Moroni saw me daily
When I arose this Sunday morning, I did so to a swollen stiff body. The first thing I said to myself was, "I'm not going to church." I was tired and hurt and upset that another day was happening where I could not function like a normal person.
Swollen legs made it hard to walk or function. My hands did not work the fluid way I wanted to take my morning pills. Reading in New Testament and hearing the healings that Jesus and the apostles gave, I fumed silently that I could not get that same healing.
Jealous of those people, I went to church. The primary kids performed a program. Their voices soften my mood and gladdened my heart. The last song they sang caused me to cry. Listen.
In Sunday School, the lesson spoke of trials of life. Again, my self-pity opened the wound from this morning of not having the healing from God that I wanted. As the lesson proceeded, Afryka Unyque, my wife, asked a question that I felt too afraid to asked.
She wanted to know why the righteous suffer even when the Scriptures explicitly state that we will prosper in the land. The people not keeping the commandments seem to prosper more.
Following her question came a shower of loving, embarrassingly so, compliments about our family. The most important thought came through my friend Colby from his grandmother.
She taught him that God is slow but He always comes. Tears filled my eyes and the eyes of the other participants in class as we discussed the tender mercy of God and how He helps us through our trials. No matter how hard it gets in life, Jesus Christ suffered those pains for us so that He would know how to succor us when our time came to endure a trail. Death and tragedy are not necessarily punishments, but teaching tools to help us become more like Heavenly father.
God informed Moroni, "If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." [Ether 16:27] What has Moroni seen in you?
Years ago sparked for me the beginning of a terrible conclusion that I would rather have never considered. Losing myself was the conclusion. Everything about me over the next twenty years of my life would diminish into nothingness. Blind eyes and tinted mind, what defined me were the things that I could do with my physicality, my body alone.
First went my health. The phrase that people say when the bad things happen, "At least you have your health," would no longer apply to me. After my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I received a diagnosis for diabetes. That was no problem to me until it was.
Years of losing to the control of that disease brought with it other complications. It weakened my immune system. Not an issue to me. I had a strong body!
It affected my sight. Not and issue, glasses and contacts work.
In and out of the hospital for hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels as a result of uncontrolled diabetes), insulin works!
Weight gain? P90X did the job very well!
Injury to my foot, swollen infected legs, and high blood pressure? Okay, wait.
That spelled the beginning of the end of my once happy-go-lucky smiling all the time behavior. Then came the pain, constant pain. Then came the wheelchair and the loss of muscle. Then came the recovery only to end up in the same predicament. During recovery came the discovery that I had epilepsy. Then came the treatments that almost ended my life. I lost the ability to work. I lost the energy to socialize. Still happy through it all, I fought through. I forced myself to work. I forced myself to participate in life though I hurt constantly from head to toe.
Then it happened. My body stopped doing what I forced it to do. I could not jump one day. Then soon I could not run. Later I could not walk without support. I could not shower with ease anymore. I could not put my clothing on without concentrating because I lost most of the feeling in my legs and much of the grip strength in my hands. Oh, function came back in spurts for almost two years until they didn't come back.
That's when my doubts came. No longer was I a real man because I could not protect my family or provide for my family. Depression came when I started to believe that I was worthless. Every day I prayed to God to take me until I lost my life insurance. I stopped reaching out to my friends. I wanted to die so that I would not burden my wife and kids.
Recorded Mormon regarding what happened among the children of Lehi once the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to them, "When Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them. And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you. Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy. For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you. [3 Nephi 17:5-8]
Was not I a faithful believer in Christ? Why can't Jesus heal me of my lameness, poor eyesight, or many afflictions? I have faith to be healed. I know He can heal me! Does he have no compassion for me? Do I not have sufficient faith? No. He loves me and I know I have the faith. Why not me?
Moroni says to me, "I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." [Ether 12:6]
What, then, is the trial of my faith, I ask of God. This is dragging me in to hopelessness. What is my trial? What does Moroni have to say about that!?
Preserved by Moroni's hands are the words of King Benjamin in answer to my plea, "becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."
The trial of my faith is to be submissive, easy to approach, humble, patient, loving, and willing to go through any trial. I must be willing to submit to whatever God sees fit to allow to happen in my life--my illnesses.
To win at life, I must be willing to lose at what once defined me as Rodric Anthony Johnson and accept what God puts before me to become a better person.
As Moroni wrote of what Jesus spoke to him, "if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." [Ether 12:27] What has Moroni seen of you?
After watching the video above, what do you think? Have you ever had an experience where you wanted to do one thing for whatever the reason, but God was telling you to do something else. More relatable to some: Have you ever felt like you know the thing you should do but fear or embarrassment gripped you away from doing it? It happens.
In his farewell address to the modern era, all of those who have and will read this book, Moroni affirms that "nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is. And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever." [Moroni 10:6-7]
Just as God gave a command for the faithful followers of Christ to heal or to bless, to serve or to preach, He can give it to us to minister to our brothers and sisters. Fear is not of God. Embarrassment at the word of God is of a dark source.
"And again," Moroni pleads, "I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them." [Moroni 10:8]
If it is good and persuades to believe in Christ, it is of God Moroni wants us to understand that God gives good gifts to His children as Jesus taught. What has Moroni seen in you?
Serving as a missionary in the South Africa Cape Town Mission, I spoke to many men and women who spoke English as a second or third language. Xhosa was the major language of the majority of the people I encounter in the missionary field, and I could not speak the language well enough to discuss the gospel with the passion it creates in me.
When it came to speaking about the act of repentance, a wise missionary told me that the meaning of repentance is to change. Inguquko is the equivalent word in Xhosa, but I am glad that I focused on the word Change. God does not want us to change from being individuals, but from being full of, influenced by, and encumbered in sin from thoughts, words, and action= CHANGE!
President Russel M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in the April 2019 General Conference,
"The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”
Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." [We Can Do Better and Be Better By President Russell M. Nelson]
Repentance means more than apologizing for wrongs we commit or omit in our daily walk, but also change into a better version of ourselves. Little by little we leave the old self behind through small changes we make on a daily basis. Jesus Christ commands, "Be ye therefor Perfect..." Matthew 5:48. He did not say that perfection would come immediately. The tool to obtain perfection is repentance made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
In his farewell engraving on the Golden Plates that became the modern Book of Mormon, Moroni leaves his testimony and admonishment saying, "come unto Christ, and be perfected in him..." How are we to be perfected in him?
Moroni continues with the answer, "deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ." Moroni 10:32 What has Moroni seen of you?
There comes a point in life where it seems that the most extraordinary things in it no longer hold that shine. You know... the shine that comes from the next big thing that could happen? You know that one? The possibility of a new adventure over the horizion? That one.
Life has lost its shine after so many years of hoping and failing and hoping and failing. It is not that that life is not something still full of hope. No. The shine is gone because all the failure has eaten away at the hope without having the hope replenished because time has a way of wearing people down into what most people call reality.
"If you haven't made it by now, you will not make it," comes the well meaning advice of some.
"You are too old to be going through this struggle," comes the chastisement of others.
"When are you going to wise up and grow up," questions the voice inside.
Depression and despair takes the lives of many people. No, not necessarily physically. Dreams die because people let "reality" kill them.
Not accomplishing a goal planned before a certain age can cause misery and stagnation in life if the failure is allowed to fester.
Elizabeth and Zacharias wanted to have a child, but made it to old age before the Lord blessed them with John. Zacharias received word from an angel of God that he and his wife would have a son who would prepare the way before the coming of the Messiah in their old age! As a sign to Zacharias who doubted because of their old age, he could not speak until John was born.
Zacharias and Elisabeth surely did what they needed to bring to pass this marvelous thing in their lives to have a child and did not sit around waiting for another visit from an angel to encourage them. They waited many years past the age where child bearing was thought possible with no luck in having a child. Then came John.
Do not give up on a righteous dream because too much time may have passed for it to come true. If it is God's will, and we have faith enough to hope, it can still become a reality. "I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."
We must have the faith, Moroni instructs, to hope that God will see us through to meet our righteous goals. That means it may take time and resources that seem impossible right now. Let the trial or test of our faith in that good thing not diminish. Following that test, as with Zacharias and Elisabeth's faith, will come the reward. What has Moroni seen of you?
Catherine Bazin Oliver left me without warning Wednesday morning July 11, 2018, Mother left this life. The circumstances are troubling, but the separation is poignantly distracting still. I wrote an article after her death. In part, it reads:
I did not know that death was possible until Mother died July 11, 2018, a Wednesday morning between 10 am and 10:30 am. I know, it sounds so foolish to read that. My Uncle Charles and cousin Charlton died when I was 12. My grandmother died when I was 13. My Cousin JL died when I was 14. My good friend Bebe died when I was 18. The list goes on of loved ones I have lost giving me proof that lives exist and then extinguish. Death has a way of giving a different experience each time it happens to us, to me.
Mother was like God. She has always existed. With her life, I knew the continuity of life even if all other people around me died. It sounds absurd to think about when so many people lose their mothers. It was not a rational belief. Mother is life until she was not. How could life continue when Mother is not actively in it--physically experiencing it somewhere? She does not have to be near me. Knowing that I could call her or see her was enough for me to hope for another tomorrow.
I spent most of my adult life trying to get away from her. I wanted so much to have a separation from her. Now, there is no physical way to contact her anymore. The separation is utterly guaranteed. My life is not taken for granted anymore. My wife can die! She is a mother also. Life is truly precious.
I no longer doubt that I can die. I know it is an inevitability and not just a possibility.
To read the complete Article: The Day Mother Died
I want to be sad here in the present, a yearl later. I cannot keep that feeling. She is in heaven. I miss here dearly. I miss her smile. I miss her touch. I miss her laugh and her singing. Truthfully, I missed those things before she died because she suffered from vascular dementia. God spared us from the gradual complete disappearance of all that made her, her. As she lived, I saw her mourn her personality leave a bit at a time. During her lucid times she recalled some of her demented behavior apologizing in sorrow. Her choices hurt so many because none of us knew she suffered from dementia for years.
In God's grace, her final days were spent in full knowledge of her health concerns and all could be forgiven. The last conversation that we had was before we both retired for bed. She said goodnight and I said it to her. That was our mortal goodbye.
Following a tremendous battle with a nation of his foes, Moroni recorded, "My father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. And whether they will slay me, I know not."
Mother told me on many occasion to take care of my family a do the right thing by them. It encouraged me during dark time to have her support, from which I never or will ever stray.
"Therefore," Moroni etched in gold ladened plates, "I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not. Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof. And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not." (Mormon 8:3-5)
In the midst of his grief, Moroni kept the faith of his father. He lost all! Like him, I could keep the faith and continue in the face of grief. Moroni saw me, and included his experiences with grief that I might also know that life can continue following the uproarious billowing emotional circumstances. What has Moroni seen of you?
ne hundred and one students from several places received the invitation to participate in the Brownsville Middle School Magnet program. These 101 students bussed from local indigent parts of the city of Miami to receive a better-quality education, and I, Rodric, stood among them. Brownsville Middle School became a turning point in my Seventh-Grade life! After a thrilling trip to Disney World as a group of magnet kids for a field trip, I learned a message on the journey home that helped me to become a better person.
Early in the morning when the skies remained dark, appearing like night, all of us students waited for our rides home at a bus stop previously decided. My mother was to retrieve me from the designated place. As I sat on a bench minding my own business, the most horrid odor permeated the air and singed my nose hairs! Never in my young life had I smelled anything so pungent whiff through the air! To the right of me and sitting on the bench next to me, about two feet away rested a man. Filth shrouded this person. No, he wore filth as a second skin—his clothing dark and dingy. Slinking away from the individual with great indignation, I found a perch beside a fellow student, a girl.
I said to her, “I cain’t sit nowhere,” indicating the gentleman on the bench and the pungent odor that accompanied him. Ready to add an explanation of my annoyance, I thought she would confirm my indignant attitude; however, she regarded me with a multitude of repulsed emotions that quieted my tongue and shriveled me to a mouse. In her eyes, I saw a sermon preached.
As if telepathically, she responded with her gaze, “Why would you look down on that man when he has no home to wash himself or clean his body to remove his stench. Why try to recruit me to your cause of antipathy towards that man when you and I have means and a home to go to from here.”
Imagining the pity and disgust that she had in her eyes before she turned away from me to position herself in better company, I learned never to belittle a person for his circumstance. No, she said no words to me or even hinted that she thought those things; however, those sentiments reflected back into my soul from her eyes what I knew as truth. It was the first time the Spirit of God convicted me of my self-righteousness.
What I learned of myself that day, and hope to keep in remembrance, was that I never wanted to be as the ancient Nephites of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Alma, a righteous chief judge among them “saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted (Alma 4:12).
When God looked at my life, would He see more of the same, causing Him shame? Moroni recounts, “ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” (Mormon 8:37). Though at the time I did not know I fulfilled part of Moroni’s words, I learned later.
“O then ye unbelieving,” counsels Moroni, “turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day” (Mormon 9:6). Change and believe that we are all worth love and respect is what Moroni taught me. What has Moroni seen of you?
As a young boy living in Miami, a few people touched my heart beyond words that looking back only God could have sent them to soften the hard knocks life brings. Mrs. Mary was one of the most important. She was not a family member or a friend of the family that I knew of, but she befriended the children in the neighborhood. With the appearance of any sweet old lady, her mousey voice and sugary sweet spirit brought out the best in all who knew her. Mrs. Mary's mouth turned up in smiles so frequently looking at her face opened a window to happiness.
I do not recall when she befriended me first, just going to her home on occasion and chatting. I told her about my problems as a young kid and she would soothe while providing milk and cookies. She lived around the corner from my Aunt Patricia n’em. I remember her house had an old nice person's look to it that invited you to feel at home--dollies everywhere and knick knacks. I never learned anything from her that I can remember that was significant or life changing. She was a nice woman and she always had time to listen no matter what. Her home was safe. I loved Mrs. Mary because she loved me just because I was there. She provided me with a true example of service and compassion.
Being that she was elderly living alone, her son went one day to her home to visit. I never saw Mrs. Mary again after that. Her son took her away because her health required constant care. I missed her.
"For behold," Morni wrote of his father Mormons words, "God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing." Moroni 7:22
The angel that God sent to me as a young boy is Mrs. Mary. She ministered to me without cost as does Christ to all of us. People who show this type of love no matter what their faiths, are the essence of what Christ desires of all people, to love one another and take care of each other in whatever capacity in our ability. The coming of Christ starts in our ministry to each other. What has Moroni seen in you?
June 27 was the nine-year anniversary of my daughter Zipporah Linda-Ann Johnson's passing. I intended to write a tributary memorial and honor her memory. It did not happen. The memory of her passing rivets my soul to one lurid image--one I hesitate to describe here.
For hours I sat in a funk of depression, almost zombie-like. I told the family that we needed to look at videos and reminisce, but that failed to happen also. Grief has a changing face over the years relating to the death of loved ones, especially children. My mother lost a son before I was born, Johny Lee Oliver. To her dying day, she cried over the loss of that child. The whole he left when Johny slipped into the veil changed Mother, Catherine Oliver, into another person for the remainder of her life.
I now realize, Zipporah's crossing over did the same for me. Some years I can celebrate her life. Other years I weep in the fetal position despite knowing that she is waiting on the other side for our family reunion with our other family who have passed on. Every year I berate myself with blame. Each time it takes the Holy Spirit to pull me from despair as I agonize of the events that led to her death.
Fathers protect. One of my babies did not have enough protection. I wonder every day if the other six kids of mine will get lost in some way because of the protection I provide. It is an ugly feeling to have and experience, yet I live in that reality often.
The Day after June 27, I can talk about it. It is also the day that Joseph Smith lost his life to martyrdom. How is it that for his death I am grateful he was willing to seal his testimony of Christ with his life, but for Zipporah's death I still, still and constantly want to call her from the dead in the name of Jesus Christ. How is it possible that I wait with hope to meet a resurrected prophet through Jesus, but hope every day God will change His mind about Zipporah and have her come back to our family?
Grief or guilt? Both?
Wrote the prophet, "And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."
Moroni let me know right here in this verse that my entire life up until that point of losing my Zipporah was a trial of my faith. Now I have to dispute not because I see not her face right now. My life, trial of faith, is not over. Living without her is a trial daily. What has Moroni seen in you?
In 2015, Herman Johnson passed away, my father. I never truly knew him because he and my mother did not remain together following the births of their children. I met him as an 16-year-0ld, never having heard from Mother why they split until after I experienced him. Mother let the floodgates open about what she experienced with him, why she left him, after several doses of him took their toll on me emotionally.
Papa was a rolling stone. He laid his hat many places always leaving a couple of kids in his wake, it seemed. The greatest thing Dad ever did for me was introducing me to my other brothers and sisters. We share the same biological father who gave every child he could his last name. He did not set an example of family the way God describes it in the The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
"THE FAMILY is ordained of God," declare the prophets. "Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity." (TF:APTTW)
Dad did not give us that, unfortunately. He did give me his last name and both my given names. My father, who was not married to my mother, claimed me. The act of claiming me as his own created in me a sense of belonging that I yearned for up until that point in my life. I had a daddy! I had siblings by this daddy and we all look alike, like him. It broke my heart that I did not have that feeling of completeness for the 17 years before meeting my father, but I have ever since.
Dad created in me a desire to make sure I produced children, in the bonds of matrimony and offer them the presence physically, emotionally, and spiritually that I lacked in my youth. My desire to give my kids all that I did not have growing up comes with a price that I wish at times I did not have to pay, but like Jesus, I drink the bitter cup offered me because it is God's will that fathers, both "Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live." (TF:APTTW)
My dad making the simple act of claiming me in name, while Mother did all the rest was enough to give me a history, to hold up my head. How much more can a father who is present and actively loving and supporting his kids can empower a soul.
Moroni loved and respected his father so much that he recorded his words and put them in a sacred book that became scripture, the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. "And now I, Moroni," etched he, "write a few of the words of my father Mormon, which he spake concerning faith, hope, and charity. ...if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever." (Moroni 7:1, 47-47)
The words of a father have the potential to inspire good beyond measure in the hearts of his children whether he is a prophet of God or a man of the world recognizing his child's existence. Moroni immortalized his father's words and I internalized my father's words of acceptance. When he passed to the other side, I went to the Phoenix Temple and returned his temporal favor to me by doing work for him that will propel him into the eternities with potential to live with our Heavenly Father.Thanks Moroni for remembering the words of your father and sharing them. Happy Father's Day Mormon. Happy Father's Day Dad. Happy Father's Day Heavenly Father. Thanks for willing doing what you do. What has Moroni seen of you?