* This is a letter I gave to each of my nieces and nephew in 2007.
Let me start off by saying I am not a preacher. You have enough preachers in your life, I am not one of them. This is simply my testimony and my witness. This year we have been studying the New Testament in Sunday School. The New Testament is full of letters and epistles from Paul and other leaders of the church to the early saints. During a Sunday School class I challenged the class members to write their own epistle. “Who would you write to?” I asked. “What would you write?”
I decided to write my epistle to you. Yes, I like using the word epistle instead of letter, it makes me feel smarter. Keep in mind, the words and thoughts I share, I share with love.
– Aunt C.
W hen Alma was talking to the poor Zoramites, he counseled them to “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.” In just a few words, Alma gives us some very important counsel. To awake – be aware, pay attention. Arouse – make alert and put into motion. Exercise a particle of faith – just as we have to keep our muscles in shape and toned, we need to keep our faith in shape and ready to use.
Then Alma finishes with this thought: desire to believe. The dictionary defines a desire as a longing, or wish. Something we are desiring would be something we are wanting or choosing. This gives me great comfort. I may not believe all things right now, but if I want to believe I can choose to believe. Once the choice is made, I can repeat a certain father’s words to the Savior, “Help thou my unbelief.”
Choose to believe. The choice is ours. We can believe or not believe. Here are a few things, I choose to believe.
Choose to believe the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity. Or, choose to be clean. Go ahead, roll your eyes, I can wait. Finished? When Christ first came to the Nephites, He told them to repent and become as a little child and be baptized in His name. The very next verse, He said the same thing again. When the message is important, it will be repeated. This is important. Don’t think it’s only taught to the youth, the adults are reminded of it, also. Which means you will never outgrow this lesson.
Restrictive. That’s the word the world uses to describe the teachings of the church. It’s not a new argument. In the Book of Alma, we read about a man named Korihor who proclaimed 74 years before Christ was born, that the church kept the members in “bondage.” Which would make that blatant lie more than 2,000 years old.
Sheri Dew spoke at a conference one time on this subject. She said, in effect, as soon as you break the word of wisdom, your freedoms end. Bondage doesn’t come by living the laws of the Lord. Bondage is being addicted to substances that will harm your body, destroy your mind, drive the spirit away, rip your family apart, and much more.
I am reminded of an incident that happened to me in junior high. It’s rather embarrassing. I was pretty small for my age which meant I could fit into some of the old lockers. Without even attempting it, I knew I could. One day I was walking down the hall with a friend. A boy started talking to us and jokingly asked if I could fit inside a locker. I stated I could. He wanted to see and promised he wouldn’t lock me in. My friend rolled her eyes especially when I readily agreed. At this point I’d like to say in my defense, I’m not stupid. I knew the intent behind the boy’s smile. However, I thought I was in control and I thought I could remain in control of the situation. The thing is, when you are in a locker, you are no longer in control. The boy started to carry out his plan and shut the locker door. There was nothing I could do from my position. Luckily for me, my friend stopped him and the boy sauntered off down the hall. Of course, my friend wanted to know what I was thinking for even getting in the locker. I had no answer for her.
When we choose to let substances or uncleanliness into our lives, we are no longer in control. Just as it would have been better for me to not even get inside the locker, it’s better for us to stay away from anything unclean.
We can look at the Old Testament for examples. Two great men, Joseph and King David lived years apart. Both had done some pretty impressive things. However, the conclusion of their lives couldn’t be more different. When faced with temptation, Joseph “got him out.” In other words, he did not think he was able to withstand temptation. He physically removed himself and fled.
David’s story, however, takes a tragic turn. First we read of his faithfulness, “the Lord preserved David withersoever he went.” But three chapters later we read about his downfall. The downfall of a righteous king started with one bad decision. Instead of fleeing temptation, he indulged.
In connection with choosing to live clean lives is choosing your friends wisely. All too often we become mirrors to the standards of our friends.
You have heard the saying, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” That may seem like an inappropriate comparison. I know I would never jump off a cliff. Using my imagination and limited knowledge of physics I can surmise the gruesome outcome. No one would jump off a cliff when the consequence is so great and so immediate. Make no mistake, you might not be able to see the consequences of giving into temptation immediately. I assure you, the consequences are there and have a heavy weight. The weight of these consequences are eternal.
I wish it was as easy as asking you to stay away from something that had no pleasure. For example, I don’t like the taste of fish. Hence, it’s very easy for me to avoid eating fish. But these vices have an immediate pleasing sensation to the body. It is that sensation that can bring your body in bondage. Choose today between temporal, fleeting pleasure or eternal joy and happiness.
Choose to believe and honor your parents. Or in other words, choose to love your family. This could be followed quickly by: and learn to like them. The knowledge that families are forever is not a threat, but a promise. I know, your parents are old. Uncool. Embarrassing. Your siblings are annoying and bothersome. But the whole point of the gospel, the sum total of our lives is this: Families can be together forever.
President Boyd K. Packer taught: “The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father.”
Loving your siblings doesn’t always come naturally. Just look at Nephi, Joseph, and Abel. Wouldn’t you hate to experience scripture sibling rivalry? The older siblings always seemed to jump to the conclusion the younger brother had to die. As a younger sibling myself, I’m glad there are alternatives.
Choose to believe your parents are good people. They will make mistakes. That’s one of the beautiful aspects of the gospel. No one is perfect. Each of us will make mistakes – in fact, it’s expected of us. However, we are also expected to learn from our mistakes and grow.
Choose to honor your family name. When I first moved back to Rock Springs, I became acquainted with someone who knew me as Corina. After some time, she found out what my last name was. “You’re a Lee?” she asked. “You’re RH’s sister?” When I answered affirmatively to both questions, she replied, “Now I know who you are!” The person I was sitting next to whispered to me, “Did she not know you before?”
The dictionary defines a name as a word by which a person is known. It is our mark, if you will, our identifier. Do not tarnish your name. Each of us will wear many names throughout our life. Daughter, son, sister, and brother are names you already are known by. One of my most cherished names is aunt. We all share a common name, and I’m not referring to our family name. Rather, our larger family name. King Benjamin exhorted his people to “Take upon you the name of Christ.” We do this when we enter into covenants with God – which we did when we were baptized. King Benjamin continued, “For he (or she) shall know the name by which he (she) is called; for he (she) shall be called by the name of Christ.” Protect your name.
To sum it up, I’m pretty sure eternity is going to be a long time to be stuck with somebody who annoys you. Start spending your time on earth so that you will want to spend eternity with your family. Choose today to strengthen your family ties.
Choose to believe the things you have been taught. Or, choose to let your testimony grow. Physically put yourself in places where the spirit will be able to teach and enlighten you. Church, firesides, quiet scripture time, and seminary are places where the spirit will be. Stay away from places and situations where darkness, despair, and discouragement are roaming. As you do so, the spirit will speak to your spirit. Sometimes, without your knowledge. As you make a practice of this, the day will come when you will say as Helaman’s warriors said, “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”
Choose to use the Atonement in your life. The Atonement is the ultimate act of love. It is personal. Do not limit the Atonement. As I mentioned before, we are not a perfect people, nor do we live in a perfect world. We are in the process of perfecting. The Atonement is not only for our sins, but also for our weaknesses, sicknesses, and imperfections. Our delicate hearts will probably know their share of sorrow. Take comfort in the fact that with each heartache or heartbreak you suffer, there is One who knows how to comfort you and give you peace. In fact, He wants to comfort you. First though, you have to believe He can and will.
I view the Atonement as an in/out machine. We deposit our selfishness, fear, confusion, pride, and doubt. Because of the Savior, we are able to withdraw love, faith, knowledge, humility, and hope. Basically, we have darkness or the things of the world to offer. In return, we get light and the things of eternity offered to us.
Each day we make choices. There is one important choice that will influence all other decisions. When Lehi was speaking his final words to his son Jacob, he counseled him on this subject. We are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.” He proceeds to tell his son, and I would like to borrow his words and tell them to you, “And now, my [nieces and nephew,] I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit”
We have the plan laid out before us. Choose to believe. Make your stand today because today is the time to choose. Let us live our lives so that we can say with Joshua, “As for me and my house (those associated with me or who are important to me), we will serve (and believe) the Lord.”
Choose to believe:
- Your potential. You are a child of God.
- The prophets. Start with a testimony of Joseph Smith.
- The priesthood is the power of God.
- Scriptures hold answers for you.
- In love.
- You are a good kid. Each of you. And I’m just an impartial aunt making the observation not a biased parent. Give yourself credit for the choices you have made and the road you are on. Don’t try to downplay it. Each of you has many talents the world needs.
- You are worth it. “The worth of souls (including yours) is great in the sight of God.”
- You will be accountable.
- Forgiveness must be given and received.
- The Holy Ghost is your companion and friend.
 Alma 32:27
 Mark 9:24
 3 Nephi 11: 37-38
 Alma 30: 23-24
 Genesis 39:12
 2 Samuel 8:14
 Ensign, May 1995, 8
 Mosiah 5:8-9
 Alma 56:48
 Alma 7: 11-12
 2 Nephi 2: 27-28
 Joshua 24:15
 Doctrine & Covenants 18:10