Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eggs, Peeps, and Easter!

As a missionary, this is a special time of year.  It's a special time of year for much of the world, but it's taken on a whole new meaning as I experience Easter on the mission.

 I'm sure we all have happy Easter memories.  When I think of Easter, I can't help but think of colorful faux grass, atomic yellow marshmallow peeps, and newly dyed eggs strewn about my grandma's yard.  I remember the pungent smell of the vinegar in the dye as we each made our own, special eggs to be included in the ensuing hunt.  Best of all, I remember the almost Christmas-esque feel of finding a basket on Easter morning, filled with all kinds of awesome candies, treats, and maybe even a movie or game.  Indeed, it almost felt sometimes like a spring version of Christmas!

 Now, not too many years later, I reflect on how that is true, but in a much different way.  Just as Christmas is a holiday truly meant for remembering the birth of our Lord and Savior, carrying with it the hope He brought to the world as the bright and morning star, so is Easter a celebration of the other pinnacle of Christ's life: His death, yes, but also His resurrection.
 I realize now, at least, a little more, the true import of this day.  Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Savior, but Easter is a celebration of His mission being fulfilled.  With the resurrection came an end to death as we knew it, both spiritual and physical. This is a day of celebration for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is a holiday of death turning to life, marked by nature itself radiantly bursting forth from the cold and weary winter that once held it bound.

 My easter wish for the world is that we might remember the Way, the Truth, and the Life of the world.  Just as with His Atonement, it isn't just His day.
 It's for all of us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Art of Life

My illustration for "the cowboy code"
 For anyone who knows me, it isn't much of a secret that I am something of an artist.  I wouldn't claim to be particularly skilled, but I sure am persistant at what I do! I love drawing, expressing myself, and bringing images in my head to life using only graphite and paper. I think mankind has an inherent love to create; to make things, to build, to express ourselves.  I imagine we inherit this from our Father in Heaven, by whom came all Creation. Yet, of all the endless cosmos, the innumerable celestial bodies created by His hand, there is one great purpose behind it all:
 "..To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
 That's a pretty amazing thought!  I've seen a lot of beautiful things in my short tenure on this Earth, and I'm sure there are countless more wondrous things I haven't.  But we, the children of God, are greater than them all.

  When I think of drawing, and how much goes into creating a masterpiece, I can't help but compare it to us, God's greatest masterpieces-to-be.
 A masterpiece contains many elements that artists will train diligently for years to perfect: light, shadow, perspective, color... the list goes on and on. All of these things must be present to accomplish the end result of a true work of art. To stand the test of time, it must be created, patiently, lovingly, stroke by stroke.
 So we too are created, line upon line, experience by experience.
 As we make decisions, day by day, lines are unconsciously added.  As we face trials and opposition, the shadows on the paper appear, adding depth to the work. With joyful experiences, light is imbued to the painting, balancing out the dark with stark contrast, with all of the subtle shades in between.

 Now, these elements alone are enough to create something. To an artist, a work in this stage is merely a draft; a sketch.  However, to be a truly complete work, something that will hang in a museum to be admired for a millenia to come, there must be something more: color.
 Color can come from many sources, and many media.  Oils, pastels, pencils, chalk; there are many different ways to express it. 
 In a similar way, it is love that adds this final, crucial touch to our lives.  There are many kinds of love, and many ways to express it and receive it.  It is when we develop this trait, and show it to others, that we begin to realize the true potential of what this masterpiece can become.  Brilliant hues become vivid on the canvas as we serve others, cooling shades shimmer as we show forgiveness and compassion, and a spectrum of other chromas irridescently blush to life as we develop hearts that love.

 And finally, exultantly, the master will put down the brush and survey His finished work.  What was once a blank canvas, clear and full of potential, has now, through trials and triumphs, sorrow and joy, laughter and tears, become something much greater than that once-blank canvas could ever had imagined it would be.

 It will be a masterpiece.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

James and the Giant Speech

 Now that I have your attention, no that is not a typo!  I meant "speech", NOT "peach"!
  Alright, this morning I was excited to find that, in my venture through the New Testament, I had reached the book of James.
 Now, James is a very important book for many reasons.  As missionaries teaching the message of the Restoration, we are all very familiar with James' admonition to "ask, and ye shall receive." This verse would touch the heart of a 14-year old boy in just a way that inspired him to turn to God for his answer, and in so doing, changed Christianity forever. 
  Five verses in, and James has already changed the world. 
 But who exactly was James?  We may be inclined to think of James the apostle, as in Peter, James, and John right?
 That's a fair assumption; the only problem is that it's wrong!
 The writer of the Epistle of James is not James, brother of John.  It is James, the brother of Jesus Christ. At least, that is the widely held belief.
 This too, piqued my curiousity regarding the book of James.  As I continued reading, I found many pearls of wisdom and knowledge that struck chords with me.  These include:
 ~ A verse on not being "double minded", but firm in our loyalty and beliefs.
 ~ A blessing upon those who endure tempations and trials, and a reminder that God does not tempt man, only the adversary.
 ~ An admonition for us to not "err", and to remember that all gifts come from God.
 ~ Gently imploring us to be quick to listen to others, and slow to anger as well as to speak.
 ~ And lastly, a beautiful definition of what "true religion" really is: comforting those who need it, and rising above the stains of the world.
  And that was just the first chapter!  I invite you all to read what James has to say, and ponder the message he shares, even as the Prophet Joseph Smith did.  If his words could bring about the restoration of the fulness of the gospel, who knows what more we could learn from the wisdom of James?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Do you remember?

This morning, as we were having our companionship study, Elder Collett and I started Preach My Gospel from page one.  We opened to find those big red letters, "What is my Purpose as a Missionary?" 
As we started reading, we didn't get too far before Elder Collett stopped, thoughtfully, and shared a flashback he had just experienced to the time before his mission.  When he had read that page in a Mission Prep class, he couldn't understand what it was saying, and he felt out of place among his classmates, all of whom seemed to know much much more than him. At least, that's how he felt.  He then shared how different he felt now, over a year later, and how much he had grown since then.
 We continued on this vein for the rest of the study, pondering the past, and appreciating how much we'd changed and grown since.

 Who doesn't enjoy a good stroll down memory lane?  We remarked on how, usually, we tend to remember the good things, while the bad tend to fade away.  We don't remember every time we were embarrassed, yelled at, or heartbroken, but we do tend to remember the good times, be it with family, friends, or relationships.
 These perambulations through the past often serve a valuable purpose too.  When I think of all my past fears, worries, weaknesses, and trials, I can see now how they have shaped me into a better, brighter, stronger, more grateful Elder Williams today.

 So take a moment to reflect on how far you have come.  Where were you ten years ago?  How have you changed?  How have you stayed the same?
 Remember where you've come from, and it will guide you to where you want to be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Presenting: Elder Penman!

Um hello my name is Cody Penman and i like to party. I Grew up in Roy, UT which is in the Ogden, UT area. I have been on a mission for a short time now, like a month, and i am LOVING it! Its the best thing i have done!! I love to play basketball and football and whatever sport looks fun. I love to hunt, fish and just be in the great outdoors. I come from a family of 9 kids. I am number 6. I love to spread the gospel with people so a mission is the thing for me! I love having fun and meeting new people. :)

I know that Jesus Christ came to this earth to die for me and for everyone that has lived on this earth and anyone that will live. I am so glad that he did that for me because I know that through him and his atoning sacrifice, i can become clean so i can live with my Heavenly Father after this life. I know that while He was here on earth, he preached the gospel of God and taught many good things. I came on a mission so i can teach those same teachings that Jesus Christ taught. I know that he had to power to heal the sick, I know that same power is restored upon the earth again. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God to restore the correct teachings of Jesus Christ and to bring the priesthood power back to the earth. I know Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon so we can read it today and feel that good feeling when we read it. I know that we have a living prophet today that is the one who talks to God on how to make our lives better. That to me is a great feeling, I love the fact that we have a prophet to help us and guide us in these days. I am on a mission so that i can share these things with people who dont know the truth. I am out here in California teaching people the correct teachings of Jesus Christ and helping them find true joy in their lives again. I am out here cause i know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true chuch of Christ! I know that I am doing what the Lord wants me to do. Two years of serving God is nothing compared to what Jesus Christ did. I know that my life would not be the same if it wasn't for Him. I am out here because i want people to return to Heavenly Father again and i know they can only do that if they have faith in Christ and be baptized in His name and I am here to have peoples faith grow and to baptize those who accept our happy message.