Grateful for the Opportunity to Serve

Sunday I was formally released from my calling as 2nd Counselor in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency in my ward. This is the same ward I was baptized into about 5 years ago. I remember hearing from a previous Bishop with such a release can come a flurry of emotions. My most powerful right now is gratitude. I will not lie, I was sad to be released.

For starters release is a term we use in the church to acknowledge our current Calling (position/job) term has come to an end. The only callings that you cannot be released from are if you are called to be an apostle or Prophet/President of the church. So local and area positions can come to an end.

It was indeed an honor to serve the brethren of my home ward. Of course releases can come without warning. sometimes followed by another calling, or the basis that the Lord saw fit for your skills and gifts somewhere else. I am planning on moving soon, and while I am sad to see my time in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency come to an end, it will allow me time to focus on house hunting and packing.

When I called my girlfriend after my meeting with the High Priest, she reminded me of something I had told her a year or so ago, that “It’s a part of serving God, and that the Lord will indeed find work for you to do…”. I pondered long and hard about it, and found comfort in the fact that indeed there will always be work for me to do in the Lord’s kingdom.  One quote, my favorite Book of Mormon quote comes to mind…

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it, Amen”

1Nephi Chapter 9, Verse 6

No matter what I know the Lord will guide me towards my truest potential!

As I said before, it was an extreme honor to serve my brethren, some of who helped me out and showed great fellowship when I was a new member of the church. I feel through my service in the presidency, I was taught more lessons from those good brethren. I have no idea what the next few months hold as I prepare to move to a new town, and a new ward, but I’m confident in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ, and my kind and gracious Heavenly Father.

This summer has been a very emotionally draining one, and I do know I will now have time to focus on feelings I may have tried submerging regarding the loss of my grandmother. I think within the next month or two, finding myself spiritually and emotionally will be of priority. I’m so grateful for the love of a wonderful family, an amazing girlfriend, and great friends, through this. As I have said, it was my grandmother and her Christ-like example that led me to my faith. She always urged me to follow God in everything I did, and I know I wouldn’t be here without her.

Through it all one thing is for certain and that is the growth in my testimony, that I know that Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father are there every step of the way in our lives. I know and wholeheartedly believe that families are eternal, and that This church is true! I know that we have a living prophet in Thomas S. Monson here on this earth, and I know no matter how old I am or what my condition is, the Lord will always put opportunities to serve and teach in my path, and I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ….

Amen.

Gerald R.

 

Free Write (2/11/2015)

As most of my regular readers and friends know, I serve in my singles ward as an Assistant Mission Leader. I’m 25 and I’m a convert to the church. I love my calling, and I love serving in the capactiy that the Lord allows. So my calling and situation in my ward is really awesome and I wouldn’t trade it. It allows me to serve others and share the gospel, and seriously quite honestly, what more could you want?

So in January, I decided to do a self assessment of myself, and also after a regularly PPI, or a Personal Priesthood Interview, with a member of the Bishopric. I wanted to better magnify my calling, and do more service and work. I wanted to give more of myself so that I could carry out the Lords plan.

So I decided to get better at reading the scriptures, praying more, and start making it to my meetings on time, no excuses, and go to the temple more regularly.

Well I’ve been doing those things, and I’ve seen the change, and it’s awesome! I see it makes my relationships with people more better, and I just feel so more connected to the spirit, and able to hear it’s promptings so much better.

So Sunday we had the Monthly Stake Missionary Correlation meeting, and we were prompted by the Stake President to begin praying more for opportunities to share the gospel. But not just pray in general, but to pray everyday, and also to share our testimonies>

So usually most people gain full testimonies of things through basic action and reaction. So I took my Stake President’s council on praying for opportunities to share the gospel…

Lo and behold if it didn’t take three days for something to happen and that council to come to pass.

So I get to my office, and sit at my desk and start the daily ritual of turning my computer on and setting up my stuff for work, when a friend of mine who I ahd worked with at a previous job and had went to high school came up to me. HE lifts shows me “The Restoration” pamphlet handed out by every missionary usually on the first visit.

He asked. “this is your church right?”

I quickly replied, “Yeah dude,” At first I thought he had gotten the one I usually leave on my desk, but came to find out he had indeed met with missionaries, who had helped him at a time, referring to them as angelike in their timing and thier service when his car broke down. I was floored. This person is a long time friend, and here he was telling of this powerful experience he had just had. We shared a few more words and then I finished logging in.

Quickly I felt prompted to give him the Book of Mormon I kept in my desk for just this type of sitation. I wasn’t sure if they had given him one, but I decided to take a chance. I held the book in my hand, a little nervous, as anyone is before sharing a big part of their faith. I decided to just do it. I went over to him when I had a little bit of time, and I hadned him the book, explained a little about it, and then he shared he was going to be coming to church next weekend. He’s married so there wouldn’t be a visit to the singles ward. I told him I’d love to go if he’d have me there, and if he had any questions that he could come to me. He was gracious and thanked me.

It was such an extraordiany experience. I have had many missionary opportunities, but it really cemented my testimony on the daily prayer of such opportunities.

Simply put the Lord is going to put those opportunities in front of his disciples when the time is right. Pray for such opportunities, stay versed in the gospel to the ebst of your abilities, and keep yourselves in a lifestyle and mindset to recieve direction and inspiration of the spirit, and you will indeed have the fire and power of Heavenly father, and be a great missionary.

Being a missionary is not just putting on a name tag, as Elder Neil L. Anderson in the April 2013 General Conference talk said-

If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart—painted, as Paul said, “not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.” And returned missionaries, find your old missionary tag. Don’t wear it, but put it where you can see it. The Lord needs you now more than ever to be an instrument in His hands. All of us have a contribution to make to this miracle” 

We can all be representative of Christ without putting a suit on. In my experiences with sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the best missionary work comes from everyday disciples of Christ like you and I. We will see the blessings that come to one’s life when they accept Christ, and we will also feel the joy of missionary work.

I testify as you choose to lift your voice in the name of Jesus Christ that you will be empowered and you will have the Holy Ghost with you to direct your actions in conjunction with God’s plan. I bear my testimony that the gospel is true, and that we can all spread the message of love and salvation in the example of Christ, and we can lead other’s to salvation through our daily actions and words. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ…

Amen

Testimony 1/27/2015

I just wanted to bear my testimony on this gospel and the Book of Mormon. Last night, before bed I found myself just submersed in the scriptures. Now this is something I’ve been trying to get better at doing super regularly. But I had been reminded to read from one of the missionaries in my ward.

Now typically, I’m a listen to the scriptures while I drive type of guy, and read every now and then between tech calls in my office. But I was on Facebook at midnight and one of the missionaries in my ward had posted a video about the Book of Mormon. And it had different testimonies, and I was touched to read. I found myself reading until like 2 am. But I’m not here to boast, but to just say how much spirit I felt before I went to bed. I felt stronger spiritually, I felt a soft heart and I felt I was ready for whatever today had in store because the last thing I had on my mind was the gospel and good thoughts.

So I’d like to bear my testimony that I know this gospel is true, that the Book of Mormon is a true and translated scriptural account of the Lord’s dealings with the inhabitants of the early Americas, and I know that it was through the Book of Mormon, The Bible, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, that we can come closer to God. I know that we have Prophets on the Earth today, and that we are a chosen generation. And I leave these things in the Name of Jesus Christ

Amen

“Thoughts from Sacrament” The Fragility of Mortality

“Thoughts from Sacrament: The Fragility of Mortality”

 

This week sadly I don’t have a “Thought from Sacrament” specifically dedicated to the talks given. Not because I didn’t go or anything. I was there and the speakers did fabulous, but my mind was elsewhere,and that’ what I plan on writing about. I was reading over a blog post I had written two years ago about Legacy, and I will refer to that as well.

So Around me lately there’s been a few passings. One of them was a friend I had grown up with, and a few others were conencted to friends and loved ones. I know death is a way of life, and just another step on our eternal progress to become Exalted beings, but it still sucks.

At the end of the day no matter what you believe or who you are we mustn’t excuse the fact that life is so fragile. And sometimes we do take it for granted. I for one am guilty of this transgression. I go through my days some times in auto-pilot, and that’s not what we were sent here to do. If we were created to just go through life in auto-pilots we may as well assume our rolls as cyborgs with no souls. No instead we have a deep purpose in this broken world! That roll is to make the world a better place. We’re meant to enjoy the moments, and make the most of the time we have here in mortality. When you really think about mortality from a fragile point of view, it makes it more precious, and makes life more beautiful.

So then in that beauty there is the inevitability of passing on to a higher plane, and then all that’s left is your memory and legacy. So I personally find myself always thinking when I write in my journal, post a blog post, or update a facebook status, How will I be remembered. How will generations after me remember me. How will my family and friends see me after I’m gone. what will my legacy be.

Will it be one of valor, and honor, or will it be covered by mistakes and pain. Truth be told we are in control of our own legacy, and that’s what’s so awesome about it. WE stand here today with a choice to make the most of the day. To do good unto others and do our part to make the world a better place. We can build legacies that can inspire the future.

I could go on for hours talking about this, and I think it sums up like this…

Make the most of life, Don’t be afraid to chances. Don’t be afraid to ask the girl or guy you like out. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on moving or a new adventure. Don’t be afraid to make a change for good in the world, because we never know when it’ll be our time! So I challenge all of you, start looking for ways you can make the most of today for a better tomorrow, leave a legacy to be proud of.

I’m going to leave you with a song, that kind of inspires me at time to do the most  today so that tomorrow can be a better place.

“Will you be Remembered” By Kinetics & One Love

https://soundcloud.com/swong3/will-you-be-remembered-feat

R.I.P. John

 

 

Thoughts from Sacrament- Fast and Testimony

So first off I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New years! Hope everyone had a good holiday!! I know I did. I also look forward to keeping this train rolling as long as I can. So  lets kick this off!

This sunday was the monthly Fast and Testimony Sacrament meeting. Each month, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint devote a sunday, usually the first sunday to a fast. There are many Reasons behind this, some use it to ponder out important decisions that may lie before them, or pray for guidance, or any other matter that may be apparent at the time. Nonetheless this time is a time of reflection.

Usually this fast will go from Saturday night after dinner, until Sunday evening, (dinner). Some Wards like the Singles Ward I attend have what they call a “Break-The-Fast” potluck, where the entire ward eats together right after church.

During Sacrament, instead of the weekly talks given by two members of the congregation, members are given the opportunity to stand at the pulpit and bear there testimonies. Seeing how there is no subjegated talk assigned, I will therefore bear my testimony…

I find myself looking back on the last 25 years. With a new year in front of me, I like to look back, and I think of all the crazy moments in my life where most likely I shouldn’t have survived, or made it out. I thinik about all my trials, and there’s only one thing I can do, and that’s give thanks to our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be here. I’m 25 years old, and I am blessed with a family that would do anything for one another, that’s fights together for one another! I’m blessed with a loving girlfriend, who’s supported me and been by my side for the last 5 years more than anyone outside my family. I’m blessed with friends that I know that I can go to for just about anything. I’m blessed with a job, that I probably didn’t qualify for when I started but due to the grace of God I was able to focus just enough to learn and progress.

I am so grateful and humbled by the influence and strength the Lord has given me in  my life. For that reason it is why I choose to share my testimony and spread the gospel using my God given gifts! I know this Gospel to be true, and I know my Heavenly Father loves me. I’m so grateful for all the blessings he has given me and still gives me each day. I know his son Jesus Christ died for our sins, and through the atonement we can be cleansed of our sins and the sins of this world. I am so grateful and filled with Joy, and I leave my testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ’s name

Amen

 

My Spiritual Journey

So last year for an English assignment, we were given the opportunity to write a five page paper on a life changing event. Well I tried and I tried and I tried and could only think of my story to the baptismal font. In the paper I described from a young age to October of 2011 when I was baptised and the moments and events that led me to where I am now. So here it is, my conversion story, The Story of Me.

“My Conversion”

When people think of life-changing events, they think of first cars, graduations, marriage, and first children. At twenty-five years old, I’ve only accomplished so much, but what I have accomplished has brought forth blessings without measure. That is the story I am here to tell today: the story of my conversion and baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Most people I know were baptized as children or babies, depending on which church they belonged to. I took a more elongated route that introduced me to the baptismal font at twenty two. But before we jump ahead let’s start at the beginning.

Growing up, my family was Baptist. I didn’t really understand what that meant, outside of faith in God and Jesus Christ. I barely went to church, but knew the scriptures through my grandmother and my parents. I had a moderate understanding of the faith of my parents, but as a child I lived for Saturday morning cartoons. Power Ranger, Pokemon, Rugrats, fox kids were the pinnacle of my childhood weekends.

I can remember while sitting in front of the television, and seeing commercials, for “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”. Usually it was a commercial featuring a little kid doing something nice or sweet. It would catch my very short attention span for just a few seconds to make me wonder, “What is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The show would return, and like a flash of light, the thought would disappear. As a little boy, I didn’t think I’d get the answer to the question that had appeared in my mind for those brief seconds. Nor did I ever get my mind off of anything other than becoming a Power Ranger, the latter of which never happened. I can remember growing up, the word “Mormon”, I remember it leaving my mouth or being in the mouths of others, but there was no real meaning behind it. I had never met a Mormon or at least I didn’t know if I had. To be honest, I didn’t know anything more than the commercials.

Growing up, I did a good job staying out of trouble. Outside of a few school  fights, I was a good kid, although very hyper and lacking an attention span needed to complete most tasks without being reminded. I competed in varsity football, earned decent grades, and balanced singing in my school’s choir, while working a part time job in high school. I never touched drugs or alcohol. I never got in trouble with the law. Like I said, I was a pretty good kid throughout high school and middle school.

College came in 2007 and I began branching out on my own. I was again inquisitive. I was again searching for the answers to the questions of the universe: “why were we here, where did we come from, Republican, or Democrat, War or Peace”. Influences were all around, pulling me in every direction. Influences in politics, creation or origins of man, and in social norms were abundant in the college environment. The good boy from my earlier years was starting to slip into a sea of influence that would suck me in for years to come.

During 2008 and 2009, Mormonism was again on my television screen. However this time it was portraying a more radical side, the polar opposite from the commercials from my childhood. Depicted were the polygamist sects that everyone kind of knew about, but rarely discussed about except to discriminate against the mainstream Latter-day Saint population. Shows depicting Mormon polygamy like Big Love & Sister Wives, as well as the endless coverage of Federal strike force invasions of Polygamist compounds were all over. You couldn’t turn on the news without hearing something new about it. Of course I was aware there were two sides, unlike everyone else around me who seemed to mesh together the various sects, but I still didn’t know what the Mormon church really was. I wanted to know who the real Mormons were.

One day, my friend Ron and I were driving down towards DC to help with a monster truck rally. En route we drove past a building. Although I didn’t know at the time would change my life forever. While on 495, half awake and a little hungry, I peeked my head out the window of his red Chevy pickup truck and saw one of the most beautiful works of architecture I had ever laid eyes on. I saw the Washington DC Latter-day Saint Temple. It just rose over the hill as if it were floating. The white marble brightly shone in the sunlight and the golden spires rose into the heavens. I turned to Ron and asked, “Dude, what is that?” He then replied, “It’s the Mormon temple. Haven’t you seen it before?” My memory jogged back to trips on this highway when I had seen this temple before, except my childhood memories of those early family trips referred to it as a castle belonging to some type of royalty stationed here in America. That moment was just so amazing. I truly felt something staring out the window.

Weeks passed, and the image never left my head. At the time, I was working at Shoppers, grocery store. I worked along side of a non-Mormon war veteran who had seen the world named Bob. We would talk about family history and religion and one day he told me about the Mormon temple, that very same building that I had seen only a few weeks earlier. Bob and I traded thoughts and I’m sure my curiosity was no longer hidden. He told me about the family history center near the temple and how this religion possessed the largest family history database in the world. I found this so amazing, and just so powerful, because at the time I had never heard of anything like that. My mother being adopted had always made me interested in family history.

I had a friend at the time named Desiree. I remember talking about the church one night with her and she told me she was a member. I was dumbfounded; I couldn’t believe that I had found a member, someone who I trusted who was actually a member of this church that had taken over my mind. I began to ask questions pertaining to polygamy and the history of the church. MY curiosity again continued to grow.

I soon realized that I needed answers. As someone who enjoys writing and had grew up wanting to be a military journalist, my natural instinct was to sit in a library behind computers and books until I answered my questions. That’s what I began doing between class. It became an obsession. I saw on the church’s website, Mormon.org, that I could order their scriptures and DVDs. I ordered a book called the Book of Mormon along with some DVDs. I felt in my heart I was coming closer to finally having answers. I felt as though I was coming to an end in my journey. I had no idea that my journey had only just began.

A few days after placing the order, I sat on my living room couch drowning out the school day with useless television (ironically enough it was Big Love), when a knock on the door came. I got up and opened the door to two young boys about my age in shirts and ties. I looked at them not knowing who they were. I then noticed their name tags bore the name of the church that I had so many questions about. One of the boys said, “Hi we’re with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we have something for you!” He opened his back-pack and handed me a Book of Mormon. I remember holding the book in my hands. I had no idea what it was to be honest. I knew answers resided in this blue book. I could feel answers were in the minds and hearts of these boys. We spoke that afternoon for about fifteen minutes before we said a prayer and I bid them farewell.

I went back to my couch and glanced through the book. I really had no idea what it was about, except that it meant a lot to this curious church I was investigating. I began reading, which to be honest in the beginning quickly bored me. I preferred what I’d read online. Again my attention span came back to attack me.

Days went by, and the missionaries continued to call. I’d talk to them on the phone, but I’d always find ways around meeting them in person. I told my buddies about my new investigation. They voiced their concerns, and being the peer pressured kid I was, I took their opinions over what I felt in my heart. I was worried about what others would think of me looking into this church. I was so scared that I’d lose friends, and family because of this. I knew wars were being fought overseas in His name, but I was far from ready for a potential war with my family and friends, so I stopped pursuing as openly and directly. I had let fear defeat me.

The following year, I went away to college, leaving behind the community college library which had become the temple of my investigation. In that year, I began to party like everyone else. I began disobeying my parents and descending into a spiral of recklessness and destruction. I was in this darkness since I had stopped openly researching this church that had brought so much peace and curiosity. I was now away from my family, and forced to make new friends. Breakups, drama, and nights barely remembered followed. I was on another sports team which only drove and increased the recklessness. I had stopped caring and instead of yielding to my spiritual side and the curiosity that was inside of me, I was now a servant of the more temporal and destructive things in life. In the summer before leaving for Stevenson University, my family and I had the biggest blow up I could remember. It left relationships tarnished and fragile, and I went to college barely mending those relationships. I had lost any type of faith that had remained from my childhood. I had no direction outside of wanting to become a Baltimore City Police officer. I barely went to class, and when I did I barely paid attention. I showed up to practice and sporting events and parties, which were all I cared about at the time.

I was an insomniac. I had no sleep pattern whatsoever. I was writing a novel at the time, and couldn’t have cared less about sleep. Most homework and writing was done between the hours of midnight and 6AM, as well as research of this church continued. I again became privately obsessed with trying to discover these answers to the questions that had been on my mind before I entered Stevenson. A part of me knew between the wild nights that I was not in the right and that there was more to life. So I continued researching up until the day I left for summer vacation. This time, I researched so privately not even my closest friends knew what I was doing. I never returned to Stevenson after that year.

After returning home, the fighting with my parents continued.. Looking back, I knew I was the one in the wrong and they only wanted what was best for me, but I didn’t care. I wanted to do what I wanted when I wanted. I wanted to be a man. I moved out of their house that summer and in with my grandparents. I was 22, working a horrible window sales job. I had no real direction.. I had no idea how to become a cop or the route to take. That summer changed me. I went through many trials that summer with friends and family, which led me to the September when I finally admitted enough was enough.

I called my old friend Desiree and told her I wanted to know about her church. What began as simple curiosity became an urgent desire and need to personally know this church.

To help me learn she invited me to the temple on 495. I remember feeling as we walked the around the grounds and went into the visitor’s center that I had been there before. In the visitor’s center I was surrounded by answers and surrounded by this church that I had been curious about since I was a little boy I was so happy to be there.

A few weeks later she invited to her house to watch a huge conference being broadcast all over the world. I remember listening to the words of the leaders of the church. Each word sank deep into heart. I had given up fear and let in desire. I was ready to make a change in my life. That night I got home and downloaded every Latter Day Saint app there was onto my phone, and continued researching until I met with the missionaries from my congregation here in Odenton. Their lessons were so beautiful and relieving. It was an escape. Eventually after going to church and meeting life long friends, and learning more. I was eventually baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on October 30th 2011. I finally knew why that church in my childhood commercials was so special

Two years later my life has dramatically changed, I have direction, faith and overall the peace I had been longing for my whole life.. My curiosity still exists, but I now know where the answers lie. Despite the challenges I wouldn’t change a step of the journey for anything. It’s made me who I am today! It wasn’t easy, but I know now that the Lord had better plans for me. It has been an amazing ride, that’s far from over. Over the last four years, I know Heavenly Father directed me through the paths of life to reach the stage I am at right now. I have a true and honest faith in Christ and the Lord, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I know this church to be true, and I know the trials I faced were necessary for my development as a man.

I’d like to close this bearing my testimony, of the glory and guidance of our Heavenly Father. I don’t think the steps I took were accidental. I know our Savior lives, and I know that Our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us. I know I made the right decision and continue to live that decision everyday! I love my life and all that I’ve been able to accomplish, and strive to serve Him daily! I say these things in Jesus Christ’s name

Amen

If you’d like to know more about my faith or have any questions, check out these websites, or feel free to comment and ask anything!!!

Lds.org

Mormon.org