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The Master Puzzler

“I’ve seen a lot of posts lately about the church, why people stay, why they shouldn’t stay, church doctrine vs. church policy, the list goes on & on.
I heard a powerful analogy at church today that I want to share here for myself to look back on, and also for those who may need to hear it.

The Analogy…

The analogy, or parable if you will, was to think of the gospel, the church, God’s plan or even just LIFE, like a puzzle. When you start a puzzle, you start with what you know. You work on the outside pieces, pieces with clear edges, pieces you are confident belong.
As the puzzle continues, you may run into various pieces that don’t seem to belong, that fit weird, or don’t make sense. But you don’t throw out the entire puzzle just because you can’t figure out where that piece goes. You know there’s a bigger picture coming into place. You set aside that puzzle piece and keep working at the rest of the puzzle. Eventually, the picture will become more and more clear and it will be obvious where that seemingly unimportant, or incorrect piece goes. You’ll be glad you didn’t give up or throw that piece out because you’ll see the bigger picture.
There are many things I don’t have the answers to, but I know that God is the master puzzler, if you will, and every piece of this life; the gospel; and his plan is there for a reason. (1 Nephi 11:17❤️) Even if we can’t see where it fits now, don’t let what you don’t know or understand stop you from what you do. Keep doing the puzzle. Keep all the pieces in sight until you know where they go. I have a feeling it’s going to be worth it. 🤍 ”    – From a social media post by Emma Hixson

What is of greatest worth?

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮?
It’s a question that often crosses my mind.
For a large portion of my adult life, I have been an ordained minister of religion.
As such, I have met with many people who in their older years were preparing to depart this life and pass through “the gateway we call death” – Russell M. Nelson.
I treasure the many sweet memories that I’ve been blessed to have with family members and dear friends who have already passed beyond the veil of death.

Family and Faith

Visiting with those in the closing days of life, we’d frequently reminisce about those things of greatest worth, namely, family, friends, experiences and ultimately for many, their faith in and encounters with Jesus Christ.
Cherished family experiences and special tender moments are shared in a very intimate manner.
Truths are shared lovingly and freely.
Special insights, sweet stories, incredible experiences, along with miracles and wonders are commonplace, as the individual approaches death’s door and shares what matters most.
During those tender moments, attentively listening, loving, caring, sharing, spending time and being fully present is key.
A multitude of moments have been etched into my memory, in turn enriching my experience of life.

Scriptures

In my personal study of the scriptures, I have found great comfort in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Reading the final chapters of Nephi (2 Nephi 33), Jacob (Jacob 7), Mormon (Mormon 7) and Moroni (Moroni 10) – these remarkable prophet/writers provide some insights into those things that may be of greatest worth to all of us.
Each of them shared a similar experience in their lives’, namely they all had a personal experience with Jesus Christ.
And so, fittingly perhaps, their closing words recorded in the final chapters of their respective books, give us a deep, meaningful look into their hearts, minds and very souls.
Moroni 10:32 “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
Moroni’s testimony and invitation to “come unto Christ” is a powerful and enduring one that has impacted generations of people the world over.
Like so many others, I hope that each of us will have faith in and encounter Jesus Christ in our life.
What is of greatest worth to you?

Armed with Righteousness

“Can we get a light sabre photo?” asked Elizabeth Anderson.
Following a crunching tackle whilst playing football on P-day, she ended up with a badly sprained ankle, some support bandaging, and a pair of crutches.
Elizabeth has quite an imagination, so, arming ourselves for our light sabre battle was fun.
There are, however, many battles in our life’s that are not quite so fun.
Daily we see real life battles played out in war torn cities in Ukraine.
Other personal battles can take the form of; financial difficulties, relationship issues, career pressures, inner battles with doubts, mental health anxieties, testimony concerns, abuse, insecurities, trauma, fear, bullying, parenthood issues, and many more.
What battles are you facing now?
How do you overcome your personal battles?
“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself, the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us, that’s where it’s at.” Jesse Owens.
Winning those battles oftentimes takes extra effort.

Extra Effort

For me, the extra effort comes through self-reflection, slowing down daily, connecting with the divine part of myself, renewing my spiritual strength through prayer, scripture study and treasuring up the words of God.
Spiritual strength comes through faith, obedience, and repentance.
Neil L. Andersen said. “As you arm yourself for battle, your protection comes from God, who is our Father. You have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you take His name upon [you].”
He goes on to say, “While the battle rages, we need not fear. The Lord will help you, your family, and others you love who need special help. We know the outcome. The Saviour will triumph over all!”
I know personally that it is through our conversion to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and by following Him, that brings happiness, peace, real joy, and a bright hope for the future.
In Isaiah 41:10 we read, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
Recently, I spoke about being “armed with righteousness” – 1 Nephi 14:14.
To survive the battles of our day, arming ourselves with light sabres would be nice if they were real, but the reality of our battles requires us to consider one of our greatest allies of all – even Jesus Christ.
He will help us to overcome all our battles and ultimately provide the greatest victory of all by defeating the sting of death, through His glorious resurrection.

Prayer – an act of faith.

“𝐈𝐟 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝, 𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐥” said Gordon B. Hinckley.

Prayer itself is an act of faith.

One of my favourite verses of scripture on prayer is found in the Book of Mormon, when Alma the Younger, is counselling his son Helaman…

“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:37)

What a powerful verse about prayer, isn’t it?

And even more so that it’s counsel from a father to his son.

People of integrity say what they mean and mean what they say.

Answers come by submissively aligning our will, to God’s will.

God does not give us what we can handle; He helps us handle what we are given.

Throughout the scriptures the term fasting is frequently combined with prayer.

Sometimes we can forget the power of fasting. Yet it is a precious tool that allows us to change lives.

Fasting magnifies our ability to pray.

“Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” asked Paul in the book of Acts.

We should persistently ask that question in our daily prayers, in order to know what to do.

An act of Faith

As a Christian and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am so thankful for the powerful gift of prayer and commend it to all.

Hymns 140, the closing verse reads;

“Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day.
So, when life gets dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.”

I have found so much comfort and solace through prayer.

So can you.

Thomas S. Monson said, “Prayer is the passport to spiritual power.”

Why not commune with your Heavenly Father.

Remember, no one stands taller, than when they kneel in prayer…

Why not kneel in prayer to start your day – you won’t regret it!

Why not religion?

Why not Religion?
As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks taught: “[Religion] remains the most powerful community builder the world has known. … Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history.”
Nearly 2 years ago, we received an unexpected call from church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
Subsequently, we were asked to preside over one of the 411 missions of the church.
In time we were assigned to the Belgium Netherlands Mission, serving here June 2021 – July 2024.
Our life’s have changed.
It is a voluntary assignment.
So – why did we accept the call?
It was a moment that really mattered – it was a day of determination.
Simply stated, Jesus Christ is the reason.
It’s also because of a strong conviction of the truth of this work and I choose to let my faith show.
That said, the subject of religion can be touchy, especially where we live now!
Religious views are a deeply personal and even sacred thing.

Religion should be three things:

Firstly, it should provide answers to basic questions that the sincerest human beings ultimately come around to, namely what is our purpose in life…?
• Where did we come from?
• Why are we here?
• Where are we going after this life is over.
True religion should offer answers to our minds that our hearts can respond to.
Secondly, it should provide a way for us to live and find happiness not only here on earth but also in the life to come.
Thirdly, it must provide a way to provide a confirming witness that the religion is true, which in turn motivates and encourages you to live that way.
Like millions of others, I’ve found that through the Book of Mormon.
As Neal A. Maxwell once said, “Do not dare to read the Book of Mormon seriously, or you may suddenly realize that it is inlaid with incredibly important insights from a millennium of sacred history.”
Answering those three things and choosing to live my religion, motivates me every day.
If you are serious – it will answer all your questions too.
How can faith & religion help you in your life?

Somethingism

Do you believe in 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠?
Our beliefs define who we are and what we do.
Belief – “the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true”
Somethingism – “an unspecified belief in some higher force”
I’ve met so many people here who believe in something, but they’re not sure what that something is.
When you believe in something – when you believe it to your very core – your genuine actions speak for you.
Action starts with one critical element: 𝑩𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒇!
Your actions will speak louder than words when you stand strong in your beliefs.
When you live by what you believe in, you not only make a difference to yourself, but also your family, your friends and your community.

Belief is the result of experience.

Beliefs can bring us together or even tear us apart.
Belief is a way of understanding and discovering ourselves and the world around us, both things seen and also unseen.
We all believe in things we can’t see, because frankly it’s not possible to see everything. For example…
– Do you believe in love?
– Do you believe in mercy?
– Do you believe in kindness?
– Do you believe in hope?
– Do you believe in justice?
All of these things we can’t see, but we know exist.
When it comes to spiritual things, I believe the answers are much the same.
Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Believing is part of life.
When it comes to matters of faith, I have confidence in my experience of reality.
I experience the fruits of my faith, every day.
The deepest things in life are not seen but felt.  They bring joy.
When those deepest things get into our hearts, our very natures are changed.
And so it is with our beliefs.

I believe in something.

That something is a someone.
He is Jesus Christ.
In your pursuit of something, I know that the most important something you can learn, comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I invite you to come to know Him and love Him as I do.
As He said to the ruler of the synagogue in Mark 5:36 “…Be not afraid, only believe.”
Consider this invitation from The Book of Mormon.
…in Alma 32:27 “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words”
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐧?

Understanding

Let me dispel the misunderstanding…
Today I will be attending church in Utrecht (again).
I first attended there over 28 years ago, on Sunday 5th September 1993.
It was my first Sunday in the Netherlands.
I had no knowledge of the language and struggled throughout to understand.
Thankfully Monic was on hand to help my understanding a little.
Consider for a moment the word 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠.
It is defined as – “to know how something works or to know what something means.”
As everyone knows, I am religiously active as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In my efforts to promote understanding, perhaps I can be a bit annoying and even unduly enthusiastic about my faith at times!
I certainly understand how easily that can happen, as the subject of religion can be a little touchy for many people.
Have you ever wondered why I am so anxious to share my views?
Like me, you may worry about the conflicts in the world, the political turmoil, the economic instability, and the pressures of living in a world where illness, or the death of a loved one may have taken their toll on you in all kinds of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional ways.
I certainly do not understand the complexities of all of the volatility and turmoil in the world.
Through it all however – your family are probably the most important thing in the world for you.
As you look to the future, you may be anxious what it may hold for you, your partner, your children, and your grandchildren.
At times, I am.
But then I stop and remember my why.
My understanding of a much greater plan, which I believe to be immensely important for everyone.
It centres around my belief in Jesus Christ.
He always brings peace and safety.
My faith in Him it is not passive; it is very active.
Like so many others, maybe you are searching for something?
Just as Monic helped me understand Dutch a little all those years ago, our missionaries can help you come to understand a little more about the purpose of life, why you are here, the plan of salvation and even answer that question that troubles so many – is there life after death?
Perhaps it’s time, once and for all to understand these things, to let God prevail – He is no great mystery after all.
I promise – you too can 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅.
#HearHim

Is there a God?

Frequently I’m asked – “Is there a God, is there a creator?”
In answer to that question, consider this response…
“What are the odds that a tornado spinning through a junkyard would create a Boeing 747?” – Bruce C. Hafen.
In Alma 30:44, Alma states to Korihor “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion.”
A study of the sciences, helps us to understand that if the earth were just slightly closer to the sun, then all life on earth would simply be burnt up.
Conversely, if the earth was slightly further from the sun, then all life on earth would freeze!
I choose to believe that a divine power holds things in place through laws that have been irrevocably decreed from long before this earth was created.
I know that no matter what era we live in, we can find peace in the powerful parallels between the scriptures and our own lives.

Face the Fear!

“Aren’t you a little nervous?” asked the missionaries. “Not really” I said, “well maybe a tiny wee bit!”
And off we strode to stand out front of the theatre in Amsterdam yesterday.
What a hoot we had, talking to those exiting the theatre. It was fun. I really enjoyed myself as I talked with many people about their experience.
Several times I was invited to see the musical, “it is great entertainment,” said many.
Entertainment – “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment, or diversion provided especially by performers.”
My response was “no thank you, perhaps you’d like to read the book instead.”
The official church statement about the musical reads:
“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”
The Book of Mormon certainly changed my live – forever!
I met Tom, a production assistant, touring with the show. We talked for a while, and I shared a copy of the Book of Mormon with him.

Face the Fear

I was overwhelmed by the fearlessness of all the missionaries. With faith they were able to quiet their hearts in the midst of the confusion and uncertainty in the moments that followed.
It is a daunting task!
Yet, each one of them with great courage spoke to the very best of their ability, addressing complete strangers, over and over again.
To young men and women everywhere – have faith against fear, faith with great courage and conviction in Him who will not forget us or leave us alone.
All missionaries teach and testify of our Saviour – Jesus Christ.
In General Conference yesterday, President Russell M. Nelson said; “His gospel is the only answer when many in the world are stunned with fear. We have the sacred responsibility to share the power and peace of Jesus Christ with all who will listen and who will let God prevail in their lives.
The spiritual darkness in the world makes the light of Jesus Christ needed more than ever. Everyone deserves the chance to know about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Every person deserves to know where they can find the hope and peace that “[passes] all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).”
If you’ve seen the play, then I’d suggest you may want to read the book, as I know the Book of Mormon changes lives for the better, and it can change yours too.

Attitude – The Little Engine That Could

“Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men’s souls”, said Spencer W. Kimball.
Some years ago, I considered my own plans and questioned if I had set my sights to low?
Have you?
Perhaps doubts and fears kick in, along with feelings of inadequacy. You may even resign yourself to living a life of mediocrity and dissatisfaction.
Have you been there?
On occasion, I know I have. But what is really possible?
As a child I recall the story of “The Little Engine That Could.”
Remember the story of the engine that broke down…..
A big passenger engine, the freight engine and then an old engine passed by, but none of them would pull the train over the mountain. Then a little blue engine came by, she was not very big, and was only used in the yard and had never been over the mountain, but she said to herself “I think I can, I think I can.” So, she hooked herself up to the train and with all her might and determination, eventually climbed to the top of the mountain, then going down the other side said to herself “I thought I could, I thought I could”
Thomas S. Monson frequently stated that “Attitude determines altitude.”
Simply stated, fulfilling our potential in this life, depends primarily on our positive attitude, and the inner belief that we really can make a difference.
We can put our trust in the Lord and be positive.
Yet, our faith is often tested.
Choosing faith requires strength, not weakness.
With the help of Jesus Christ and as we exercise our faith in Him, I believe we can overcome any challenge and raise our vision higher.
I love this scripture from Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will lift wings like eagles; they will run, and they will not tire; and walk, and do not faint.”
We must learn to hope, to dream big, to set goals and to take action.
Begin today – you will never regret it!