 94-95
[xii] Tobler, Ezra. “A Brief History of the Life of Ezra Tobler.” 1989. 14
A few days ago, my childhood friend Rilee opened her mission call. Here is the video:
The assignment in a missionary’s call is given by way of revelation from God, through a divinely appointed Apostle of The Lord. All missionaries who understand this, and who have adequate faith in Jesus Christ, feel the power and wisdom of their call from the moment they find it out. It is this sublime and profound power that moved this sister to tears. And I must admit that I had to choke down tears when I read my call letter, as well.
The Church is true. It is governed by Jesus Christ, through inspired leaders who hold the keys to revelation and Priesthood in the latter days.
This video was taken by my parents on ２１日１２月２０１１年. This is the opening of my mission call.
A full-time proselytizing mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a no small undertaking. Not only will a missionary be asked to leave his home, travel to a distant and possibly strange land, and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all day, every day for two years, all on his own dime – but leaders of The Church will require him to meet a standard of personal conduct that frankly is just not practiced in today’s society. What’s more, he will undergo a rigorous screening process to determine whether he is physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of carrying out the demanding work of mission life. He will be interviewed by several local leaders and asked specific questions regarding his personal worthiness, in which he will be expected to answer honestly many deeply personal inquiries into his moral conduct. The answers to these questions will determine whether or not he is eligible to serve. If he is found unworthy or unable, he may face a deeply discouraging struggle against his particular shortcomings, which he may or may not be able to conquer. During this time, he must try to find his place among a legion of his friends and neighbors who all seem to be conspicuously aware that he is not on a mission. And if he succeeds in overcoming these trials, then the hard part begins.
On a particular day specified in his mission call, he will report to one of seventeen Missionary Training Centers, most often the one in Provo, Utah. He will wake up early and work harder than he ever has in his entire life. He is told when to wake up, when to eat, when to exercise, when to study (which is the bulk of what he will do), when to shower and practice teaching and do laundry and write letters and sleep. During this time, if he failed to fully repent of any serious misdeeds, the guilt brought about by the constant exposure to the Holy Ghost will sear his conscience, and he may be spiritually unable to complete his tour of duty in the MTC. Even if he can, the physical and mental demands place an unprecedented level of stress on his young adult mind, which is sometimes more than even perfectly healthy people can endure.
Oh, and through every moment of this, he must learn to live with and abide the constant presence of a mission companion who he is sure must have been fathered by the Devil himself.
When he finishes his training in the MTC, though, it’s a piece of cake. All he will need to do then is spend every waking moment teaching and preparing to teach people who probably hate him, or at least find him and all Mormon missionaries annoying. He will have to suffer persecution for his beliefs, have his nearest and dearest convictions scrutinized, ridiculed, and mocked. He will be called to stand toe-to-toe with some of the brightest minds in academia and defend his faith. He will face rejection on a daily basis, in volumes he never imagined possible. He will suffer discouragement, depression, doubt, frustration, humiliation. He will become homesick. He will miss his bed, his mother, his girlfriend, his dog. His dog may die, and his girlfriend may send him a “Dear John,” and that’s if he’s lucky. If he is unlucky, he will receive a lengthy letter explaining how his mother was diagnosed with a fatal and degenerating neurological condition, and may or may not survive long enough to see him come home. He will struggle with crushing feelings of inadequacy when he gives the work his all, and despite everything he cannot see that he is having any success.
By now you must be wondering “WHY?! Why would ANYONE voluntarily subject themselves to this?! How can perfectly intelligent, reasonable people put themselves through this kind of tribulation?”
The answer to this question is the single most important answer to any question that has ever been asked, and it is the reason I am writing to you today.
Because it’s true.
In 1820, a fourteen-year-old boy walked into the woods, knelt down, and prayed to know where he could find the true Church of Jesus Christ. In answer to his humble supplication, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him, there in the Sacred Grove, and informed him that the true Church did not exist on the earth, but it would soon be restored. And it was. Ten years later, the Book of Mormon was published in the English language, translated by the gift and power of God from an ancient record of Christians in the New World. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized a year after that, and the true Priesthood Authority was restored to earth. With it came the power and authority to perform Baptism, to cast out evil spirits, to heal the sick, and administer the sacred ordinances necessary to qualify for exaltation, through the saving grace of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
I testify that these things are true. I know they are true. And because they are true, I readily and wholeheartedly accept the call to serve issued to me by living Prophets and Apostles in the latter days. I know full-well that I cannot comprehend the challenges that I must soon encounter. It matters not to me. I shall march forward with Faith, and meet these challenges head on, relying not upon my own strength and cleverness to carry me through, but upon the merits of Jesus Christ, with whom all things are made possible.