Monday, May 6, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day

Why hello there! How are you all doing this fine day. It is a beautiful rainy day here in Tijuana. Things are going real good. More than anything, I want to start by wishing a very very happy Mothers Day to all of you incredible Mothers, especially mine. I know you would all like to have had a mother as incredible as mine, but sorry... guess I just lucked out :) Thanks Mom, your the best! 

This week was full of lots of stuff. First of all I got a lot of stuff done here in the offices and I feel like I am all caught up and that I’ve got it all down now. It is a lot of fun to work here in the offices, I get to learn and see a lot of incredible things. Other than that, we’ve had a decent week here in our area also. We are still struggling a bit to find new investigators, but we had a huge blessing by the ward who on Sunday all just got on the saddle and are 100% behind us now. They have committed themselves that as a ward they will give 15 referrals a week. So we will see how that turns out, but Ive got a lot of faith that they will come out strong. 

Honestly, this week I have been thinking a lot about the talk that dad gave for stake conference about forgiveness. There are a lot of people that we are visiting that have a very hard time getting over things that someone has done and have a hard time forgiving. I am going to highly encourage my mother that she may attach the talk of my father to this letter so that you can all read it. But anyway, the part especially about Jonah I really like. The scripture where God asks, "Doeth though well to be angry?" has been a big thought of mine this week. It honestly is a really interesting question. Because really what point is there to be angry. Who knows. 

Really, everything is going really well. God is still working incredible miracles here in this area. I feel super blessed to be here. I hope that you all have an incredible week. Take care and have an incredible Mothers Day. I love you all!! 

Elder Tommy Anderson

Stake Conference April 2013
 “Doeth Thou Well to be Angry?”

When Sister Naomi W. Randall wrote the words to “I am a child of God,” an important line stood out “teach me all that I must know.”  President Spencer W. Kimball suggested the lyric be changed to “teach me all that I must do” because knowledge, is of little worth unless it is acted upon.  This children’s song reminds us who we are and what we must represent as true Disciples of the Savior.  Perhaps one day we will all sing, “teach me all that I must be” because in the final analysis, it isn’t what we know or even what we’ve done that matters if by then we haven’t become the kind of people who can “live with Him someday.”

I have been asked by President Howell to share some thoughts with you this morning regarding a topic that the world struggles with, and one that if we cannot master, we may find ourselves in jeopardy of forfeiting our right to “Live with Him Someday.”  

There have been personal stories and experiences shared last night and today that have blessed me and strengthened my testimony.  Much of what I have learned through studying the scriptures has been reinforced by life’s experiences.  

Perhaps some of us today have come to Stake Conference with a heavy heart…a heart full of spite or contention as a result of being hurt by someone you are close to.

Christ taught in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you…But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Our ability to forgive others including ourselves is a critical component to our finding lasting happiness in this life.  Too often we hear of those who are offended by either the intended, but most likely, the non intended words of others whose intent it is to not offend.  Sometimes as a people, we are quick to judge and slow to understand the consequences that often come to the offended by not forgiving others.  

I wish to share three stories with you that illustrate how others have dealt with disappointment or injustices and the results of the actions of each in a time of personal crisis.

The story of the Prophet Jonah in the Old Testament is not so much a story about one of God’s prophets sent as a missionary to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh as much as it is a story about Jonah and his inability to reconcile the difficult feelings that he had bound up in his heart.  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because of the atrocities the Assyrians had done to his people, the Hebrews.  Reluctantly, Jonah went to Nineveh (which was about the size of Bluffdale) to preach repentance.  As you know, he had some rather interesting fish stories along the way.  Perhaps Jonah obeyed because he didn’t believe that the Assyrians would repent, and knew that if they didn’t, they would be destroyed.  Jonah cried repentance and the people changed their hearts.  Incredibly, Jonah was displeased that the people had repented and had been forgiven. 

Jonah was so angry that he prayed and said “Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.  He was so angry that a loving Heavenly Father changed His mind and spared this people from destruction that Jonah would have rather died than to rejoice in Ninevah’s repentance.

As an answer to Jonah’s prayer, in Jonah 4:4 Jonah is asked a very important question:  “Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?”  

Why would the Lord ask Jonah to try to save the Assyrians?  Because the Lord was trying to save Jonah in perhaps the only way that he could, and that was by having Jonah serve    his enemy.

Sometimes we need to just let it go and ask ourselves: Doeth thou well to be angry?  Recognize that Satan seeks to destroy those who become vulnerable due to the hurtful actions of others.

As with Jonah, so is it with each of us.  Our pains are not so much about seeking retribution or restitution from what often accompanies the injustices of life.  More of a “what must I do to find and experience inner peace?”  The times of my life that bring the greatest misery are those times when I fail to forgive or fail to find faith in a plan that I sometimes cannot understand.  

The second story I wish to share occurred on Monday morning, June 25, 2007.  While preparing for my day, my wife Annette received a telephone call from another sister in our stake whose husband works in law enforcement.  She indicated that her husband had just called her and told her that a shooting had just taken place at the University of Utah Hospital that included a prison guard and an inmate.  The sister indicated that the guard that had been shot by the prisoner who had over powered the guard was a member of my family, Stephen Anderson.  Stephen was not just a family member, but was a tremendous example to his family and a good friend.  He and I served together on the Stake Council.  I was prompted by the Spirit to drive to their home.  As I approached Stephen and Milli’s home, I saw a number of cars from the prison in the driveway.  As their children began to arrive upon hearing of their father’s death, a great peace began to occur.  What I saw, and what I felt, during the next few hours will be a constant reminder of doing what I must do and being who I must become.  Their personal and collective dilemma was not a question of why did this awful event take place, but a matter of love and concern for their mother and for each other.  With chaos all around, I became a part of one of the most sacred experiences I have ever witnessed. At that moment, heaven and earth came together as unseen angels watched and ministered round about blessing lives that could easily be touched.

As the new patriarch of this family, Stephen and Milli’s son, Sean, gathered his mother and sisters together and lead his family in prayer.  I was fortunate to be included in this sacred event.  With humility and faith, each kneeled down as Sean spoke the words of the prayer.  In doing so, he thanked Heavenly Father for their parents and the loving example that their father had been to them.  Then, in complete character of this family, he asked for a blessing to be upon the man who had been responsible for this crime and for his family.
Whether or not they recognized it at the time, decisions had already been made as to what kind of a reaction they would demonstrate in the event of tragedy in their lives.

Over the next five and a half years until the case was finally resolved in January of this year, I watched a family who stood as true disciples of the Savior.  Many wondered how they could forgive someone who had taken their father and husband away from them.  With their family, there was never a question as to whether or not forgiveness would be offered.

Forgiveness does not mean we are not holding others accountable for their wrong doing.  But through forgiveness, we become free of the responsibility of holding them accountable.  

Divine forgiveness is possible even when men do not forgive us.  If we have the assurance that God has forgiven us, we can forgive ourselves and outlast any unforgiving attitude of those around us. 

Elder Neil A. Maxwell once said:  “We cannot repent for someone else.  But we can forgive someone else, refusing to hold hostage those whom the Lord seeks to set free.”

The third story I wish to share with you is about William W. Phelps who had to learn what it meant to be alone in life.  Here was a man who at the age of forty chose to do the will of the Lord.  He moved to Kirtland and devoted himself to the work.  When the Kirtland Temple was dedicated, the congregation sang the stirring anthem chorused at every temple dedication since: “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning.”  h

Wouldn’t you think that here was a disciple Joseph could count on?  

Unfortunately, Brother Phelps didn’t stand by Joseph.  In fact, he contributed to one of the most desperate times in Joseph’s life.  Phelps stepped away in Missouri when tensions were high among the non-Mormons and the cry to kill the Prophet was heard from the highest ranks of the military.  Joseph was arrested and jailed.  Who signed his name to those trumped up charges?  Who spoke against the Prophet?  W.W. Phelps.   He had fallen into apostasy and joined the adversary.

Joseph spent the winter in a dark, dirty prison, separated from his family and the work he loved.  Did he shake his fist at the sky and call down the powers of heaven on Phelps or the others trying to thwart the work of the Lord?  No.  he understood the atonement of the Savior.  He petitioned the Lord for comfort and guidance.  What was the Lord’s response?  “Thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever.”  What a promise.  And then he reminded Joseph, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all” Clearly the atonement of Jesus Christ had paid for the sins of W.W. Phelps.

Joseph was allowed to escape from jail.  “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing,” Joseph told the Saints in Nauvoo.  He knew the Lord was in charge; just as He is in charge today.

Phelps betrayal didn’t stop the work, and he soon came to realize that he had made an enormous mistake.  To his credit, he wrote Joseph and begged for forgiveness and for his friendship.  You see, Phelps was standing alone.  The adversary doesn’t stay with anyone after they have done his bidding; he leaves them to loneliness and despair.  Phelps was no exception.

Joseph wrote back:  “The cup of gall, already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us…’had it been an enemy, we could have borne it….’  “However, the cup has been drunk, the will of our Father has been done, and we are yet alive, for which we thank the Lord…”  “Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal.”

“Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first, are friends at last.” 

What a tender reminder of the pure love of Christ that the Prophet Joseph exhibited towards a former enemy.

So how is it with us?  Is the war past, or are we carrying around wrongs we can’t quite forgive, mistakes we can’t quite forget?

W.W. Phelps had a change of heart so dramatic that when Joseph Smith was martyred, Phelps wrote the stirring tribute: “Praise to the Man who communed with Jehovah!  Jesus anointed that Prophet and seer.”  

Sometimes, like Brother Phelps, do we “step away” from the truth or what’s right when tensions are high in our lives?  As both Brother Phelps and the Prophet Joseph asked and received forgiveness, both lives were blessed and happiness returned.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, only to discover afterwords that the prisoner set free was you.”  -Lewis Smedes

Some of you may have perhaps read the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, who was a prisoner in the Jewish Concentrations Camps prior to World War II.  

One excerpt from his book reads: “In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.”
He goes on to say:
“Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.”
How does one know if they have been forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage.  You tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all. You don’t commiserate or tell everyone you know about how you were wronged.  This only adds to our inability to find peace and relief from our pain.

D&C 64:9-10  “Wherefore I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin…I the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

There are no astrics after this verse saying that it’s ok not to forgive others for certain offenses.  We are commanded to forgive everyone as difficult as that may be.  

“To be offended is a choice we make.  It is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”  –Elder David A. Bednar

We can turn feelings of hostility into feelings of love through prayer.  Remember the Bible dictionary definition of prayer:

Prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and those around us the blessings that He is already willing to grant, but that are conditional in us needing to ask for them.  Sometimes the times we are least willing to humble ourselves in prayer are the times we find the greatest frustrations and disappointments in life.  I testify that He does hear our prayers and answers in ways only He can answer them in perhaps the only way we can receive them.  You would be wise to learn to cast your burdens on the Lord in times of frustration, hurt, and disappointment.

Anger is something we all have to work through.  Sometimes turning our anger into something constructive takes time and effort.  May I suggest that your Bishop is a great place to seek peace after we have not been able to secure peace through prayer and working through it.  Because of some offenses, it may be wise to consider a professional, trained to help us to overcome feelings of anger and pain through more difficult to resolve issues.

Remember that forgiveness does not mean we are not holding others accountable for their wrong doing.  Through forgiveness though, we become free of the responsibility of holding them accountable.

While forgiveness in and of itself is not the same as being healed, forgiveness plays a vital part of the healing process of both parties.

Let us remember that for us, we must learn to forgive if we expect to gain peace both in this life and in the life to come.  ”Doeth thou well to be angry?”  These were the words spoken by the Lord himself, and the same words that each of us need to ask ourselves in times of anger.

I leave you with my testimony that each of us have the potential of becoming and staying happy even in an evil and imperfect world.  I testify that you can receive relief from life’s burdens and disappointments as we strive to gain faith in Heavenly Father’s plan and ask Him for courage in times of need.    

Pictures of Apartment

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