Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sure Foundation

My parents grew up here in Utah but shortly after I was born my family moved to the east and lived there for most of my life. But it seems like we often took vacations back here to Utah to visit some of our extended family members which I always looked forward to! Being the youngest grandchild on one side and the second youngest on the other side of your family has its advantages and disadvantages.

One of the greatest things is that the cousins I have who are close to my age have become some of my very best friends. We practically grew up together and whenever my family came out here to Utah we made it a point of seeing each other. It is also nice to have cousins who are old enough to basically be my older siblings and offer additional insight and counsel when I was going through a hard time.

One of the biggest disadvantages to being so young in my extended family relates to those who are older; my grandparents. I was too young to really remember much about three of my grandparents before the passed away and the fourth one just recently turned 99! Because of this, I wasn't really ever able to have my own personal experiences with them. I have heard numerous stories from my parents and siblings about my grandparents but I never really got to experience much with them myself.

One story that I hear probably every time I go to my mom's mother's house is about my grandpa building the house my mom grew up in. Unfortunately I don't remember very many of the details but I remember that relatively early in their marriage, my grandpa decided to build a house on the farm he owned. So, with his own hands, he built the house that is still there today!

Hallway in my grandparents' house
I have spent a good amount of time in that house and have a number of very fond memories of being there with my family! I haven't been there in probably four or five years but to this day there is one particular thing about that house that I think I will not soon forget. I guess in some part of the building process my grandpa didn't really put in a very good foundation in part of the house. I don't know if the whole house is this way, but in the main hallway the floor is quite slanted from the ground beneath it getting compacted.

To my knowledge I don't think this lopsided hallway has caused any major issues, just a little discomfort and uneasiness, but I know that as the wood continues to decay and nature takes its course, this could cause a big problem for someone. Over the course of my mission, my mind has often reflected back to my experiences with that hallway in that house and what it can teach us.

How many of us, like this house, have a poor foundation that is slowly crumbling and deteriorating, shifting things within us and causing us and those around us to be uneasy and uncomfortable? How important is it for each of us to have a sure foundation in our personal lives? What is a the Good Foundation which, if built upon, will never cause us to fear for danger?

The answer is simple and is clearly taught by Helaman to his sons Lehi and Nephi before they begin their missionary journeys. In Helaman 5 we read,
"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
Simply put, Jesus Christ is our sure foundation. He is the only one who not only can, but will help us through the hard times in life. Notice in the scripture quoted above, in reference to what the devil will do to us, it isn't "if", but rather "when". There is no question that the devil will throw figurative whirlwinds and hail storms at us. That is not a question.

What is a question is what will happen to us when that takes place. Will our foundation be strong enough to withstand those storms and trials or will it crumble to pieces and leave us broken and destroyed? That is the question that is left to be answered by each and every one of us. The right foundation is available, it always will be, but will we build our lives upon that foundation?

These storms that the devil throws at us can and will take many forms. Sometimes it comes in the form of a strong temptation to do something we know we shouldn't do, but sometimes it is less obvious. Sometimes it comes with the face of death or injury. Sometimes it comes through something that may seem harmless but pulls our time and attention away from the Lord and His work. Regardless of the form in which they come, these storms all have one thing in common, they will either destroy us or serve to strengthen us depending on the condition of our foundation.

There is a great example given to us in the Book of Mormon! At the tail end of a very detailed description of a war that spanned almost fifteen years, the narrator, Mormon, gives us a little insight into how things have been going with the people involved. He says, "But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility."

We can understand that this scripture that the same group of people, experiencing the same set of circumstances, had very different reactions and responses. One group became hardened and turned away from God. The other, turned towards God and humbled themselves and became more willing to submit themselves to God. Their conversion and the foundation upon which they were built served to set the standard for which direction they turned.

I have also seen this principle true in my own life! As I mentioned previously, I moved around a little bit growing up. Each move got progressively more difficult for me as I got older and more firm in each location that we lived. The last move, from Michigan back here to Utah, was the worst for me. At that time, all of my siblings had moved out and gotten married with the exception of my youngest sister who is just a few years older than me. So my two parents, my sister, and I were the only ones to make this trek.

At this time in my life, my testimony of Jesus Christ wasn't quite as good as it is today. I went in to the move excited for a new opportunity to make friends and excited to be living close to family. But as time went on, things got hard. Really hard. During this time I questioned a lot of things, including this gospel and my relationship with God.

Throughout it, I would see my sister having a great time, making friends, and doing well. Yet things for me were the complete opposite. This was a very troubling time in my life. It was one of the times when the devil was sending forth his winds and storms at me. Unfortunately at this time, my foundation was similar to my grandparents' house and things started going under and becoming lopsided in my life.

But with thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and a few people pointing me in the right direction, I was able to figuratively dig up that poor foundation and work on strengthening it and perfecting it. Of course, nothing in life is permanent, but because of that experience, my foundation has become much stronger and firmer than it ever was before.

That, as Elder Anderson recently explained, is the purpose of the trials we go through. Depending on where our foundation is and where we want it to be, our trials will either strengthen and build us or they will destroy us and force us to fall. It is all based on whether or not it is founded upon Christ who is our only sure foundation. So how do we build upon this sure foundation?

Christ, in the gospel of Luke, has given us the perfect formula for how to obtain that foundation. He teaches,
"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."
When the Lord gives us a test of our own personal mountain to climb--which will come--will we be prepared for it? Will our foundation of faith be such as President Henry B. Eyring describes as one requiring tedious, patient work or will we opt for a less stable and less firm foundation that follows the spiritually lazy?

Let us all desire to work and work hard to prepare ourselves for the hail and whirlwinds that are guaranteed to come. Then we will receive the witness to our trial of faith in trusting Christ to be our sure foundation. Then we will be given strength from on high to meet and exceed anything we face. This will ensure that our fiery trials make us stronger rather than destroying our trust in the Son of God and weakening our resolve to follow Him.

Christ is our only and sure foundation upon which we can ever build.

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