Elder Burdge: “Knowing the Church is True and Being True to the Church” 03/17/14

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The past week I have enjoyed many opportunities to learn and to grow. There were many challenges that came up this week, but I have been able to see the blessings of them all. I have also learned for myself that little sleep as a missionary is quite a challenge. We had exchanges on Saturday with the Traveling Assistants. These Assistants to the President are missionaries who are great leaders. They are called Traveling Assistants because they are responsible for the Spanish learning and speaking that goes on in the Texas San Antonio Mission. They travel all around the mission and accomplish assignments from the Mission President. An exchange is when we switch companions for a day in order to learn new ways of planning, studying, finding, and teaching so that we can improve our own areas. The exchange with the Assistants required that we drive very far and get little sleep. However, I was grateful because I had the opportunity of spending an entire day immersed in Spanish.

I love this opportunity I have to be a missionary; especially in the Texas San Antonio Mission. Our Mission President truly is a man of God who is inspired and strives to assist us in increasing our faith and testimonies. About a month ago President Slaughter gave us a packet to study during personal study everyday. He explained that a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is founded upon four cornerstones: 1) the true nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ; 2) the divine calling of Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God; 3) the validity of the Book of Mormon; 4) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Kingdom of God on earth. We have spent a week studying each cornerstone and understanding the importance of each. Last week we studied the last section of the packet “Knowing the Church is True; Being True to the Church.”

At the beginning of this week we received an email from President Slaughter with the following parable:

“Imagine, for a moment, a paradisiacal island in the middle of the sea, far removed from the reach of any civilization. The people often speak and read of this paradise island, and would–so they say–give anything to find and settle it.

Imagine also, one ship–the Sephinah–the only ship that is able to withstand the rigors of the sea; and one captain–Sar–the only captain who knows the way and has the crew to man the Sephinah to the desired destination.

Now imagine all the different people. Many are delighted to find that there is a way, and so they board the ship and heed the crew. Others, however, are conflicted; they can see the ship is greater than any they have ever seen; yet they simply cannot bring themselves to board a ship that has an organized crew; they prefer to do it their own way. They begin to build their own vessels–plastic rafts, wooden canoes, tin boats. There is one more group–these have read about a people who have taken the ship before them, followed the crew, and arrived safely at the island; and now having read such stories, they feel this is sufficient, and there is no need to board the boat themselves.”

President Slaughter explained that the island is a representation of eternal life. The Sephinah is the restored Gospel of Jesus Chirst. Its crew is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, captained by Jesus Christ himself. It is His ship; He commands His crew.

As a missionary I have come across many of the people spoken of in the parable. Many feel that “organized religion” is not something that is necessary for salvation and thus they seek for other ways to make it to the “paradisaical island.” Lately, most of the people we meet are in the mindset that the Sephinah is not the only ship that can make it to the island; every ship ever made has parts that are just as strong as the Sephinah, therefore those other ships will be fine. These are those who say, “I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might be true. But I will never believe it is the only true church.”

To such, the Lord, Jesus Christ, has responded: “[This is] the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30). Now, that is not to say that every aspect of every other religion is completely and utterly false, for they do contain parts and pieces of truth. However, Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy noted:

“What it does mean is that this is the only church that has all the truth that has been revealed thus far in this dispensation–the only church that has the ordinances necessary for exaltation and the only church that has the priesthood of God to perform those ordinances with divine validity.”

Part of our study was on a talk titled “What is the Blueprint of Christ’s Church?” by Elder Tad R. Callister and I would like to discuss parts of that talk. Elder Callister spoke of a blueprint he and his wife had made for building their house. The blueprint was unique and molded to satisfy the necessities of his family. He explained that such a blueprint, if compared to every house in the world, would match only one house–their house. Elder Callister compared this to the Church which Jesus Christ himself established while He was on the earth. If we took the blueprint of the Church established by Jesus Christ and compared it to every church in the world–comparing every aspect of organization, teachings, ordinances, fruits, and revelations–only one church would match it exactly. That church being the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder Callister then began testing such a bold and arrogant assertion beginning with the Organization of Christ’s Church.

“First, Chirst’s Church was founded on apostles and prophets. When Paul was writing to some new members of the Church, he said that they were now ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone’ (Ephesians 2:20).”

Apostles are essential to the organization of Christ’s Church. They hold all of the priesthood power necessary for the salvation and exaltation of mankind. They keep the doctrine pure as they teach and make corrections to what others have said to keep us from being “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). To assist the Apostles in such a work, Jesus Christ called men to which he gave the name Seventy (Luke 10). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints matches such a blueprint of Apostles, Prophets, and the office of Seventy.

We can also test the Church against the Teachings found in the blueprint of Christ’s Church. Elder Callister asked:

“Are God and Jesus the same Being, as taught by much of the Christian world, or two separate Beings? What does the blueprint say? The number of references in the Bible to the separate identity and separate roles of the Father and the Son is staggering. In the Garden of Gethsemane…the Savior declared, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done’ (Luke 22:42). This is the grandest act of submission the world has ever known. But what submission would there have been if there was no other Being to whom He could submit–if He and the Father were one and the same Being?”

After his humble and earnest prayer, Joseph Smith learned the truth about God and Jesus Christ. He saw God the Father standing next to Jesus Christ, the Son, and he spoke with them. Elder Callister explained,

“On that glorious day the heavens shattered the man-made myths of the past about the nature of God and revealed and confirmed the simple truth as originally taught in the blueprint: that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have a oneness of goals and will but a separateness of identity.”

Elder Callister then compared Ordinances found in Christ’s Church.

“What does the blueprint say about the manner in which the gift–not the temporary presence, but the permanent gift–of the Holy Ghost is given after someone is baptized? …The scriptures reveal the manner in which that ordinance is to be performed: ‘Then [Peter and John] laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 8:17). …Once again the blueprint and Christ’s restored Church are in perfect harmony.”

The talk given by Elder Callister goes through many cases where the Church of Jesus Christ matches that which was restored by Joseph Smith. A point which I found to be incredible was that the Word of Wisdom which Latter-day Saints now follow is not something new. In fact, Christ has always given His people a Law of Health and His apostles have always taught about the sacredness of our bodies.

“Because of this, the members of Christ’s Church had certain health laws they obeyed, such as certain restrictions on drinking wine, found in Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 3. In accordance with this divine law of treating our bodies like temples, Joseph Smith received a health law from the Lord for the members of Christ’s restored Church, known as the Word of Wisdom.”

Nothing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not match the original Church established by Jesus Christ himself. This Church is true. It is of God. It is the only Church that has all of the parts, pieces, truths, ordinances, doctrines, teachings, fruits, etc., contained within the primitive Church of Jesus Christ. There has never been a question about it in my mind. If you have questions, I encourage you to solicit answers from your Father in Heaven. I encourage you to read the scriptures; the blueprints which have been given. I encourage you to speak with the missionaries, for they know how to help you find the answers. If you seek proof, if you seek evidence of the validity of this Church, read, watch, or listen to the talk by Elder Tad R. Callister.

Now that I am a missionary and I see the power, strength, and blessings that come from living the Gospel and being true to the Church, I feel as though I need to shout it from the mountaintops for all to hear. I feel as Alma in chapter 29 verses 1-2:

“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon the face of the earth.”

I pray that you all may be able to find the blessings which our Father in Heaven is ready to give. I pray that you all will feel an increase in your testimonies and your relationship with God as you humbly seek Him in sincere prayer. I pray that you all may feel His love.

Elder Burdge

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“I’m an atheist. Sorry, but have a good day.” 3/10/14

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I am forever grateful for the opportunities we have had to teach many people and for the miracles I have seen in my encounters with them. For about two weeks we have been teaching a man whom I will call John in this email. Elder Bala Perez and I were visiting a less active member one day and we had some extra time before our lesson. We decided to knock on a few doors in the neighborhood to pass the time. Most people didn’t answer. Eventually, we came to John’s door. As he opened it, he said, “I’m an atheist. Sorry, but have a good day.” I replied, “Well, sir, as missionaries we love doing service. Is there anything in your yard or some house work we could give you a hand with?” With a chuckle, John responded “You should have come yesterday. I did all my yard work then.”

He then began to ask us about ourselves and the work we do. We got to talking about his views of religion. He explained that he was wary of organized religion because it’s all run by greedy men just searching for power. John spoke of a religious leader he had known as a kid who lived in a mansion funded by the money that the church had given him. As we continued speaking with John we were able to explain about the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which we are a part. We informed him that our church is run on the work of volunteers; men and women who have responsibilities in their own lives, including family and careers, who serve in the church out of love for the Savior and for those around them. John invited us into his home and we were able to share the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him. He told us that we could stop by whenever we are in the neighborhood. Last week we did so.

John was at home and welcomed us in to his house again. We spoke of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. We invited John to be baptized and he responded with a smile, “Well, I’ll try!” He explained that he needed time to think about it and really consider the message we brought before he made a decision. I am so grateful for John. I am glad that he takes our message seriously and is pondering in his heart the truths we have presented. Elder Bala Perez and I asked if we could return again and John told us, “Absolutely! Could you come a little later next time? I want you to meet my wife.” This past Sunday we met with John again and was able to meet his wife, his daughter, and three of his grandchildren. I am amazed at the miracle we have had to meet such a man. I am thankful that the Lord has prepared him to receive the message of the Restored Gospel. I am grateful that John has an open and willing heart.

My companion and I are teaching many people but I would like to mention one other couple whom I will call Erin and Mark in this email. Erin is the mother of two young daughters and is happily married to her husband, Mark. The two of them grew up in the Catholic church and are very grateful for the foundation it gave them. Erin attended several nondenominational churches recently and told us that she hasn’t felt like she belongs or feels a connection to them. She has been searching for God in her life and how best to reach out to him. Before I arrived in the Culebra Creek ward, the missionaries met Erin and began teaching her. We have discussed the Gospel with Erin and Mark and were able to read the Book of Mormon with them. Erin reads constantly on her own and always comes prepared when we teach her. She asks thoughtful questions but is frustrated because she doesn’t know what exactly she is searching for. She prays to God but she doesn’t know what to ask Him. We invited her to pray to know if Joseph Smith truly was a prophet called of God. Erin did. She explained to us that the answer she feels she received was to study more. I am grateful that she is sensitive enough to the Holy Ghost to recognize the promptings He gives her.

On Thursday nights in our Stake, there is a Strengthening Families class at the church building. We felt it would be a valuable class for Erin and Mark to attend. Erin was very excited and they showed up to the class fifteen minutes early. Due to poor planning, Elder Bala Perez and I were going to arrive late. There was day care provided during the class and Erin went to drop off her daughters. The members running the care told her, “this one is for 8 and up.” Disappointed, confused, and uncomfortable, Erin and Mark left. This experience was in no way the fault of the members, nor do I harbor negative feelings toward them. If anything, the fault lies with my companion and I for not being there early to make sure everything went smoothly. I simply wish to note that in the Church, mistakes and miscommunication happen. When we arrived, Erin and her husband had already left and were disappointed. We found that there were multiple child cares going on in the building and they were separated into different age groups. Unfortunately, Erin did not want to come back that night but we were able to schedule an appointment for the following Thursday. Both of these experiences remind me of two talks given in April 2013 and October 2013 of General Conference.

In his talk “Come, Join with Us,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks of the work done by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He told the following story:

Once there was a man who dreamed that he was in a great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered. He realized that each religion had much that seemed desirable and worthy. He met a nice couple who represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked, “What do you require of your members?” “We do not require anything,” they replied. “But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.” The couple went on to explain about Church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare and humanitarian service, and assignments to teach. “Do you pay your people for all the work they do?” the man asked. “Oh, no,” the couple explained. “They offer their time freely.” “Also,” the couple continued, “every six months our Church members spend a weekend attending or watching 10 hours of general conference.” “Ten hours of people giving talks?” the man wondered. “What about your weekly church services? How long are they?” “Three hours, every Sunday!” “Oh, my,” the man said. “Do members of your church actually do what you have said?” “That and more. We haven’t even mentioned family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early-morning seminary, maintaining Church buildings, and of course there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.” The man said, “Now I’m confused. Why would anyone want to join such a church?” The couple smiled and said, “We thought you would never ask.”

Members of the Church offer all they have to help build, sustain, and strengthen those around them. All of the effort and time put in to the various callings and assignments is done to help uplift individuals, families, and communities. There are countless sacrifices made, but even more innumerable are the blessings received by all. As a missionary I love the opportunity I have to explain to all those who will hear “why anyone would join such a church.” I encourage you to read President Uchtdorf’s talk. Even as members of the Church, we can be strengthened and uplifted by the words of one of the Lord’s anointed servants.

The second talk of which I am reminded is titled, “Lord, I Believe,” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Speaking of mistakes and miscommunications in the Church, Elder Holland admonished us:

…[Be] kind regarding human frailty–your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.

Mistakes happen. Miscommunications arise. It’s a fact of life. Dwelling on such errors improves nothing and no one. The obstacle experienced this week is only an obstacle if it is focused on. I am grateful that Erin and her husband, Mark, were willing to meet with us again and that the mishap did not impede her search for truth.

I love the Lord.

Elder Burdge

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Elder Burdge: “A Simple Truth” 3/3/14

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I realize more and more every day that the world is simply confused.
We have come across many people this past week, some searching for
truth and others shut to any belief that is not their own, all of whom
were unaware of a simple truth.

“The prophet, Enoch, was shown the works of God and as he saw such, he witnessed the Father weeping… “

God is the Eternal Father. He created us not simply into the bodies we
now possess, but in truth we dwelt with Him before this life. Our
Father is not a Being that cannot be understood nor is He without
body, parts, or passions. His passion is “to bring to pass the
immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). In the premortal
realm He made this passion known and created a plan whereby we could
all receive such “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from
ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel
shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). He desires
nothing more than our salvation and our return to His presence. The
prophet, Enoch, was shown the works of God and as he saw such, he
witnessed the Father weeping. He asked “How canst thou weep?” Enoch
speaks of the innumerable creations of God and is puzzled that such an
Almighty Being could weep because of man (Moses 7:29-31). The Eternal
Father replies:

“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own
hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge…[and] agency; And unto
thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should
love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but
behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.”
(Moses 7:32-33)

When sin enters into our lives, when we choose to hate one another,
when we turn away from God, He weeps. The Most Supreme Being of All is
forever concerned and invested with our salvation and eternal
progression that it pains Him unspeakably when we choose adversely. He
is understood in knowledge, power, glory, and wrath all throughout the
Bible, but what He wanted us to understand most all of is His love for
each and every one of us. And so He gave His Son.

The mission of Jesus Christ was all encompassing and nearly
unfathomable to the mortal mind. Studying His sacrifice and example I
am dumbfounded time and again by the insights I receive through the
Spirit. In the Garden of Gethsemane the Beloved Son of the Father
suffered “pains and afflictions of every kind.” On the cross He gave
his life and gloriously He resurrected from the tomb “that he may
loose the bands of death which bind his people.” He did all of this
“that he might blot out [our] transgressions according to the power of
his deliverance” (Alma 7:11-13). However, all of these parts of the
Atonement would have been for naught if it had not been for the
example which He gave all throughout His life.

Click here to watch a short film about the life and teachings of Christ

Click here to watch a short film about the life and teachings of Christ

Such an example fulfills more than I can begin to describe. Because of
how Jesus the Christ lived, we are able to comprehend a portion of
Heavenly Father’s love for all of us. John 3:16 “For God so loved the
world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in
him should not perish, but have everlating life.” Not only does the
saccrifice and suffering of Christ allow us to see that God loves us,
but the Redeemer spent His entire time demonstrating compassion and
charity to every person willing to accept Him. Jesus of Nazereth
commanded his disciples saying “love one another, as I have loved you”
(John 15:12). If we emulate the life of Chirst we will be able to more
fully understand our Father in Heaven. Through His perfect life we
know how we must live also. An atonement cannot be utilized unless
repentance takes place. It is not enough to be saved through grace or
solely through forgiveness. Our will is required for salvation. We
must daily, even hourly, seek to change our lives and strive to follow
the example that has been put in place for us.

Elder Burdge

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Elder Burdge: “The Windows Have Opened” 2/24/14

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Last week we received a call from the assistants to the mission president letting us know that I would be transferred to a new area “where you will need to help lift and strengthen the missionaries there. We’ll be watching how you do and look forward to seeing what you can accomplish next.” I have been transferred to an area near San Antonio called Culebra Creek and I am working with a missionary from Guatemala named Elder Bala. I will miss Sunset Valley dearly but I am grateful for the chance to grow and hasten the work of salvation.

I determined that I would not be the sort of missionary who relaxes for the rest of his time in an area. Instead, I would strive “with unwearied diligence that [I] may bring the remainder of [my] brethren to the knowledge of the truth” (Helaman 15:6). As I did so, I saw the windows of heaven open and blessings poured out upon the area (3 Nephi 24:10) and I was able to see, as stated in the rest of Helaman 15:6, “there are many who do add to [our] numbers daily.” Elder Vazquez and I went out and put every effort forward to diligently teach the Gospel. On Monday we taught three lessons. Tuesday we taught six. Wednesday we taught seven. In three days we taught 16 lessons which is quite significant considering that the leaders of the Church are asking for the missionaries to be teaching 20-25 lessons per week.I know that the success we realized in Sunset Valley was due to divine assistance and aid; that the Lord went before us preparing the way (D&C 84:87-88). I also know that it was because of the prayers offered by all of you on behalf of my companion and I for the work to move forward.

However, numerous lessons were not the only awe-inspiring blessings we observed. Through these lessons four people accepted baptismal dates. After not having any baptisms in the Sunset Valley Ward for a year, there are four people now preparing to enter in by the gate of baptism (2 Nephi 31:17-18). I stand all amazed (Hymns No. 193) by the overwhelming love and power of God which has influenced the area and the lives of so many people.

Wednesday was my birthday. I am not someone who enjoys celebrations or even acknowledgments of my birthday because they make me uncomfortable. But this year was different. First of all, I appreciate all of the birthday wishes I received and I am grateful for the love which was expressed in them. I was also able to feel loved by members of the Sunset Valley Ward. The Obregon family insisted on celebrating my birthday with Elder Vazquez and I. Sister Obregon prepared a delicious meal and they made a German Chocolate cake just for me. Such a gesture helped me feel quite loved on my birthday. More than that, it helped me realize and understand the connection and truth that we are all brothers and sisters of a loving Heavenly Father. This family treated me as their own because they have an abiding love for the Gospel and through the Gospel they have a love for all.

The blessings of so many lessons and brothers and sisters choosing to be baptized by someone who holds the proper priesthood authority testified to me that God is mindful of every one of us specifically, individually, and by name. He has heard my pleadings and searches for guidance as well as success in the harvest. He understands, perfectly, the difficulties, challenges, struggles, and pains that these four brothers and sisters have endured. He desires for us all to return. Heavenly Father is working, personally, to ensure our safe passage back to Him (Moses 1:39; Jacob 5:61-62, 71).

Ahead of me lie tribulations, adversities, and trials through which I must pass. I know the Lord has prepared then to strengthen me and help me progress. He has prepared a way for me to overcome all things set before me. I will succeed as I seek for His support and guidance. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is our Savior. He has redeemed us from all death. I know that the prophet Joseph Smith was called of God. Through him the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to purity, simplicity, and power. Through the revelations received by him we understand much more than ever before imagined. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. We are only saved by and through Jesus Christ but we cannot gain a fullness of understanding and faith in Him without the Boom of Mormon. By reading it, living by it, and teaching from it, we will come nearer to God and eventually reach our divine potential. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s Kingdom on the earth today. It has all of the restored keys of the priesthood power of God. It is the only Church which has every last piece of truth and the necessary power and authority to accomplish works of salvation. This is my testimony which I give in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Elder Burdge

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Elder Burdge: “The Point of Infinity” 2/17/14

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Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 10.05.28 PM

Because of the dedicated and loving members of the Sunset Valley Ward, where I have had the blessed opportunity of serving, I have been able to have dinner every night with many different families. There are all sorts of families as diverse as people in this world. Regardless of the differences observed in these families, I have been able to see that eternal truths never change and these truths apply to every situation. I have also noticed that the surest foundation upon which any family and any person can build is the temple. On Mormonchannel.org there is a video titled “Why Mormons Build Temples” which I invite you all to watch. This video informs those who don’t know, and reminds those who do, about the importance of these sacred buildings.

Click here to learn more about why Mormon's build temples

Click here to learn more about why Mormon’s build temples

The sacred and holy house of the Lord is given to us as a tool through which we all can return again to our Heavenly Father. In temples, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perform ordinances, or sacred acts, in behalf of ancestors who have died. These members are baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost for and in behalf of relatives who have passed on. These acts are not done to force the deceased to be members of our Church. We believe that all peoples, past, present, and future, are given the opportunity to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do these ordinances so that all are provided that opportunity; they still have the choice to reject or accept the work done.

Temples are also used to allow couples to be married and sealed for time and all eternity. Heavenly Father has blessed each of us with a family. He did not intend for that family to be destroyed by the bonds of death. The Atonement of Jesus Christ redeemed not only each of us personally from physical and spiritual death, but it also provided a way for families to be everlasting and united on an infinite basis. This work is also done for the deceased, allowing familial ties to extend for innumerable generations beyond the grave.

As Krister Stendahl stated in the video, temple work “[extends] the blessings which have come [to us] in and through Jesus Christ. That’s a beautiful way of letting the eternal mix into the temple which, in a way, is what Christianity is all about.” The atoning sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father is to bless the lives of all who are born into this world. Temples allow us to ensure that the eternal plan of salvation for the children of Heavenly Father is carried out.

This Sunday the Sunset Valley ward had its Ward Conference. We had the blessing of listening to and learning from the Presidency of the Austin Oak Hills Stake. During the various meetings I receive a personal witness from the Holy Ghost that the Lord Jesus Christ is hastening His work. Modern-day prophets have declared that the work is hastening and we must all heed the call to assist the Lord in this effort. I invite you all to visit the website: Hastening the Work of Salvation.

-- Text from the homepage of "Hastening the Work"

— Text from the homepage of “Hastening the Work”

It is difficult for me to describe in this email the thoughts and inspirations I have had through the Spirit but I am going to try. I pray that despite my inadequate method of communication the Spirit will help you all understand the following.

I had a realization this week as I was sharing a message after a dinner with an active family. The symbol for infinity is made of two spheres crossing at a single point. During the conference I noted that the work of the Church is now one. Past, present, and future are being united in this effort and all three are our focus. Thinking of the infinity symbol through the lens of the plan of salvation, I see life in a different order than usual. Rather than life being past, present, and future I see it as future, present, and past.

Let’s look at the symbol. The point of infinity is seen in my mind as the temple and the veil. In the Church we refer to death as a veil that separates us from our ancestors. I see the left sphere as our life on Earth and the lives of our children. The right sphere would be the Spirit World where the deceased are learning, resting, and waiting for the time of resurrection. With me so far?

Infinit Symbol

Infiniti Symbol

The left sphere begins at the temple, the point of infinity, as a family is sealed under covenant with Heavenly Father for time and all eternity. Children born under this covenant learn and grow in a gospel-centered home. They learn to have faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. They are taught to repent. When they are of age, the children are baptized and begin making covenants, or promises, with God. To complete baptism, they receive the Holy Ghost which enables them to endure to the end. Through trials and difficulty, they continuously grow and progress repeating the cycle of faith, repentance, and making covenants. Eventually, these children, now men and women, arrive at the temple and are able to be sealed for time and all eternity to spouses of their own. The cycle of the left sphere repeats.

The right sphere begins at the veil, the point of infinity, as others pass on. These individuals were either unable to or did not accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lifetime. In the spirit realm they are given the opportunity to learn and to grow. They are taught about Jesus Christ and His Atonement. They build faith in Him. They learn about repentance. They are taught about the importance of baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost. They are able to prepare to accept the work that has been done by proxy for them in the temple, bringing us once again to the middle.

We are in the middle. It is our responsibility to be living our lives worthily that we can frequently enter the temple and perform these sacred ordinances. We raise our families teaching them the vital importance of temples and help them gain desires of their own to have eternal families. As we continue returning again and again to the house of the Lord, the point of infinity, we strengthen lives on both sides of the veil and keep the two spheres growing and progressing.

For me, this is my view of Hastening the Work of Salvation. The ultimate goal for everyone should be continuous temple attendance. We should be reaching out to every one in our lives. Through encouragement and strengthening, we can help less-active members, those not of our faith, and our families build their lives on the unshakable foundation of the temple.

Pondering the hastening of the work I began studying the final chapters of Jesus the Christ by Elder James E. Talmage. Elder Talmage speaks of preparing the world for the second coming of the Savior. This urging by the prophets and apostles is not a gimmick to inspire more activity in the Church or to get more people interested. The way is being prepared for the second coming and we should all look joyfully forward to that day. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord speaks of this hastening. He tells us in Section 68:23&25 :

“Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; …Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today.”

Elder Burdge

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Elders Burdge and Vazquez 2/17/14

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“Here’s a picture with my companion Elder Vazquez at the famous Salt Lick BBQ” -Elder Ammon Burdge


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Elder Burdge: “Full Circle” 2/10/14

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This past week has had many ups and downs but we are always pressing forward. Something that has really stood out to me is that there are always people to find who are interested in hearing about the incredible Gospel that has been restored to the earth. Elder Vazquez and I were going by many potentials on Tuesday and decided to go by a young man I had met on exchanges several weeks prior.

Last transfer, Elder Franks and I were given names of people who had just moved in. We went by one of the families but it turned out that they didn’t live there. However, the man inside was interested in our message. While on exchanges I went with another Elder to teach this man. As we were leaving, this Elder greeted the tenant downstairs. This individual was 22 or so and he told us to come back in a couple days. We did so and he wasn’t there but we shared a message with his mom. Fast forward to Tuesday. Elder Vazquez and I went to see if we could find the young man at home. We accidentally went to their next door neighbor thinking it was their address. She answered and we discussed the nature of God. She invited us to come back. We then went to the right address. The young man and his mom both weren’t home but we did meet his younger brother who was also interested and invited us to come back that weekend.

Later that day we went to a street called Nightjar to see if we could set an appointment with a potential. This lady lives next door to the man and his girlfriend who came to the Christmas performance. As we turned onto the street, the man was there trying to fix his car. After almost two months of not being able to get into contact with him, we were finally able to talk to him. He welcomed us and shared with us that he had married his girlfriend since we last saw him. He explained that he is noticing God more in his life and then asked what is the curriculum for what we teach. I explained it to him and he told us we could stop by and share with him and his new family. This is the first circle that I have seen completed in this area.

On Thursday we went to see a woman whom we have taught a few times in the past. She had set an appointment but when we went by she wasn’t there. However, her grandson and her son invited us in. Her son hadn’t spoken with missionaries before. We discussed the Restoration with him and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We invited him to be baptized and he accepted. When asked if he would attend church with us, he told us that he has been playing basketball at the church building for the past six years. That was incredible to hear.

Last night, Elder Vazquez and I went to visit a less-active family who hasn’t been home whenever we come by. However, when we arrived the father was there and he welcomed us in. This brother told us how much he appreciated what we do and that he has a desire to start attending church again. His daughter has been going by herself for a few weeks now and she asked him to start going again with her. Elder Vazquez has been sick for a few days so we called someone to give us a ride after that visit. For some reason (the Spirit) I decided we should meet them at the far east of our area. As we biked over there I remembered that there was a less-active member who lived on Dowling Cove, just a block from where we would be picked up.

Weeks ago, Elder Franks was praying for inspiration on where we should go and who to visit. After his prayer, he started searching through the member roster. He told me that the street name Dowlinghill came into his mind. We searched the map and couldn’t find a Dowlinghill. Finally, we found Dowling Cove, just a small dead-end street at the far side of our area. That day we went to visit the less-active member who lived on that street. No one answered. I was confused. We followed a prompting, why would no one answer? Elder Franks told me that sometimes it’s to keep us safe or maybe the Lord was just seeing if we were listening.

Fast forward to last night. Usually, we don’t knock on random doors at 8:40 at night but we did so anyway. After we knocked we waited for five minutes or so (that’s a really long time to be standing on a doorstep). Finally, the door flew open and a Scottish man, who was very happy to see us, invited us in. As we spoke, he told us that he had been praying that we would come. He said that we came before but he just wasn’t ready. This time, he was. Circle complete.

Prayers are heard. Prayers are answered. The Lord gives us promptings and if we answer them, miracles will happen.

Here are some lyrics to a song I wrote at the beginning of this week:

Father the waves they are shifting
Turning my face from thee.
My faith, once strong, is now fleeting.
Return Thou my gaze to thee.

Out on thy sea I am fishing
Searching to bring souls unto Thee.
I return once more to the harbor
Fearing I have brought none but me.

With the sunset come I see there
Some stranger beckoning to me:
“Brother be not lost in fearing.
Come, toil once more now with me.

“From sorrows’ depths and days long past
I have waited and rescued thee.
Come, let us go forth, our nets cast
Help return the lost ones to me.”

With hands calloused, worn hard we work
‘Top the stormy and changing sea.
I will work by thy side forever;
Striving, I’ll bring all unto Thee.

I wrote this as I was pondering the apostle Peter. This man of giant faith walked on water. He saw miracles performed firsthand by the Master. Yet even he had doubts and troubling times. As he walked on water the Bible notes “he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid;” (Matthew 14:30). Peter was not without faith. If he had none he could not walk on the water. Nevertheless, he shifted his gaze from Christ and instead was distracted by the wind. If we keep our eyes on Christ and serving Him, we can accomplish all things. We will be able to cross the raging seas of life without faltering.

Hurrah for Israel

Elder Burdge

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Elder Burdge “Buying Dollars” 2/3/14

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The past week has been full of progress and learning. We had a zone conference where we learned what we are made of individually. As the meeting started, President Slaughter told us that there weren’t words to explain what we would be learning that day. The best he could think of was that when an orange is squeezed, what comes out will be orange juice. He compared it to us as members of the Church and missionaries: when we are in confrontational situations or just teaching in general, what are we putting forth? The missionaries split off into groups where we did role plays of a variety of situations. I learned that often we have automatic responses to things when we should first think and be guided by the Spirit. For example, when someone tells us that Mormons aren’t Christian, usually our first response is to prove them wrong and say, “Yes we are.” Such a response just leads to arguing and we leave the presence of the Spirit. I learned that when interacting with others, it is not important to tell them what I know. I am here to help those around me increase their knowledge and come closer to Christ.
After the meeting Elder Vazquez and I went to stop by a potential investigator. A week ago this man told us that he just isn’t going to have time for the Mormons this year. We knocked on his door this night and when he answered he said it was not the best time. However, he wanted us to meet his wife. As we exchanged salutations he decided to let us in because it was cold outside. Often as missionaries we search for the needs of those with whom we come into contact. We are not good at it. We batter them with questions and pry at their lives searching for what they need to hear. After the zone conference, we learned instead that if we listen with love and care for the individual, what they need will be given us by the Spirit and by the friend we are talking to. Such was the case as Elder Vazquez and I spoke to this couple.
We were able to find out what mattered to them because they told us freely. We were able to teach the gospel and bear testimony based on what we were given. We were all able to be edified and strengthened by the Spirit that night and this couple readily invited us to return. I know that as we receive guidance and inspiration and act upon it, we will move forward in the Lord’s work.
Click the photo to watch the LDS Bible video "The Ten Virgins" Matthew Ch. 25

Click the photo to watch the LDS Bible video “The Ten Virgins” Matthew Ch. 25

Recently the Church released another Bible video of Christ teaching the parable of the Ten Virgins. The oil in the lamps can be likened to our conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The five wise virgins tell us that we need to “buy for ourselves” the oil. Daily we accumulate oil of conversion as we read the scriptures, pray to God, do service, etc. However, are we buying our oil with pennies or with dollars? Reading the scriptures we gain drops of oil (we buy with pennies) and as we feast upon those words (2 Nephi 31:20), applying them to our lives we gain cups of oil (buying with dollars). As we pray, we express thanks for what we have received, we ask for things we need, and pray for blessings (pennies), but as we conclude our prayers as actively attempt to accomplish the work necessary to receive such blessings we gain buckets of oil (buying with dollars).

In his April 2008 General conference talk titled “Ask in Faith,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:
“I long have been impressed with the truth that meaningful prayer requires both holy communication and consecrated work. Blessings require some effort on our part before we can obtain them, and prayer, as ‘a form of work, …is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings’ (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 753). We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayer, after we say ‘amen,’ by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father. Asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence.”
Blessings come as we actively work to receive them. We must go out and try to obtain them in order to demonstrate to the Lord our desires. As we act in faith we buy more oil for our lamps of testimony.
Daily accumulating oil, while important, is not our only responsibility. Just as the wise virgins we should remind those around us to go and buy for themselves. Reminding is best done through testimony. We are awaiting the arrival of Christ. Perhaps we are standing in the light and do not have the need to depend on our lamps to keep us safe. We are not going through immense trials, relying solely upon our faith and testimony to guide us to the next morn. In such fortunate circumstances, we can remind those around us by lighting our lamps or in other words, bearing our testimonies. As we put a little oil into our lamps, trim the wick, and let our light shine, it will inspire those around us to buy for themselves that they may also have such bright lamps. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
I encourage everyone to let their lights shine, to bear their testimonies, to share truths that have changed your life, to share the Lord’s hand in your life, in order that we might help those around us have a desire to so buy for themselves.
Elder Burdge
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Elder Burdge: Why I am a Missionary 1/27/14

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Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 10.38.15 PMMy mom, my aunt Lee, and my uncle Jonathan are seminary teachers. For those who don’t know, teenage members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attend a seminary class everyday. Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 10.23.30 PMIn this class they read, learn from, and discuss holy scripture from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Seminary provides an environment for teenagers to grow and increase their testimonies, or basic beliefs, and firmly root those beliefs in the doctrine of Jesus Christ contained within the sacred writing of the prophets. Many of these classes take place early in the mornings requiring many sacrifices from both the teachers and students. I know that seminary teachers offer freely and voluntarily significant portions of their time to teach and prepare lessons from these religious writings. I am grateful for the time, effort, preparation and love they all put into teaching.

This year, seminary students are studying from the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Soon they will be learning about Ammon, a great missionary of faith, service, and love whom I am named after. My mom asked me to write to her class what it means to me to be a missionary but I feel prompted to share with you all why I am giving two years of my life to serve as a missionary.

Alma, Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah being called to repentance by an angel

Serving a mission allows me to show my gratitude towards God. He has given me everything in my life. I was born into a family. I was taught the Gospel. I learned to work. I learned to study. I was encouraged to question and seek for truth. I was taught to love and serve those around me. Most importantly, I learned the reality, beauty, and importance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Similar to Ammon and the Sons of Mosiah I was, for years, rebelling against what I knew was right and true. Through my mistakes and actions I put myself in an awful and empty place. I was lost and afraid. But because of the love my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ, I was able, as we all are, to repent and bring myself closer to God. When speaking of such a past, Ammon explains in Alma 26:20:

“…Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls.”

I was spiritually dead and decaying but because of a friend who reached out to guide and help me I was able to take part in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and be rescued from that “everlasting gulf.”

When I finally took part in that Atonement and repentance, I was able to exclaim as did Alma the Younger:

…I could remember my pains no more; yea I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and marvelous light did I behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:19-21).

The joy and strength I now feel after having partaken in that redeeming sacrifice is indescribable. I know that it is available to all, and that is why I am spending these two years preaching the gospel. There are people all around us who are “encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction” and as missionaries we help bring them to the everlasting light and salvation of the Atonement that they may be “encircled about with the matchless bounty of [God’s] love.” And I rejoice because I am an “instrument in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work” (Alma 26:15).

I have seen the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ firsthand. It has changed my life in a way I cannot begin to describe. It has helped me grow closer to a loving Father in Heaven. It has rescued me from the torment and destruction felt as a result of sin. It has brought me to the light and life of Jesus Christ and I wish to share that feeling with all whom I come into contact.

“Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Alma 36:24).

I will continue to labor and to forward the work of God. I know that Heavenly Father knows you personally. I know that He has an immense love for you and that He wants, more than anything, for you to return to His presence. I know that regardless of what you’ve done, you can repent. You can become better and you can be forgiven so long as you turn to Christ and let Him carry the load you bear daily. I know the weight of that load and I know how tiring and painful it is. But I know more than anything the relief and joy you can experience if you repent and apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ to your life.

“Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” (3 Nephi 5:13)

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Elder Burdge: The Book is True 1/20/14

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Click here for a free copy of the Book of Mormon

Click here for a free copy of the Book of Mormon

The past two weeks have been full of change and trials. Elder Franks was transferred to a new area where he was assigned to be a zone leader. His area is his first Spanish speaking area of his mission and I know he will do well. I received my new companion and trainer Elder Vazquez. He is from Tlaxcala, Mexico and is the only member of the Church in his family. He joined when he was only nine years old. He heard someone say the name of the Church and immediately he knew that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of God on the earth. Elder Vazquez searched to learn more about the Church and was baptized at nine years of age without having friends or family in the Church. He truly is full of faith and has a strong testimony. I am grateful to be working with him.

I’ve attached an audio file to this email (see above) and I encourage you all to listen to it. It is a testimony directly from an apostle of the Lord, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland about the divinity and truth of the Book of Mormon. I would like to also add my testimony to his. I know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. Along with the Bible, this sacred book of scripture brings us closer to Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. It was written by prophets in the ancient Americas. These prophets received revelation from the mouth of God and they truly saw our day. I know of a surety that the Savior appeared to the inhabitants of the Americas and they felt the scars of His atoning sacrifice. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus the Christ. They called him to be a prophet, seer, and revelator and to restore the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on this planet. I know that by power given him from God through angelic messangers Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from ancient records. By the Holy Priesthood he received, Joseph Smith has once again established the necessary ordinances of salvation that allow us all to return to our Father in Heaven. I also know that by the power of the Holy Spirit of God everyone can receive the divine and sure witness that these things are true. I know that if you read and pray in the name of Jesus Christ, with true intent to know that the Book of Mormon is true and to act upon that witness, that prayer will be answered in the affirmative.

“For those who have received that witness, I encourage you to remember 1 Nephi 5:19-22 which says:

“Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. …

“And we had obtained the records the Lord commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children.

“Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.”

Click here for a short introduction to the Book of Mormon by Elder Holland

Click here for a short introduction to the Book of Mormon by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ

Now the Book of Mormon is not the plates of brass referred to here but the same principle applies. We must consistently read these scriptures. Nephi says that they should not be dimmed by time. Brass becomes bright and shiny the more it is touched and used. When it sits unused it becomes dull and useless because it can no more be read. The counsel he gives to never let the scriptures be dimmed also applies to the testimony we have received. As we read the scriptures the light of Christ within us grows and increases. It shines forth to all and they can see illumination and direction we have in our lives. Our testimony and witness also remain bright as we daily read and search the Book of Mormon. We will find that the words written within are desirable to us and assist us in keeping the commandments and the covenants we have made. All of us are moving forth through some sort of wilderness. We do not know what is immediately ahead of us. However, with the power and strength that comes as we carry the Book of Mormon with us we will reach the promised land prepared for us. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that it will strengthen all of us in our resolve to follow Christ.

Elder Burdge

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