Friday, April 15, 2016

April 11, 2016~ I Love Grace

Hi family. :)
Oh how I love each and every one of you. I pray for you daily. I miss you more than you'll ever know. I hope you can feel my love for you and my spirit through my weekly emails. I don't have a whole lot of time today, but I will do my best to express what is in my heart and the thoughts and emotions that are running through my little head. Today, I have experienced one of the best days of my mission thus far. This morning Sister Cottis and I woke up super early and drove down to Charlotte for our monthly MLC (mission leadership council) meeting. We were able to be trained by Elder and Sister Zwick of the seventy all morning/afternoon. We had to sacrifice our preparation day, but it was more than worth it. It will be an experience that I will never ever forget. One of those redefining moments in my life where my heart was truly changed and where I was truly taught from on high. I have come to know that understanding the spirit and being able to call upon the powers of Heaven is one of the greatest things, if not the greatest thing, that we can come to understand while here on this earth. If we need help, go vertical, not horizontal, and he will help you!
Due to a super long meeting and lots of time traveling, I really don't have a whole lot of time. I promise I will share with you what a learned a little bit later, when I have some more time next week. We haven't even gone grocery shopping and our dinner appointment is in one hour. This week has been a really really tough week for Sister Worthington and I have really needed to rely on the atonement of Jesus Christ and on his grace. I don't know what it was, but I found myself super sad and really discouraged. This work is SO hard. It's so good, but so hard at times. My hermana and I just had a tough week. We had a few good cry sessions and a few good heart to hearts. Thankfully, we have an amazing ward mission leader and an amazing ward family who wrapped their arms around us and took us in. It's so hard having a tough day, and not being able to cry on my dear mother's shoulder for love and support. We did a lot of moving apartments this past week and didn't have a whole lot of time for teaching. I hate weeks like that. Our numbers were low and I felt like I wasn't a good missionary because I wasn't teaching and doing what I'm used to doing. I felt very off. However, we are finally completely moved into our new apartment, we are unpacked and settled, and we have slept there for two nights now and I LOVE IT. It feels like home. It's been so neat to be the very first sister missionaries in an area and the first sisters to open a new place. We are starting from ground zero, but it feels good. It feels refreshing. I am excited for all that is to come. We have already witnessed some insane miracles and I know there are are many more to come. Due to our tough week, I found myself studying the topic of GRACE. Today, I want to share with you some of my thoughts and what I learned this week. I have a whole new understanding of grace and of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
In preparation for my study on grace, I read many talks and pondered many things. One of my favorite talks I read was called, "Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. It is my hope that through my preparation and studies, and your faith that the Holy Ghost can witness the truthfulness of my email today. My email and thoughts are simply an echo of the greatest message ever shared, and that is the strength that comes through the atonement of Christ and His grace. 
We are in such a wonderful time of year as we celebrate a newness of life with the blossoms and bulbs and as nature renews itself around us. I love spring time! I especially love spring time here in North Carolina. It's absolutely BEAUTIFUL here. So many trees and outstanding flowers and colors.
As I’ve matured, and as I've grown on my mission, I’ve come to appreciate this season as a time to celebrate the life of our savior Jesus Christ. Now I know Easter is over, but I still feel like spring time is a perfect time to continue to reflect on that holiday and what it truly means. A few weeks ago, in our ward council, we were discussing ways to increase our outreach to the community. One of the ideas was to do an Easter celebration similar to other musical presentations this ward had done around Christmas time. A sister in the ward made the comment about how we should celebrate the Easter season as much as, if not more so than we do the Christmas season. She said something like, “we need to celebrate the resurrected, living Christ because that who we are, that’s our thing.” It’s true we celebrate a living Christ and recognize his atonement, or his suffering, death and resurrection, as the only path that allows us to return to live with our Heavenly Father.
As a missionary I have learned lots. One of the first things I learned was the role of Jesus Christ and how there are 2 great obstacles that separate us from our Heavenly Father. Those obstacles are sin and death. These are the fundamentals of the atonement, as mortals we become unclean through sin and we die and those 2 certainties are swallowed up in the immensity of the Atonement. However that is not the end of the Atonement. Another aspect is the roll our Savior’s sacrifice has in helping us to overcome all challenges and struggles we have in mortality, not just sin and death. In the Book of Mormon, Alma in chapter 5 begins a sermon about Jesus Christ. Alma taught the fundamentals of the Atonement and how it breaks the bonds of sin and death, but he also added, “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people”. President Boyd K. Packer explained, “He had no debt to pay. He had committed no wrong. Nevertheless, an accumulation of all of the guilt, the grief and sorrow, the pain and humiliation, all of the mental, emotional, and physical torments known to man- He experienced them all.” With the Savior’s atonement, He experienced all our pains, all our infirmities so that He would be, “filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he might know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” In Matthew chapter 11, starting in verse 28 it says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Think of that imagery. We are yoked or tied to the Savior. He is ever willing to carry the burdens we face. In Doctrine and Covenants 88:6 it says, “He descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things” so he would know how to lift us up in ALL things. Not just some things. He carries our yoke, he understands the difficulties we face and the burdens we carry. He knows, He can relate to, and He makes that burden light. I know that to be true because I have witnessed it in my life.
Throughout the Savior’s ministry he healed His people. He forgave sin, He gave sight to the blind, He healed all infirmities and that healing power is still available to us. Just as the Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter were brought back to life and just as the man sick with the palsy was able to walk home, WE can come back from spiritual death and we can be made whole!! What a beautiful promise that is.
I’m found myself pondering this question, why did the savior do this for me… and for you? Why did he choose the most humble of circumstance to be born into? He was the creator of the world yet when he was born there was ‘no room in the inn’ and during his ministry he described his living situation by saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Then after living His perfect life and setting a perfect example for us, after all the healings and miracles, he was betrayed by those He trusted, and was abandoned by even his closest friends. He suffered in Gethsemane and upon Golgotha. But why? President Uchtdorf said,
"I marvel to think that the Son of God would condescend to save us, as imperfect, impure, mistake-prone, and ungrateful as we often are. I have tried to understand the Savior’s Atonement with my finite mind, and the only explanation I can come up with is this: God loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly. I cannot even begin to estimate “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height … [of] the love of Christ.”
The reason why was because of CHARITY AND LOVE. This love, manifested by the atonement is often called the grace of god.
Do we truly understand the grace we receive through the atonement of Christ? Grace is what offers the comfort, healing, understanding and forgiveness of Christ’s sacrifice, and only through grace can we be saved. So in this life we face trials and challenges and really these can be divided into two groups. Trials that happen because we live in an imperfect world, and trials that happen because we are imperfect. This imperfect mortal world causes us to go through sickness, death of loved ones, failures in our responsibilities, and families, and our jobs. We have siblings or spouses or children that reject the gospel truth which creates heartache for us. There are racial and ethnic prejudices. In life there are mental and physical disabilities that some are born with as well as painful depression. These trials unfortunately come free of charge with admission to mortality. Think about that! Other trials are self-inflicted, like addictions to pornography or drugs which are likely to have been caused by sins we committed. All those trials for each one of us can be overcome by God’s grace!!
President Uchtdorf is the best teacher of grace, besides the Savior obviously. :) He has taught that "grace opens the gates into heaven as well as the windows of heaven." The gates of heaven are opened because sin and death have been overcome. The windows of heaven or the blessing that are available from God are accessible through grace because as we, with the Savior’s yoke, overcome obstacles we become a better version of ourselves. By grace we can be humble and have faith and weak things can be made strong. Elder Neal A. Maxwell described this as “applying the atoning blood of Christ”. I have also been thinking about the emblems of the sacrament and how when I take the sacrament I try to envision the symbolism of the blood by thinking of the priests in ancient Israel taking the blood of the unblemished sacrifice and sprinkling that blood over the altar. The blood would cover the altar and therefore cover the sins of the people. Weekly during the sacrament we can apply the blood of Christ to receive his grace, his forgiveness and the Holy Ghost. By using grace to overcome adversity we learn to rely on the Atonement and progressively become like Christ. For that is what this life is all about, isn't it? “We can also further our submissiveness to God’s will, so that amid our lesser but genuinely vexing moments we too can say, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." I have learned that having faith in Christ’s power to deliver us often time requires US to have faith in God’s timing!!
Grace can be misunderstood. Back here in the South, grace and the common belief that grace offers an unmerited gift of salvation is really confusing. Most people believe that regardless of works, salvation is free. This idea can obviously be supported in the Bible. Paul, in Romans3:28 says, that “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law”. Of course on the other end of the spectrum there are religions that focus on works, obedience, or ordinances, and performances of certain rites and ceremonies. Again we can support this view in the Bible with James’s statement that “faith without works is dead”. As Latter Day Saints and members of Christ's true church, we see grace right down the middle of those two opposing views. C.S. Lewis wrote this when describing whether grace or works was most important, “Seems to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary”. I loved that, and it made me smile. Both grace and works are required for salvation!!
"We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." All mankind has the free gift of salvation through grace, but we are also required to be obedient and to participate in saving ordinances. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains that grace makes salvation available to all of us through three categories of blessings. First category is unconditional blessings like resurrection and original sin. Those require no action on our part. Second, there are conditional blessings that require action on our part. We are required to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ by having faith that leads to repentance, which then leads to baptism by water, and the laying on of hands for the Holy Ghost. Which is living and embedding the DOCTRINE OF CHRIST into our hearts. We are then born again and become the spirit children Christ. Third, after the unconditional and conditional blessings, grace provides salvation as we continue or endure.
Nephi described conditional blessings as the gate to the path, and once we have entered the gate we “must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life”. Which, is the GREATEST GIFT OF GOD, as mentioned in D&C 14:7. We are required to be obedient and to receive higher ordinances in the temple and to continue repenting as needed. As we do these things we become more and more like Christ. Joseph Smith emphasized the need for us to become more like Christ and our Father in Heaven when he said, “If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses.”
We rely on both works and unearned grace for salvation and that is one of the greatest restored truths that we have! Realizing that our works don’t justify our admittance into heaven but they allow us to become more like our Heavenly Father. We owe a debt that has no price and cannot be paid back. Elder Uchtdorf taught, “Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God”.
Elder Maxwell was amazing and he battled leukemia for a few years in the late 90’s before eventually passing away. In 1997 after making it to yet another conference he talked about the “other side of the “why me?” question. What he meant was that in our lives we often face challenges and at time can as the question why me? Why do I have to go through this? He saw beyond the challenges he faced and was humbled that we was able to continue and overcome. From his elevated perspective his ‘why me’ question was more an expression of gratitude or amazement. He asked the question I think we should all ask ourselves and that is why are we given such an amazing gift like grace? Why me? Why you? Why does God love extend even to me?
I know that despite ourselves, the grace of God is sufficient for each of our salvation. I testify of a living Savior, that he descended below all things so that He would be able to carry us through all of our trials and I know that through the grace made possible by the atonement we can ALL receive salvation and be able to live together for time and all eternity.
I have to get running, but I love you all so very much. Thank you so much for your love and your support. You are amazing. I cannot wait to see y'all. :) I hope you have a great week. Let me know if you need anything.
By the way, my new address is 1122 Murphy Ln. Winston- Salem, North Carolina 27104
Sending all my love and more your way!! Xo

Sister Kyla Worthington

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