Monday, September 29, 2014

Tender Mercies

A few years ago Elder David A. Bednar gave a talk about Tender Mercies. He mentioned a scripture in the first chapter in the Book of Mormon which says, "But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." (1 Nephi 1:20). He said that, the way he understands tender mercies, they are like post-it notes that the Lord leaves in our lives to say "I love you." Little miracles that, in some divine and special way, communicate how much He cares about us.

Last Thursday, I finished studying at about 11:00 PM. I was exhausted, drained, and brain-dead. I knew that I would need to be awake by 6:00 AM the next morning to continue studying and working on homework if I was going to be able to finish all of the week's homework assignments. As I started the walk back home from campus, a 15-20 minute walk, I said a little prayer: "God, I'm tired, and I'd love a ride home."

As I walked down the hill towards the street below, I started thinking about miracles and tender mercies. In my experience, miracles usually come when I have given my best effort and have nothing else left to give, when my best effort isn't enough to do whatever I'm attempting. However, if I haven't yet given my best effort, sometimes God withholds a miracle so that I have a chance to learn and grow before receiving divine help. Maybe that's what was going to happen here? I'd grow stronger by making the 15 minute walk home even though I was exhausted and would have to get up early the next day. 

In fact, that would probably be the best thing for me down the road, I began to rationalize. So, I shouldn't actually expect anyone to be there to give me a ride at the bottom of the hill, even though God definitely does have the power to do something like that.

I smiled to myself and started forward. A car honked; I ignored it.

"Jason! Hey! Where are you going, and do you want a ride?" This time I turned around. 

A friend from North Carolina that I hadn't seen in 3 years gave me a ride back home. Along with resting my tired legs, I got to catch up with him as we talked about our missions

After I thanked him for being a literal answer to my prayers, I hopped out of the car and walked to my apartment, thinking about tender mercies. Little miracles that God really doesn't have to do--I would have survived the walk--but that let Him tell me He loves me. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Of Love and Mountains

Last Saturday my brother-in-law and I hiked Mount Timpanogos, a 11,752 foot behemoth of a mountain just a few minutes north of BYU. It was an invigorating, exhilarating, exhausting, rewarding experience.

During the hike, it stuck out to me how cordial and polite all the hikers on the trail were. Not only did they smile and say "good morning," but they would move to the side and wait while we passed on the narrow trail. Those who were already coming down the mountain path encouraged us, telling us that we didn't have far to go and that we could make it.

I was especially impressed by a comment I overheard on the summit of the mountain. Several groups of hikers sat around enjoying the view, exchanging small talk, and recouping energy to begin the trek back down the mountain. One man said, "Even if we didn't hike up at the same time, in a way we all did this together. We've shared something here."

A day later, as I was studying a talk from the last LDS General Conference in April, I understood why the hikers' cordiality and friendliness stood out to me. In his talk entitled "Love--the Essence of the Gospel," Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, compares our mortal experience to a journey. He states that God's great commandments for this journey are to love God and our fellow men. The hikers on Mount Timpanogos understood this, and had demonstrated love for their fellow travelers by sharing kind, encouraging words, by getting off the trail to let them pass, and even just by exchanging a smile and a greeting. As expressed by the man on top of the mountain, all of us were in it together.

As I reflected on these experiences, I came to realize how important it is that I love and serve all those around me. As President Spencer W. Kimball said, "We must remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve." If I am able to remember this principle and maintain an attitude of selflessness, then I'll be able to help people along this difficult journey, just as the kind smiles and words of encouragement helped me hike to the top of Mount Timpanogos.