This blog post is long overdue.
My Mom told me a little while back, “You are easily influenced by those around you…”
At first I was offended. I think of myself as fiercely independent, and very much my own person. However as the months have gone by since then I have become keenly aware of the tremendous impact for good or for bad of the people I choose to let into my life. My Mom was right, and I believe everyone is easily influenced by those who he/she chooses to let into their life. I would like to argue that you are very much a product of your family and the 5 people closest to you, whether positive or negative.
I also believe that there are angels and demons among us. Just as I believe there are heavenly angels who minister to us and forces of Satan without bodies who are allowed to follow us on a day-to-day basis.
Bear with me for a bit and let me get a little personal. For a very long time I was emotionally and spiritually rock solid, and those around me would lean on me for support. I was trying my best to live the gospel and to reach out and help others. People would come to me for direction and I have had some very sacred experiences over the years.
When my life got turned upside down with the Mormon Bachelor debacle, relationship failure, dental school stress and my struggles to be a single adult in an increasingly wicked world, the natural reaction for me was to turn outward. First it was, “How can I numb my pain and make it go away?” After realizing this would only sink me into a deeper hole my desire to regain wholeness and health returned.
Then it became looking inward and upward, “How can I regain my sense of self?”
I had no idea what to do because for years I was the strong one. Now I had no strength left to give. It had been sucked out of me and no one to blame but myself. Once I accepted this and took full responsibility for my broken state I was already on my way to recovery. What I didn’t expect however was the profound impact that certain people would have in my life during my time of struggle. People would seem to appear out of nowhere to lift me up or try to tear me down. What mattered most is who I decided to embrace and who I decided to ignore. I am happy to say that I have embraced the angels in my life and the Lord has provided an amazing network of support. It all started when my sister moved in with me this summer. Her presence daily in my life was uplifting and inspiring. From very early my Family and I called her, “Angel Amy.” She has a sweetness and a spirit about her that is so tender. She was only with me a month but she made such a difference for good in my life.
Another dimension to my support system has been my ward family and friends. I have always considered myself an active member of the church but as a busy single adult I often find myself picking and choosing what to attend and not to attend, mostly based on selfishness. Moving to Scottsdale and joining the YSA ward has been an incredible experience mostly because I have bought into the idea of church service. My Bishop has been an angel in my life who came off the stand in about 2.5 seconds to extend a hand of fellowship and recruit me to the ward my first Sunday. I stayed and I am so glad. He has helped me see that the key to happiness is in helping others. I now serve on the Welcome Committee in the ward and I have been to over a month straight of attending every FHE and Institute. This has not been easy, for years I was doing things “my way” with one foot in and one foot out of my wards. I had to re-prioritize my life completely to be at everything. Things I love doing like flag football or pro-Am basketball leagues had to be set aside. By becoming involved in the ward I now see that I have Angels all around me, people who are trying to live Christ-like lives and who genuinely care about each other. Outside of the ward I have also been blessed by great people who are trying to live the commandments. Friends in and out of the church that I am able to open up to and who are happy when I succeed.
Lastly, I met a beautiful girl in my ward who I serve with as co-chair on the Welcome Committee. Friends for over three months before we started dating exclusively she has been such a light and we have such a solid foundation to build on. I am living day-to-day and it feels so right and comfortable. No matter what happens down the road I feel as though she is a gift and I love trying to make her happy. She is an Angel who lifts me and inspires me. We are very similar and so we set goals together to be better with our weaknesses. It helps that she is very fun to be around with her light-hearted nature and contagious positivity. I am in awe almost daily of who she is and the light she brings into my life.
(Sister on the far left—My girlfriend Jessica next to me)
Through all of these Angels in my life I have seen the face of the Lord. I know that he sent them for me to accept and embrace and to learn from…to pull me out of the pit of despair I was in.
In the scriptures, our loving Heavenly Father often sends angels to comfort his children in periods of extreme distress. Accounts of angelic visitations are everywhere: In the Book of Mormon Nephi and Lehi had prison walls break, fire encircle them and saw angels (Helaman 5:48). Similarly in the Bible, Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego were visited by an angel of God when thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzer (Daniel 3:13-30).
However of all the angelic accounts the most powerful in my opinion is when Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even he, the greatest of all, needed help in his darkest hour of grief prior to accomplishing the atonement. He asked his most trusted friends the apostles to stay with him but they slept. While prostrating himself on the ground in the garden, suffering and bleeding from every pore he called out, ” Abba” meaning “Daddy!” In that moment the scriptures record that he was visited by an angel who strengthened him (Luke 22:43).
There have been several instances lately where I have fallen on my knees calling for help from heaven to encounter my day-to-day. Needless to say my prayers were answered and I am writing this blog post today overwhelmed by Heavenly Father’s mercy in sending angels to bear me up in my time of need. If we feel after our Father, he will listen to us and respond. He has promised,
“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Sprit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” D&C 84:88.
The intense relationship we share with our Heavenly Father is further illustrated by a scripture in the New Testament,
“That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” Acts 17: 27-28.
I know that a loving Father will not leave his son alone in times of need. He weeps when we weep, and he will be with us. But we must do our part in calling after him, not just once but persistently seeking him. He does not promise immediate comfort but I know from personal experience that help does come. It may be in the form of family and friends that are already in our lives we just have been too stubborn to listen to their angelic voices. One of these voices is our mother.
We begin life wrapped in the arms of our angel mother. We are safe, protected and watched over. She is our living breathing guardian angel.
As life progresses, other family and friends come into our lives…and pretty soon we are being tossed around person to person. Our mother knows whats best and so she will choose who to let hold her baby. I remember my Mom telling me a story about how when I was very little she let a neighbor friend babysit me for the day and when she came to pick me up I was tied to the crib. Lets just say this parenting style was not what my Mom wanted for her baby. She remembers going home and crying and deciding then and there to not work or put me with babysitters but to stay home and be there for me. I am so glad she takes such good care of me.
As we grow older and start to do things on our own we are subject to the influence of others. My Dad when he would drop me off at high school in the morning would tell me, “Have a great day in the jungle son, remember who you are.” He knew that he was letting me go into a harsh environment where I would be subject to all kinds of influences. This was no longer the bubble world of happiness and peace that my parents had created for me. My parents home remained and still remains a sanctuary from the world, and I am so grateful for this.
What I have realized over time that not only did I need to rely on others to get back on my own two feet, but that I need to surround myself with positivity ALWAYS.
I too often gave people the benefit of the doubt and I would let them into my fragile life only to have them spread negativity and bring me down. It is our nature to want to help others out but all too often these people, if we let them get too close will do us extreme harm. These are the “demons” in our life. When we sin and continue in sin the Holy Ghost leaves and the scriptures say that we become subject to the devil and his influence. In a very real sense we lose our agency to him and we start to harm others, sometimes acting unaware. Those who do not embrace Christ face a sad reality, “And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery like unto himself…” 2 Nephi 9:9. It is my firm belief that there are people out there, whether consciously or sub consciously, that have the intent to harm and spread their selfish ways maliciously sucking life out of their victims.
It is so vital that we do not give attention to the demons in our life, seen or unseen. A third of the host of heaven is allowed to roam the earth and tempt and discourage us. We must be constantly be on guard. We may see in others a slight beam of hope for good and for change. However, we cannot change people. They must have their own spiritual awakening through the Spirit of Christ and turn to him. We can invite for good, lift their spirits with words of encouragement and testimony, and keep them at a safe distance. Would you let someone close who would do you harm? Often we choose to give our hearts to the wrong people who seem to constantly hurt us. We let down our guard and pretty soon these people or influences take hold of our life and we are left alone broken and miserable. Misery loves company and if we are not careful we will be dragged down into the mud of misery and sin also (see 2 Nephi 2:27). Demons are intelligent, as is Satan and they are carefully devising your destruction. It is often not an “in your face” type of approach, but subtle. He wraps a flaxen cord around our neck slowly until it’s too late (2 Nephi 26:22).
Satan uses people just as God uses people. Nowhere do I think this more prevalent than in the dating world. If you are like me you see the good in all people and want to help or save others. This is the returned missionary mentality when we come home we want to save the world. Please listen though when I say, this mentality is great and all but it doesn’t mean you need to save your dating partner!!!
In order to save the world you have to save yourself and the only way to do this is to keep Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as close as possible. Our relationship with them should be so deep and passionate and living that no matter what anyone else does to us we remain unaffected because we can turn to our Heavenly Father for happiness and peace. We should not depend on anyone else for our happiness or expect for them to make us happy. When we do enter into a relationship it should be for the sole purpose of making that other person happy. Whether it is a close friend or a dating relationship or marriage we would do well to remember unselfishness and that you will be happy only as you make the other person happy. Why? because this taps into charity, the true love of Christ which gives unconditionally and never fails. ALL other things fail. People will fail you. We are all imperfect. But you will have abiding love in your life if you keep the attitude of service always.
Some call the dating world the “Dating Game.” Nowhere is Satan’s influence used more subtly than here. Satan would have you believe that the feelings of other people are not relevant because it’s all a game. He spreads his toxic doctrines into the minds of young people relentlessly. Many people are addicted to attention and the ability to attract and conquest the opposite sex. Many pose as though they are looking for a successful happy relationship when in reality they simply want to satisfy their selfish lusts. They want to date “for fun” or whatever else they call it. They want no part in commitment that will require real sacrifice. Both men and women fall victim to this mentality.
Moving from one to the next these people are lost and not acting under the influence of the Holy Ghost. They may rationalize their behavior saying that they are truly looking for love, and they may very well be looking for love eventually but they are going about it the wrong way. When someone is broken or unfulfilled they will move from one person to the next searching for love, or superficially dating many at the same time. These people have become obvious to me through sad experience. Some of them may even be aware of their broken present state and warn you to “run away.” If someone tells you to run away from them you better listen!!!
What those who are dating superficially are not realizing is that the love and healing and what their soul desperately needs is there all along, but its found as we look inward and upward, not outward. If we would simply seek healing and love and fulfillment from Heavenly Father and Christ first then we can go forward in dating with the Holy Spirit as our guide. We will be wise and choose a dating relationship that brings true joy and happiness and peace and that is fueled by love…not toxicity. When we lose the spirit in dating through sin, we are vulnerable to Satan and his toxic poison. We lose love and we turn to lust which is temporary and fleeting and empty. We lose confidence and we choose to let the demons control us. We end up alone and broken and miserable because we did not heed the warnings.
We may even become a demon ourself, looking for others to leech off of or fulfill temporary pleasures. Desperate people living in sin will often use sex to sell themselves to others. Most of the time this is when they believe they have nothing left to offer. It is a pitiful plea for love that is completely misguided. Satan counterfeits the fulfillment of God’s love and positive loving relationships with the temporary high of lust. When we seek out lust we are really just seeking that intimate relationship void. Satan would have you believe there is happiness in sin. But Alma 41:10 “Wickedness NEVER was happiness.” Our souls need the fulfillment the Atonement of Jesus Christ offers, this is the only way to happiness.
So then the real question becomes who we decide to listen to…the angels or the demons in our life. When we are alone do we seek the influence of the spirit and follow the whisperings of the Holy Ghost or our conscience or do we buy in to Satan and the worlds lies. When around others, are we letting in those who would do us harm or are we looking for angels who can guide us to safety?
Thus each day we have an inner battle within our souls. We already know the outcome of who will triumph, we are simply deciding whose jersey to put on. Angels or Demons? When we finally make up our mind to put all evil and worldly pleasures on the altar no matter what, then we are well on our way to safety. What comes next is constant righteous living and enduring to the end, and choosing to stay on the Lord’s team no matter what. If we break a serious commandment, for example, do we side with the Lord and seek out our Bishop or do we side with the demons by hiding our sin and persisting in it.
We must take comfort in the fact that the Lord sends angels. He will fight our battles for us if we give our lives to him. The priesthood power, loving Bishops, words of the Apostles and Prophets, home teachers, family, good friends, church sponsored programs, and much more are all at our disposal if we would use them. All we have to do is sign up for the team and put on the jersey and we will be victorious, regardless of how we perform.
I love the Lord with all my heart and I know that life is not a game but a real battle for souls. Dating is not a game but a real quest for true love and happiness in an eternal union. As we associate with angels, we too will become one. We will choose to serve Christ and help to build His Kingdom prior to the Second Coming. He will come surrounded by angels. Many of us may be lifted up to meet him in the clouds as well.
May we all embrace the angels and ignore the demons and live what we know to be true is my prayer. In the name of jesus Christ, Amen.
The following is a great reference to Angels, from an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.