Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Refining Experience

Since coming out on my mission I have really grown to appreciate and love to write in my journal. It is a great way to unload feelings and to be completely open. I regret not writing in my journal as faithfully as I do now. However...there is one experience in my life that left quite an impression and I remember writing about in my journal when I was much younger. As I thought about this experience I got the feeling that I needed to write home and ask my family to send my old journal to me. I just recently got a package with my old journal in it and I have been pouring through its pages. I love that I am the same person today that I was then. I wrote about family trips, the Utah Jazz, my first time driving, Star Wars, friends, spiritual experiences, times of growth, and other things that left impressions on me. Many of them aren't extremely important. But in the pages that I've been pouring through I have found that old entry that inspired me to request my old journal in the first place and has pressed on my mind frequently since it happened.

This was taken a few years before this entry...but it's an old picture of Brett and me nonetheless!

Here is that entry (without alterations):

August 7th, 2004

Dear Journal,

About 2 weeks ago I had the scariest experience of my life. Dad, Mom, Brett, and I went to the coast (Newport). While Dad was off working, Mom, Brett, and I decided to go onto the beach. Mom brought a book to read while Brett and I went swimming. Brett and I were having a great time jumping the waves. Brett was always conscientious and we always stayed 5-7 feet away from each other. Meanwhile Mom is sitting on a bench and started to read. She suddenly had a prompting not to read her book. She looked out and saw Brett and me. I was probably up to my waist and Brett to his thighs. All of the sudden, a rip tide swept in on us. It pulled us over our heads. I'm not a very good swimmer. I really started to struggle. Brett shouted out to me to grab on. I stuck one arm around him and Brett got an extra burst of strength from the help of Heavenly Father. Mom only saw one figure in the water. She had thought that I died and Brett was alone. But Brett was carrying me. Another lady who had seen us called 911. There was a band of rocks that extended off the beach about 30 yards. The lady sent her husband off out to the rocks. He helped us on our way to the beach. The ambulance picked us up and cleaned us up to. We were all crying. I love my family so much. I don't know what I would do without them. We got back to the hotel. When Dad got back we told him. It was a very emotional day and it was the scariest and saddest thing that has ever happened to me in my life. Also the most spiritual.

- Matt J. Lee
Cannon Beach, OR
As I think back to that day I am flooded with memories. I am forever indebted to my brother for saving my life. When I was in the water I was certain that I would drown. I was 14 years old and I was scared. But my big brother was there to save me. Once I put my arm around him and he began to swim towards those rocks I was filled with hope. We reached the rocks and then made our way back to the shore where we met our mother and then the ambulance. I can still remember my mother's face - covered in tears. She was scared but also relieved that her two baby boys were okay.

Brett and I had received some cuts and bruises on our feet and knees (from the rocks) but other than that we were okay. In fact...we were strengthened. The whole family was strengthened through that trial that we were called to bear.

I know that my parents went through a lot that day but I would like to focus on what Brett and I went through. The love that my brother and I share for each other was strengthened that day. We grew closer together. I honestly believe that I would have drowned if Brett hadn't put me on his back. He risked his life to try to save mine. That selfless act has provided me with strength and devotion. Even though Brett only saved my physical life once he has saved me in a spiritual sense many times. I love him.

Through this experience we all drew closer to our elder brother, Jesus Christ. As a family we recognized His role in preserving my life and in strengthening us as a family. He is everything. He is merciful. He is eternal. He prepared my brother, Brett, to help me and He guided our family to endure this trial well.

"For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). The Lord is preparing all of us to fulfill one calling or another. He puts us into positions to help others and to be helped. He knows what is best for us. It then is our responsibility and right to align our desires with His to show our faith. Jesus Christ is always there for us. He will often prepare someone in His stead to help us. In my life I have been helped by a multitude of people (notably my brother Brett in this story). I try my best to be open to the promptings of the Spirit so that when I am called upon, I can help someone in need.

"Feed my sheep."
I know that as we recognize the influence of the Savior in our lives we can be refined and prepared for more. Most help His children who stand in need. And when we do recognize the Lord's influence we need to write it down in a journal. We have no idea what kind of impact it will make on us 5, 10, or 50 years down the road. I love my Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beware of False Imitations

In today's world...corruption abounds and false imitations thrive.
How dare they?! Rice Chex stole my face and put it on their cereal box. False imitation!
The holy scriptures are given to us by God so that we may have the knowledge needed to help us navigate through this world of sin and deceit. Many prophets have prophesied of our day and have warned us of the dangers that are all around us. Here are some scriptural warnings/examples:

- Matthew 24: 24 - "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."

- Mark 13:22 - "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect."

- 1 John 4:1 - "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

- 2 Nephi 28: 12 - "Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up."

- Words of Mormon 1:15 - "And it came to pass that after there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes;"

- Doctrine and Covenants 122:5 - "If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;"  

Satan is clever, seductive, and dishonest. He is the father of all lies (2 Nephi 2:18). Therefore, he will try extremely hard to trick us. There are deceptions all around us. Evil is dressed up to look good. Good is cut down to look evil. Satan works in many ways. Here are only a few examples: Teen drinking is accepted by many and is portrayed as the only way to have fun in high school. However, I was extremely happy in high school and I have never had a drink of alcohol. Abstinence before marriage is pure and is pleasing in God's eyes but in today's society it is chopped to pieces and is deemed "outdated". The devil corrupts. The devil cheats. The devil is evil! He tries very hard to imitate and twist things that are good so that he can trick us to do evil.

Here are some pictures of some look-a-likes:

No, no, no. This is NOT Zac Efron. It's my good buddy and fellow missionary, Elder Triston Rogers!

This IS Zac Efron. Elder Rogers is 1,000,000 times cooler (and Elder Rogers ties a lot better knot!).

This is my pal...Elder Jeremy Garcia. NOT Taylor Lautner AKA Jacob.

Taylor Lautner. Not as awesome as Elder Garcia huh? I think NOT.

 As you can see...there are many things that are similar out in the world. Satan uses "look-a-likes" to trick and hurt us. How do we know what is the truth and what is false? The scriptures tell us how. "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7: 15-20). What these verses teach us is that we can judge something by whether it yields good "fruit" or not. Just like I cannot go to a corrupt and diseased tree and get a good and healthy apple, I cannot go to a crude, brutal, or vulgar movie and be uplifted. Everything that is good is of God and everything that is evil is of the devil (Moroni 7:15-17). With this knowledge we can go through this life in safety.

We also can use this knowledge to find truth. I have been blessed with a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the prophet Joseph Smith. I have judged Joseph Smith of his fruits (the Book of Mormon). I receive only uplifting and joyous feelings when I read from its pages and I know that it is true because everything that persuadeth men to do good is of God (Ether 12:4). I know that all who read from the Book of Mormon with an open heart will come to know of its divinity and of the validity of Joseph Smith as one of God's prophets.

In we determine what's good and what's bad and surround ourselves with purity then we can be sure to stay away from Satan's fasle imitations.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Was Taught By My Mother

I'm a "Momma's Boy". There. I said it. I also am very proud of it. I've got the best mom ever! During this Mother's Day season I have decided to give my mother some recognition for being the pure, kind, loving, loyal, trusting, and devoted person that she is. Of course, I cannot give her the recognition that she deserves because that would require much more than a simple blog post. As Maya Angelo said, "To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power." But I will try my best.

My mom and me.
DeAnn Kempton Lee is the most wonderful woman that I have ever met in my life and I love her to death. She was born in Bakersfield, California and spent her childhood in both Mesa, Arizona and California. She comes from a family of eight (three brothers and two sisters). She met my father, Dave Lee, when attending BYU in Provo, Utah. They were married and sealed for time and eternity in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Over two decades later I came along. Little Matty was born into the world at 12:04 AM on May 13th, 1991 (just a couple-three minutes shy of being born on Mother's Day!) with five anxious brothers and sisters and two loving parents waiting to take me home to our house in West Jordan, Utah. I was raised in Utah for seven years before moving to the great state of Washington because of a job transfer for my father.

I truly admire and love my mother for making the move from Utah to Washington. It was very hard on my father and her. They had very good friends that they left behind as well as a home that they had lived in for nearly twenty years. It was a tough move for my parents but they both got the feeling that they NEEDED to move for my brother who is two years older than myself, Brett, and me. Soon after we moved to Washington my mother's father (my grandfather) Larry "Papa" Kempton passed away. Not too long after that one of my mother's best friends who lived across the street from us in Utah passed away from injuries received in a terrible car accident. Both of my parents suffered much because of the losses. I know that they wanted to be closer to family and friends during the crises but they stayed in Washington. I don't exactly know why I needed to move to Washington but I do know that I have made some of my closest friends in Washington. I needed to influence people who lived there and I certainly needed to be influenced by people who lived there. I know in my heart that I would not be the person that I am today if I did not move to Washington at the age of seven. I admire my mother for honoring my father's new job assignment and I revere the faith that they both showed during those early times of struggle. Thank you.

One of my absolute favorite stories in the scriptures is found in the book of Alma within the Book of Mormon. It is of the 2,000 Stripling Warriors. Through much of the Book of Mormon there are wars and battles being fought between two main groups of people. The Nephites and the Lamanites. In the later chapters of the book of Alma the Lamanites are wicked and are trying to defeat the Nephites in battle. The Nephites are low on warriors and are desperate for help. Years earlier a group of Lamanites from the land of Ammon (Lamanite country) converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and joined the Nephites. They also promised to never go to war again. These men from the land of Ammon knew that the Nephite army needed warriors but they could not break the oath that they made years before. But after this oath had been made...these men begat sons. These sons were, "all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and ativity; but behold, this was not all - they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted" (Alma 53: 20). These men were entrusted by God to fight for the freedom that was rightfully theirs. They were led into battle by a great man named Helaman and they called themselves Helaman's 2,000 Stripling Warriors. These young men showed great courage and faith. Their leader, Helaman, wrote of them. He said, "Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it" (Alma 56: 47-48). The 2,000 Stripling Warriors fought in multiple battles and NONE of them died. Zero. They fought with such faith and strength and they were blessed with protection.

Helaman and his 2,000 Stripling Warriors
I know that I am blessed with protection because of my mother. I love her so much. I do not doubt my mother knew it. I was taught by my mother. I was taught to fight for what I believe in. I was taught to love. I was taught to be kind. I was taught to be goofy. I was taught to be optimistic. I was taught to pray. I was taught to honor my father. I was taught to attend church. I was taught to follow Jesus Christ. Like the 2,000 Stripling Warriors, I am fighting. I am not fighting a physical war with swords and spears but I am fighting a spiritual war as I represent our Savior Jesus Christ as a missionary. I fight with my testimony that my mother helped me grow. I fight with the scriptures that my mother read with me. I emulate the kindness that my mother showed throughout my childhood. Like the 2,000 warriors, I was taught by my mother. Like the 2,000 warriors, I do not doubt. Like the 2,000 warriors I have not died in battle. I am stronger than ever before and it is because of my amazing mother. As I continue to allow myself to be taught by my mother I cannot go amiss.

Beautiful woman huh?
 Happy Mother's Day, mom. I love you.