Eyring_mediumBased on an LDS General Conference talk given by President Henry B Eyring in April, 2009 

Download the Teaching for our Times lesson on slideshare.net.

Click on Mormonmom to see other TFOT lessons.

President Eyring spoke about the role of adversity in our lives. He taught very clearly that the purpose of mortality was to prepare us for eternal life–not mere immortality, but the kind of life that God has, along with the power to have offspring forever. Part of that preparation involves us becoming the kind of people who can be trusted with that kind of power. The only way to do that is to expose us to adversity, hard challenges, the kinds of tests that shake one to one’s foundations.

In these latter-days of government bailouts, plummeting home values, increasingly double-digit unemployment, terrorism and persecution around the world, there is plenty of adversity to go around, plenty of storms. It was very helpful to have Pres. Eyring remind me – because I’m sorry but this talk was just for me. Just kidding. I actually live tweeted that comment at the time, generating waves of “Me Too” from Mormons all over the world. It was helpful to have him remind us of of the useful perspective that the Gospel supplies regarding our troubles, and how to transcend them. Note that I did not say ‘avoid’ them, or even resolve’ them. Not every challenge yields a direct solution. Note: Not every question can be answered by Google.

Some things are, and will continue to be, outside of my, or your, control. As many of you know, over the past year my family has been facing a long, deep trial that quite frankly would have broken apart many families, especially those who do not have the benefit of the gospel in their lives. We are so blessed to have opened our door, our hearts and our minds to the missionaries on that warm Autumn afternoon.


Even if I cannot control what happens outside my control, I can control my response. This was perhaps the biggest lesson I have personally learned. Choosing the Gospel and the teachings of Christ are getting me through this time of adversity.


“We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust the sails”sailboat

As President Eyring teaches, the Lord uses adversity to bring about His purposes and to help us learn valuable lessons. As we examine the scriptures and the history of the Church, we can see how the Lord uses adversity to bring about His purposes and to help us learn valuable lessons.

What is the place for adversity in our lives? As we examine the history of the Church and accounts from the scriptures, we can see how the Lord uses adversity to bring about His purposes and to help us learn valuable lessons.

Through adversity or, as President Eyring puts it: “education” we experience, “misery and happiness, sickness and health, the sadness from sin and the joy of forgiveness. That forgiveness can come only through the infinite Atonement of the Savior, which He worked out through pain we could not bear and which we can only faintly comprehend.

It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. The Book of Mormon gives us the certain assurance of His power to comfort. And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation…”

President Eyring reminds us about the poor in Alma 34.

Once they had repented and were converted, they were still poor. But He sent them to do for others what they might reasonably have thought was beyond them and which they still needed. They were to give others what they would have hoped He would give them. Through His servant, the Lord gave these poor converts this hard task:

“After ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.


That may seem much to ask of people in such great need themselves.Even when you feel the truth of that capacity and kindness of the Lord to deliver you in your trials, it may still test your courage and strength to endure.

olsen-liberty-jail_MDThe Prophet Joseph Smith faced adversity. Clearly. When he was held in the Libery jail in 1839, D&C 121: 1-2 states that he cried out: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?


“How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

Discussion

• What kinds of adversity can we choose to avoid? List responses in a column on the chalkboard.

e.g. poor health or addiction because of breaking the Word of Wisdom, family quarrels because of selfishness and greed, guilt or punishment because of breaking the law of the land, or any other adversity brought on by our own poor choices. If we are facing adversity that comes from sin, work toward repenting of that sin. Repenting of the sin will help remove or reduce the adversity.

Sometimes, we face adversity brought on by other people.

• What kinds of adversity might come to us regardless of our own choices? List responses in a second column on the chalkboard.

e.g. illness or disability, injuries or financial losses; accidents; unemployment; lapsed family members, etc.

We cannot choose to avoid these kinds of trials but we can determine how we will react to them and what we learn from how we respond. If we regard our trials as opportunities to learn and grow, they can become blessings for us.

President Eyring reassures us: “ I have seen faith and courage come from a testimony that it is true that we are being prepared for eternal life. The Lord will rescue His faithful disciples. And the disciple who accepts a trial as an invitation to grow and therefore qualify for eternal life can find peace in the midst of the struggle.”


He compares the story of a young man he had recently met who had prepared for challenging times with that of the prophet Alma. The young man, had prepared more than food storage and financial savings; he had begun to prepare his heart to be worthy of the Lord’s help which he knew he would in the near future need. Perhaps most telling is the young man’s wife. Her response, upon learning her husband had lost his job, was with cheerfulness in her voice. Cheerfulness! Why? She was filled with faith that the Lord had given them a trial. They had visited with their bishop. They were full-tithe payers. And the sense of peace the Lord promised would be with them during this trial. Think of the last trial you were faced with and your response – was it cheerful?

Alma teaches: “Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.”

adversity1Through adversity or, as President Eyring puts it: “education” we experience, “misery and happiness, sickness and health, the sadness from sin and the joy of forgiveness. That forgiveness can come only through the infinite Atonement of the Savior, which He worked out through pain we could not bear and which we can only faintly comprehend.

It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. The Book of Mormon gives us the certain assurance of His power to comfort. And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation.”


President Eyring shares a story about a friend of his who served as a Bishop when his daughters were still at home:

His health began a slow decline. I can’t remember all the ailments he suffered. He needed surgery. He was in constant pain. Yet every time I visited him to give him comfort, he turned the tables; I always was the one comforted. His back and legs forced him to use a cane to walk. Yet there he was in church, always sitting near the door, where he could greet those arriving early, with a smile.


I will never forget the feeling of wonder and admiration which came over me when I opened the back door at home and saw him coming up our driveway. It was the day we put out our garbage cans to be picked up by city workers. I had put the can out in the morning. But there he was dragging my garbage can up the hill with one hand while he balanced himself with a cane in his other hand. He was giving me the help he thought I needed when he needed it far more than I did. And he was helping with a smile and without being asked.

Discussion

Discuss some trials people at their (your) stage of life might endure. Less about age, more about, for example, being a mom or a student or taking care of a parent. You could be a student at 20 and face the trial of a poor semester at school or at 40 returning to school. Or a mom faced with a child’s newly diagnosed illness. It could be breaking an arm or moving house. Or caregiving for a parent or family member that may be different for someone who never had children. Or if it is too personal, ask to share the experience of a friend or family member.


Discuss the lessons that were learned through each trial. For example, The death of a loved one may increase our testimony of the plan of salvation. List these lessons on the chalkboard under the second heading, and discuss how each lesson can help us become more like our Father in Heaven and our Savior. Draw the point out about the lessons learned as blessings as compared with the trial that was endured.

For everyday questions and times of adversity, there is The Ultimate Answer: God the Father lives. He set a course for each of us that can polish and perfect us to be with Him.


Don’t let adversity define your life – see it as the gift that it is from the Lord to help teach us become more like Him.

He promises us the absolute power to overcome all things.

I bear my testimony that the Savior lives. His Atonement makes everything possible.

silver-liningDuring some of my personal darkest moments over the last year, all I had to do was think about the betrayal of our Savior by those closest to him and how endured the outcome of that betrayal. He lived a life of perfection. He suffered and endured until the end. He can and will give us strength to rise through every trial. President Monson is the Lord’s prophet. As President Eyring testified, President Monson holds all the keys of the priesthood. This is the Lord’s true Church restored on this earth by the Lord’s prophet Joseph Smith. Through this church and the scriptures, we are being blessed to help others He places in our path. I leave this lesson with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.




momhearthandsRelief Society Special Teaching for our Times
Mother’s Day Sunday: A Mother Heart based on an April, 2004 General Conference talk by Sister Julie B. Beck
May 10, 2009
The slides and notes from my lesson can be found on slideshare.net under the user name: Mormonmom

Sister Beck teaches us that one of our goals as women, not necessarily mothers, is to nurture and and feed children spiritually. To have a ”mother heart”, Sister Beck instructs us that it is more about keeping our covenants — that the role of motherhood is divine. Let me start with a disclaimer – I am not qualified as many of you wonderful mothers to teach about A Mother Heart. I *only* have 10 years experience as a mother. I *only* have 3 children. And I *only* have girls. So, using scriptures as my guide, just as Sister she offers us important principles that we can each apply to our lives as faithful women.

whatisbwShe opens with the words: “I have often heard my father describe my mother as a woman with a “mother heart,” and that is true. Her mothering influence has been felt by many hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, and she has refined the role of nurturer to an art form. Her testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and strong sense of identity and purpose have guided her life.”

Read Proverbs 31: 10-27.

So what is a mother heart? Is it just the bearing and/or rearing of children? Or does it go beyond that?

It’s about nurturing, leading, teaching, and loving.
Covenant-keeping, serving, and opening our hearts.
It’s about trusting in God and His individual plan for each of us.
Being trustworthy in caring for His children.
Helping Him do His work in whatever capacity may be ours.

Sister Beck says every girl and woman who makes and keeps sacred covenants can have a mother heart.

birdsmomdadPresident David O. McKay said, Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. Consider the angelic Lamanite mothers and their incredible faith. Their sons believed in the faith of their mothers. Two thousand stripling warriors, with no battle experience, but also with no fear of death, fought one of the most incredible battle victories in recorded history. Much of that good influence comes from simple words and acts that may at the time seem small or even mundane. And yet out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (D&C 64:33)

Do you think there is an equivalent ‘father heart”? Why or why not?

Does the priesthood instill a ‘father heart’? It could be said that a woman’s job is to nurture the children, the man’s job is to hold the priesthood and provide for the family. That’s what the proclamation says. But what about the relationship men have to their children? Is it the same relationship to kids like “mother heart” represents for women?

Do you have to be a mother to have a Mother Heart? Of course not. Women who are not mothers also show qualities of spirituality, love, and faithfulness.

Mary (of Mary and Martha fame) left the chores of the moment to listen to her Savior. With precious ointment, she knelt and washed Jesus’ feet. Both Mary and her sister Martha believed in Jesus before He raised Lazarus from the dead, stating, Yea, Lord I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.? (John 11:27). They represent the Mother Heart.

I thought this was an interesting perspective from a post on an archived forum: “I see the vantage point of encouraging mothers to excel, and as soon as I heard the talk I felt she was referring to the spiritual nurturing that moms do…yesterday for 6 hours, I helped other people’s kids to have fun at a community event. At that event, I was the first responder to help a mom locate her missing child. I helped clean up garbage so other people could go have fun with their families. This week I’ll prepare for activity days to do my part to help other people’s kids…A long time ago, I spent Christmas eve sitting with a young girl in the hospital- her own family wasn’t able to be there at that specific time.

Sister Beck’s counsel: “Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here. A woman who treasures motherhood on earth will treasure motherhood in the world to come, and “where [her] treasure is, there will [her] heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). By developing a mother heart, each girl and woman prepares for her divine, eternal mission of motherhood. “Whatever principle of intelligence [she] attain[s] unto in this life, it will rise with [her] in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through [her] diligence and obedience than another, [she] will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).”

Sister Beck shares a wonderful story where she met a group of young, covenant-keeping women with mother hearts They were teaching two-year-olds to be kind to one another. They were soothing babies, kissing bruised knees, and wiping tears.

“I asked one of those mothers how it came about that she could transfer her talents so cheerfully into the role of motherhood. She replied, “I know who I am, and I know what I am supposed to do. The rest just follows.” That young mother will build faith and character in the next generation one family prayer at a time, one scripture study session, one book read aloud, one song, one family meal after another. She is involved in a great work. She knows that “children are an heritage of the Lord” and “happy is the [woman] that hath [a] quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3, 5). She knows that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man. She has the vision that, if worthy, she has the potential to be blessed as Rebekah of old to be “the mother of thousands of millions” (Genesis 24:60).”

Sister Beck tells us, “In my experience I have seen that some of the truest mother hearts beat in the breasts of women who will not rear their own children in this life, but they know that “all things must come to pass in their time” and that they “are laying the foundation of a great work” (D&C 64:32–33). As they keep their covenants, they are investing in a grand, prestigious future because they know that “they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:26).

As someone who has struggled with infertility, Mother’s Day may be incredibly difficult. Women who are unable to have children and single women can energize their mother heart by working with children or giving of themselves in some way. Women who do such work can find joy in it and bring happiness and wholesome influence into the lives of children, especially those who have been denied a mother’s love.

By developing a mother heart, each girl and woman prepares for her divine, eternal mission of motherhood.

Why did the Lord give us families? My mother heart extends to teenagers, even though my eldest is not yet there. I think about our most recent nanny, who at the tender age of 19 helped my family truly learn the meaning of mother heart. Young men – teenagers – on their missions. Even Joseph Smith at the tender age of 14, seeing the First Vision. Lucy Mack Smith absolutely had a mother heart.


If Mother’s Day is not special for you because you don’t yet have kids or you can’t or your kids have all gone off the deep end or your own mother was crazy—or if your children and/or husband just don’t get that you should be cherished and celebrated just one Sunday a year—then change your focus.

Be happy for those who do have the blessings of children. Feel blessed for the great kids of our ward you come in contact with and with whom you influence in your callings or your work. Remember that you have a Mother in Heaven who loves you. Look around the room. Find someone worth celebrating and send your mother heart her way.

Enjoy Mother’s Day. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Relief Society Special Teaching for our Times
Easter Sunday: The Resurrection & Atonement
April 12, 2009

What wonderful timing to find this inspiring short video called An Apostle’s Easter Thoughts on Christ, from last week’s 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Can anyone recite the 3rd Article of Faith? We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

Today’s lesson is on the Resurrection and Atonement, which is the greatest lesson and act Jesus Christ did for us. Through the resurrection, Jesus’ life became a parable that we may learn, teach and be edified. In addition to reinforcing our understanding of and need for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, this lesson will also teach how to receive the blessings of the Atonement.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

In the April 2009 Ensign, Elder Cecil Samuelson’s May 2006 BYU Women’s Conference address offered the following counsel:
These fundamental principles are grounded in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The word Atonement “describes the setting ‘at one’ of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God.

The risks of our becoming distant from our Father in Heaven and the Savior are significant and constantly around us. Jacob, the brother of Nephi, described the Atonement as “infinite” (2 Nephi 9:7), meaning without limitations or externally imposed constraints. That is why the Atonement is so remarkable and so necessary. Little wonder, then, that we not only need to appreciate this incomparable gift but also to understand it clearly.

Let us re-acquaint ourselves with Jacob and Nephi’s counsel through some of the greatest chapters of the Book of Mormon: 2nd Nephi 6-10.

According to these writings, what are some of the things the Savior does for us?
• He delivers us (2 Ne. 6:17)
• He redeems us (2 Ne. 7:2)
• He comforts us (2 Ne. 8:3, 12)
• He’s a light for us; He judges us; He saves us (2 Ne. 8:4-6)

Key point: He is able to do all of this for us, and much more, because of his atonement

Class Exercise: using the following as an outline, I divided the class into 4 groups, prompting each group with 2 questions to read, discuss and share the answers, taking about 15 minutes.
• Doctrine (2 Ne. 9:4-20)
• Application (2 Ne. 9:21-38)
• Invitation (2 Ne. 9:39-52)

Group A: Using a problem | solution format, first define the answers to the question, referencing 2 Ne 9:4-20.

1. What is our problem as mankind? (2 Ne. 9:6-9)
• Left to ourselves, all of us are hopelessly lost
• Our bodies would die and be lost to us forever (2 Ne. 9:7)
• Our spirits would be corrupted by the devil (2 Ne. 9:8-9)
• We are subject to two deaths (2 Ne. 9:10)
• Physical death: separation of our spirit from our body
• Spiritual death (aka “hell”): our separation from God

2. What are the results of the Savior’s atonement (2 Ne. 9:11-16)
• All will be resurrected, physically and spiritually (2 Ne. 9:11-12)
• All will be restored to their perfect state (2 Ne. 9:13-14)
• All will be brought into God’s presence for judgement (2 Ne. 15-16)

Group B: Using 2 Ne. 9: 4-20, please answer the following two questions.

1. What the Savior personally did to save us (2 Ne. 9:5, 21)
• He came and dwelled with us as one of us
• He suffered every pain and affliction of all people of all time
• He sacrificed his own life on our behalf

2. List some things that demonstrate God’s character
• His wisdom, mercy, and grace (2 Ne. 9:8, 19)
• His goodness (2 Ne. 9:10)
• His planning (foresight) (2 Ne. 9:13)
• His greatness and justice (2 Ne. 9:17)
• His holiness and knowledge (2 Ne. 9:20)

Group C: Using 2 Ne. 9: 18-52, please answer the following two questions. When this group shares their answers, emphasize what we must do to achieve Eternal Life as well as what we must avoid.

1. What are our requirements to be judged righteous by God?
• Believe in Christ (2 Ne. 9:18)
• Endure the crosses of the world (2 Ne. 9:18)
• Hearken to His voice (2 Ne. 9:21)
• Repent, be baptized, have faith (2 Ne. 9:23)
• Be spiritually minded (2 Ne. 9:39)
• Feast upon that which perisheth not (2 Ne. 9:51)
• Remember the words of God (2 Ne. 9:52)
• Pray continually (2 Ne. 9:52)
• Keep trying

2. What are the warnings given to us? (2 Ne. 9:27-38)
• Don’t waste your time on Earth (2 Ne. 9:27)
• Don’t put learning or riches ahead of God (2 Ne. 9:28-30)
• Don’t be spiritually blind or deaf (2 Ne. 9:31-32)
• Don’t be uncircumcised of heart (2 Ne. 9:33)
• Don’t lie, murder, commit whoredoms, or worship idols (2 Ne. 9:34-37)
• Don’t die in your sins! (2 Ne. 9:38)

Group D: Using both 2 Ne. 9: 29-52 and 2 Ne. 10: 1-8, please answer the following questions.

1. What the atonement do for Israel as a people?
• They will reject Christ (sin) (2 Ne. 10:3)
• They will suffer and lose the land of their inheritance (death) (2 Ne. 10:6)
• They will come to believe in Christ (repentance) (2 Ne. 10:7)
• They will be restored to their land (resurrection) (2 Ne. 10:8)

2. What is the invitation extended to individuals by the atonement?

Let’s read a familiar verse from Isaiah chapter 53, verses 4 and 5. As the verses are read, think about how they apply directly to you.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with His stripes we are healed.”

Ask: Has he ever borne your grief or carried your sorrows?

When I was investigating the Church, doctrinal discourse and gospel based thinking were all new, and I asked the missionaries what seems like a rather simple question: why was the Atonement necessary? Why would God require His son – his child — to suffer? Why? If He was omnipotent, why was it necessary for our Savior to be crucified?

Now that my knowledge of the gospel has deepened and grown, I realize that it wasn’t about the Savior. It wasn’t about Heavenly Father. The atonement was about us – a gift for you and for me to know eternal life.

The atonement is why the Savior knows our aching and feels our cries. The atonement is why, when we hand our yoke over, Christ shouldering our burden is not just a comforting theory. The atonement is not a goodnight story like Noah’s Ark so children can have happy dreams. The atonement is the foundation our entire world – humanity even — was built upon.

I have a strong testimony of the personal nature of the atonement of Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
“[God] has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man [or woman] in the world.”

Before I joined the church, I was an expert in heaping guilt upon myself because of choices I had made in my dark and distant past. There were lots of voices in my head and around me telling me to forgive, love, accept, release, protect and free myself. And yet, there was no peace. Absolution was not mine to give.

When I was baptized, I felt the individual gift of the atonement as my sins were washed away. There is only one who can grant me absolution- there is only one who can carry my burden- there is only one who could free my heart, mind, body and soul.

The atonement is a tangible gift for one’s spirit. In my case, it has literally changed my life. During my Temple worthiness interview with Bishop Harris, we discussed the concept of clean vs unclean. He taught using Alma the Younger as a parable – after the penance was done, I too, was able to rise from my knees, truly new. As I left the interview, the power implicit in the gift of the atonement was engraved forever upon my heart.

While I know, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that I am forgiven and loved of the Lord, memories remain both of the acts and of my redeemer, who took my load from me, when no other could, saying:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30

I testify that Jesus IS the Christ — the only begotten son of God, the Father and that because of this he had power over death. He voluntarily gave up his life that we might live. Three days after his body expired, he was resurrected, fulfilling the promise of the atonement for each and every one of us.

Throughout history, up until the time of Christ, offerings – or sacrifices were made. These offerings were made in similitude of Jesus Christ and were offerings of forgiveness and a renewal of covenants. We have been asked to offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And, just as those early sacrifices were imperfect – so are ours.

As I learned firsthand, we do not have the power to sanctify ourselves. Without the Savior, no offering we give is enough. But, we must make our offering so that it can be sanctified. We must repent.

In the Garden of Gethsemane the Savior saw me, personally and he loved me enough to suffer for my sins, my pain, my weaknesses…

For everything I lack, the atonement is sufficient.

I leave this Easter lesson with you in the glorious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Relief Society: Lessons For Our Times
Pray Always
by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

bednar1
This month’s Teaching for Our Times is based on Elder David A. Bednar’s General Conference talk called Pray Always. This lesson was delivered on Sunday, March 22, 2009 to the Relief Society in the Saline, Michigan ward. You can download the powerpoint lesson or click on the Slideshare button on the right-hand side of this blog. This month’s lesson was a highly engaging, interactive discussion informed by the presentation and guided by the questions.

Pray Always | Teaching for Our Times

Pray Always was one of the most inspirational talks given at the October, 2008 General Conference. Let me kick things off by asking a simple question: How do you start your day?
Why do you pray?

We are commanded to “pray always” (2 Nephi 32:9; D&C 10:5; 90:24)—”vocally as well as in [our] heart[s]; . . . before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private” (D&C 19:28). Elder Bednar teaches us three principles that prayer becomes more meaningful:
#1 As we counsel with the Lord in all of our doings
#2 As we express heartfelt gratitude
#3 As we pray for others with real intent and a sincere heart.

How do you prepare yourself for prayer? Where do you pray? What’s the most unusual place you’ve prayed?

And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth,

“And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth Moses 3: 4-5

How do you feel about prayer? Is it a chore or something you anticipate? What are the sorts of things you pray about every morning and night?

Elder Bednar counsels us that the patterns used by God in creating the earth are instructive in helping us understand how to make prayer meaningful. Consider this example. There may be things in our character, in our behavior, or concerning our spiritual growth about which we need to counsel with Heavenly Father in morning prayer. After expressing appropriate thanks for blessings received, we plead for understanding, direction, and help to do the things we cannot do in our own strength alone. For example, as we pray, we might:

* Reflect on those occasions when we have spoken harshly or inappropriately to those we love the most.
* Recognize that we know better than this, but we do not always act in accordance with what we know.
* Express remorse for our weaknesses and for not putting off the natural man more earnestly.
* Determine to pattern our life after the Savior more completely.
* Plead for greater strength to do and to become better.

Offer a prayer in which you only give thanks and express gratitude.

Ask for nothing; simply let your soul rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of your heart. Do you feel comfortable going to our Heavenly Father in prayer?

I was struck by the story that Elder Bednar shared to support his testimony about prayers filled with gratitude. The humility that is exhibited by Elder Bednar, Sister Bednar and their family make them seem so very authentic as they exemplify His teachings. I’d like to read this story in it’s whole:

During our service at Brigham Young University–Idaho, Sister Bednar and I frequently hosted General Authorities in our home. Our family learned an important lesson about meaningful prayer as we knelt to pray one evening with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Earlier in the day Sister Bednar and I had been informed about the unexpected death of a dear friend, and our immediate desire was to pray for the surviving spouse and children. As I invited my wife to offer the prayer, the member of the Twelve, unaware of the tragedy, graciously suggested that in the prayer Sister Bednar express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing. His counsel was similar to Alma’s instruction to the members of the ancient Church “to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39). Given the unexpected tragedy, requesting blessings for our friends initially seemed to us more urgent than expressing thanks.

Sister Bednar responded in faith to the direction she received. She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His Resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.

Our family learned from that experience a great lesson about the power of thankfulness in meaningful prayer. Because of and through that prayer, our family was blessed with inspiration about a number of issues that were pressing upon our minds and stirring in our hearts. We learned that our gratefulness for the plan of happiness and for the Savior’s mission of salvation provided needed reassurance and strengthened our confidence that all would be well with our dear friends. We also received insights concerning the things about which we should pray and appropriately ask in faith.

If those we love and serve have not heard and felt the influence of our earnest prayers in their behalf, then the time to repent is now. Prayer becomes more meaningful as we pray for others. Do our spouses, children and other family members likewise feel the power of our prayers offered unto the Father for their specific needs and desires? Have you felt when others have prayed for you?

Praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord

I loved this line from Elder Bednar: Just as expressing gratitude more often in our prayers enlarges the conduit for revelation, so praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord.

*Share with us a time when your prayers were answered. (depending upon time…could break into groups for discussion as well).

Prayer becomes more meaningful as we counsel with the Lord in all of our doings, as we express heartfelt gratitude, and as we pray for others. I testify that the power of prayer is real. That I have been the recipient of prayer and felt my burdens lifted during dark times. I have had others tell me that they knew they were in my prayers. Prayer is our individual way of talking with our Heavenly Father. He is a living God and He answers our prayers. We are blessed to have a living Prophet who guides the church through the revelation he is given in answer to his prayers. And I leave this lesson with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Over the last few months, I was asked by the Relief Society Enrichment leader to participate in an experiment. The focus was on Mary, Martha, & Betty Sue (the forgotten sister who was too busy to get around to helping Martha or sitting with Mary). Each sister focused on just one of these scripture sisters and I was asked to focus on Mary. At the quarterly Enrichment activity, we “reported” on what we learned over the past months. Here’s my talk…

It was a cold, crisp Sunday in October, 2008. Even though the conference center will filled with 22,000 visitors, you could hear a pin drop when President Monson arose, walked to the podium and began his General Conference talk. He started with the words

“I begin by mentioning one of the most inevitable aspects of our lives here upon the earth, and that is change. At one time or another we’ve all heard some form of the familiar adage: “Nothing is as constant as change.”

Throughout our lives, we must deal with change. Some changes are welcome; some are not. There are changes in our lives which are sudden, such as the unexpected passing of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of a possession we treasure.

Within days, the mortgage crisis struck our country. And the stock market crashed. My grandmother passed away. And my husband lost his job.

While this noise was going on in my life, Mary asked me to participate in this experiment. I was surprised she asked me to focus on Mary, specifically what is it like to be a Mary-like person. Because I’m usually Martha. Or at least Martha-like. I think. I do. A boss once wrote on my performance review that I was THE model of operational efficiency, which meant I got the same amount of work done as the rest of his team combined (who were 10 men, BTW).

So I read the stories about how Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus, were faithful followers of Jesus, and Jesus loved them very much.

One day while Jesus was visiting them, Martha was busy cleaning the house and preparing food. She wanted to be sure that Jesus was well cared for. Instead of helping Martha, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. The harder Martha worked, the more upset she became with Mary. Finally, Martha complained, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”

Jesus understood Martha’s feelings, and He answered, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part.”

Jesus wanted Martha to know that it was important for her to serve others and that He appreciated all she had done for Him. But it was even more important to learn about God, have faith and to grow spiritually.

I know Martha. I can relate to Martha. Why Mary? What is it to be a Mary-like person? I must’ve asked myself that question at least a thousand times before the answer was revealed over the long, cold grey weeks of winter. I wrote down:

Mary is a dreamer. Martha runs things.
Mary is a Mac. Martha is a pc.
Mary would drive an SUV. Martha would drive a minivan.
Mary feels with her heart. Martha thinks with her head.
Mary is Facebook. Martha is Twitter.

President Uchtdorf also understood what it was like to be Martha. His talk “Happiness is your Heritage” that he delivered for the Relief Society Meeting was inspirational when I heard it back in October, just before everything in my world imploded. A couple of months later, I returned to find new counsel and wisdom in his words:

“We know that sometimes it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. In fact, in our world of change, challenges, and checklists, sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed by emotions of suffering and sorrow.

I am not suggesting that we can simply flip a switch and stop the negative feelings that distress us. This isn’t a pep talk or an attempt to encourage those sinking in quicksand to imagine instead they are relaxing on a beach. I recognize that in all of our lives there are real concerns. I know there are hearts here today that harbor deep sorrows. Others wrestle with fears that trouble the soul.”

But then – this is where I had the AHA! Moment about Mary. He goes onto say:

“I would like to speak about two principles that may help you find a path to peace, hope, and joy—even during times of trial and distress. I want to speak about God’s happiness and how each one of us can taste of it in spite of the burdens that beset us.”

President Uchdorf asks: what do you suppose is the greatest kind of happiness possible? It wasn’t so much the question as this notion of happiness that resonated for me. In the parable, Mary is happy. Martha is not. Mary is fulfilled. Martha is “encumbered with serving”. Mary is focused on the teachings and Martha seems to be distracted.

So in December, during what had to be one of the darkest moments, I prayed to understand what it was like to be Mary. And it was revealed to me that I have been Mary my whole life. When I was a little girl, I often observed rather than participated. My mother told me that I would spend days reading, writing stories and daydreaming. In high school, my friendships were scarce but meaningful. I was Mary in film school when I would spend hours, digging my toes in the sand, feeling the wind licking my face as I waited patiently for the sun to set over the Pacific ocean so I could capture ‘just the right shot’.

Since having my first child more than a decade ago, I seemed to have morphed into becoming Martha. Motherhood should have taught me to be more loving, more compassionate – more Mary-like, yet I feel like it taught me more about serving others first, more about time management and multi-tasking instead.

I resolved to become more Mary-like at the beginning of 2009, starting with my job. With my husband out of work, I couldn’t quit, but I did request a change in responsibilities. Now I find myself with many direct reports (again) meaning I spend less time focused on tasks and more time spent on the Mary-like qualities of compassion, teaching, learning and truly understanding human nature. I am also able to put Jesus Christ back at the center of my life rather than a series of never-ending to-do’s.

Although Mary and Martha are opposites, Christ was not comparing or chastising either one of them. He simply pointed out that each had chosen something different. Mary’s choice would have lasting value, but He also appreciated Martha’s service, even if it was selfishly motivated. I believe that is what I’ve been taught these last years – the principle of selfless service. I’ve learned to sacrifice my own dreams/wants/desires for the happiness of my family. I could be doing much more with my own career, yet I chose not to, which is impossible for many in my ambitious field to understand. Yet this is my true self, which is what, in essence, Mary was offering up to Jesus.

For the first time in years, my job is about creating something from nothing, which is what makes me happy. I had been burdened by all the ‘doing’, which left little time for creating. Signs that I was desperate to create were everywhere, yet so busy was I that I simply didn’t take notice. Now I have been placed in a position to use my creative “Mary-like” talents in order to serve others as well as my family. I am much happier than I ever thought possible, even though there is a lot of yuck to work through from the events of this past winter.

President Uchdorf teaches us:
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something…
Creation brings deep satisfaction. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty.

Now it is spring and I am listening to the birds chattering. I can smell the dewy earth. And I can see my three daughters – evidence of God and His work of creation through me. Which brings me back to where I began and our Heavenly Father began: Creation. Genesis, Change. Humanity.

I’d like to close with a short video clip called “Create” from the Relief Society web site about creation and happiness based on a talk given to the Relief Society General Conference by the oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes President Dieter Uchtdorf called “Happiness, Your Heritage”. It takes a little while to download, but it is well worth the wait!


Relief Society: Lessons For Our Times

The Sacrament Meeting and The Sacrament

by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

oaksdh_04This month’s Teaching for Our Times is based on Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ General Conference talk on The Sacrament Meeting & The Sacrament was delivered on Sunday, February 23, 2009 to the Relief Society in the Saline, Michigan ward. You can download the powerpoint lesson or click on the Slideshare button on the right-hand side of this blog. This month’s lesson was a highly engaging, interactive discussion informed by the presentation and guided by the questions.

The Sacrament Meeting Teaching for Our Times


Kicked off the lesson with a chalkboard exercise about church ordinances – what is done in the meeting house versus what is done in the Temple. Facilitated a conversation about similarities between the lists and differences.

Elder Oaks’ talk starts off with one of his earliest memories of a sacrament meeting and contrasting it with the differences today. Asked the RS: What is your earliest memory of a sacrament meeting?

Preparing for the Sacrament we are reminded to:
Bring a broken heart + contrite spirit
Arrive early. Prepare spiritually. Arriving early allows us time to compose ourselves. I would not know about this, although after having done the preparation for this lesson, it is certainly something I will strive for.
Prayerful meditation. During the sacrament service we should dismiss from our minds all worldly thoughts. We should feel prayerful and reverent. We should think of the atonement of our Savior and be grateful for it. We should examine our lives and look for ways to improve.
Remember our covenants to serve Him, obey Him and always remember Him. We should also renew our determination to keep the commandments.

Invite someone to read: “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body”. 1 Corinthians 11:27–29

The Lord emphasizes that no one should partake of the sacrament unworthily. Unworthily. Worthily. What does that mean to you? Does it mean we must repent of our sins before taking the sacrament. The scriptures say, “If any have trespassed, let him not partake until he makes reconciliation” (D&C 46:4).

The scriptures also say, “Ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul” (3 Nephi 18:28–29).

Let me clarify. We do not need to be perfect before partaking of the sacrament, but we must have the spirit of repentance in our hearts. The attitude with which we partake of the sacrament influences.

Sacrament Meeting Do’s:
Dress appropriately
Refrain from all other activities
Actively participate with the music, esp singing hymns
Spirit of prayer & devotion

Dont’s:
Dress casually
Read books or magazines
Use your cell phone
Amusement, laughter, light-mindedness

What can we think about during the sacrament to help us be more reverent?

Read D&C 20:77. Discuss the meaning of the prayer. On the day of the feast of the Passover, Jesus sent two of his Apostles into Jerusalem to arrange for the feast. They prepared a room where they could be together.

This was the last time Jesus would meet with his beloved Apostles before his death.

During the evening, he told his Apostles that one of them would betray him. When Judas had left the gathering, as if on an errand for the Savior, Jesus tried to strengthen the others by giving them what he called “a new commandment.” He commanded, “Love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34). He explained, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). He comforted them by saying that he would send the Holy Ghost to be with them, to strengthen and guide them.

Jesus tried to tell them that he would soon leave them, but they did not understand. Desiring that they remember him and keep his commandments, he introduced the sacrament. He broke bread and blessed it and passed it among his disciples saying, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26).

The bread is in remembrance of his body, which broke the bands of death so that each of us might also be resurrected.

Read D&C 20:79. Discuss this prayer. Significance of the order that bread comes before water? The water is in remembrance of his blood with which he bought for us redemption from our sins if we repent.

Next he took a cup of wine, blessed it, and gave it to his Apostles to drink. He said:

“Drink ye all of it;

“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:2728; see also the Joseph Smith Translation in the footnotes of the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.)

How do you think the Apostles felt about the last evening they spent with the Savior after his death and resurrection?
What difference do you think it made to the Apostles in the way they viewed their promise to remember him after they had watched his arrest, his trial, his crucifixion, his death, and finally his resurrection?

As members of the Church, we should delight in the privilege of partaking of the sacrament. The Lord has promised us that if we will keep our covenants, we will always have his Spirit to be with us. President David O. McKay has reminded us to partake of the sacrament weekly:

“My brethren and sisters, do we always stop to think, on that sacred Sabbath day when we meet together to partake of the sacrament, that we witness, promise, obligate ourselves, in the presence of one another, and in the presence of God, that we will do certain things? Note them.

“The first: We are willing to take upon ourselves the name of the Son. In so doing we choose him as our leader and our ideal; and he is the one perfect character in all the world.

“Second: That we will always remember him. Not just on Sunday, but on Monday [and the other days of the week], in our daily acts, in our self-control. …

“The third: We promise to ‘… keep his commandments which he has given …’—tithing, fast offerings, the Word of Wisdom, kindness, forgiveness, love. The obligation of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ is great, but it is as glorious as it is great, because obedience to these principles gives life, eternal life. …

“Order, reverence, attention to divine promises—the promise to enter into the fold of Christ, to cherish virtues mentioned in the gospel of Christ, to keep them ever in mind, to love the Lord wholeheartedly, and to labor, even at the sacrifice of self, for the brotherhood of man—these and all kindred virtues are associated with the partaking of the sacrament. It is good to meet together and especially to renew our covenants with God in that holy sacrament” (Gospel Ideals [1954], 146–47).

I leave this lesson with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Relief Society: Lessons For Our Times

Celestial Marriage

by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Note: My entire lesson can be downloaded here at slideshare and it will probably make more sense with the pictures than just reading this blog entry.

This Lesson for Our Times based on Elder Nelson’s General Conference talk on Celestial Marriage was delivered on Sunday, January 4, 2009 to the Relief Society in the Saline, Michigan ward. You can view the full presentation including images with the lesson on Slideshare/mormonmom. My earlier Lessons for our Times can also be viewed by clicking on the slideshare button on the right-hand side of this blog.

russell-m-nelson

Our prophets have repeatedly delivered the same message about Celestial Marriage since the doctrine was revealed. The position of the Church has never changed regarding the importance of celestial marriage. It is a commandment of God as stated in Genesis: “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

To obtain a fullness of glory and exaltation in the celestial kingdom, one must enter into this holiest of ordinances.

Elder Russell Nelson’s talk at the October General Conference was not the first time he had offered wisdom and counsel on this essential topic. In April, 2006 Elder Nelson delivered a powerful talk called Nurturing Marriage. Elder F Burton Howard of the Seventy wrote Eternal Marriage for Liahona in 2003. President Spencer W. Kimball provided prophetic counsel on the subject in 1980 as part of a First Presidency message called The Importance of Celestial Marriage. In that same year, Elder N. Eldon Tanner wrote “Celestial Marriages & Eternal Families” for Ensign. Two years earlier, in 1978, Elder Bruce R McConkie wrote for New Era on the topic called, “Celestial Marriage”. In 1979, Elder McConkie followed up his New Era article with one for Liahona called Celestial Marriage part 2.

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Celestial marriage is at the heart of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation. In the Family: Proclamation to the World, it states: In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. [Heavenly Father’s great] plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

The quality of this time here and in eternity depends to a great extent on how and whom we marry. Reflecting upon the importance of marriage, Elder Nelson creates the parable of the shopper.

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Knowing that we can be together with that one special person forever makes it critical to “choose wisely” when selecting a mate, and motivates us to work very hard at making the partnership successful. It’s Christmastime in America, so we’ve all been to the stores recently — even if it’s been the grocery store to stock up on food storage items. Wise shoppers, Elder Nelsen tells us, study their options thoroughly before they make a selection. They focus primarily on the quality and durability of a desired product. They want the very best.

In contrast, some shoppers look for bargains and others may splurge, only to learn later — much to their dismay — that their choice did not endure well.
Finally, there is what he terms the ‘marital shoplifter’ — those who chose neither and brazenly steal what they want
What do you think he is referring to in these categories?

Elder Nelson helps to contextualize it at the end of his talk:
God’s plan of happiness allows us to choose for ourselves. As with the patterns of the shopper, we may choose celestial marriage or lesser alternatives. Some marital options are cheap, some are costly, and some are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options; they always breed misery!

The best choice is a celestial marriage. Thankfully, if a lesser choice has previously been made, a choice can now be made to upgrade it to the best choice. That requires a mighty change of heart and a permanent personal upgrade. Blessings so derived are worth all efforts made.
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Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory, or exaltation. A temple marriage is also called a celestial marriage. Within the celestial glory are three levels. To obtain the highest, a husband and wife must be sealed for time and all eternity and keep their covenants made in a holy temple.

We are also reminded, “The earth was created and this Church was restored so that families could be formed, sealed, and exalted eternally”.

In Mormon Doctrine, Elder Bruce McConkie states: “The most important things that any member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever does in this world are: 1. To marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority; and 2. To keep the covenant made in connection with this holy and perfect order of matrimony—thus assuring the obedient persons of an inheritance of exaltation in the celestial kingdom” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed.)
-Why does the Lord place such tremendous importance upon this principle?
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Elder Nelson tells us: “Heavenly Father has restored priesthood keys in this dispensation so that essential ordinances in His plan can be performed by proper authority. Heavenly messengers—including John the Baptist;9 Peter, James, and John;10 Moses, Elias, and Elijah11—have participated in that restoration.” Elder Nelsen references D&C 128:8, which is markedly similar to the direction given by our Heavenly Father in Matthew 16:19.

Dr. Andrew Skinner, dean of Religious Education at BYU, wrote recently about the power of the sealing authority:
The fullness of the authority of the priesthood includes the sealing power. The sealing power is the highest authority and the greatest power on earth. . . .Some aspects inherent in the sealing power of the priesthood are more perceptible and obvious than others. One dramatic and visible aspect is control over the elements: the sealing and unsealing of the heavens and the invocation and revocation of famine. Thus, the sealing power gives its possessor power over all things on earth and the right and ability to have his actions recognized and ratified in heaven by the Father. It is stunning to realize that the sealing together of husbands, wives, and children is done by the same power that seals shut the heavens or changes the elements of the earth.

Elder Nelson also reminds us that we, as the Lord’s prophets and apostles, again proclaim to the world that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. Striving to live the gospel of Jesus Christ strengthens our home and family unit. As Latter-Day Saints, everything in the church organization is dedicated to families as the most important priority: worship, activities, education and support to each individual family member, helping marriages and families to succeed in God’s Plan of Salvation.

I’d like to spend a few minutes reading aloud that important proclamation made by the Church.
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). 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. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
The family is ordained of God. 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. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

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Marriage and family is at the core of our faith. The family proclamation also reminds us that “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other.” Children born of that union are “an heritage of the Lord.” When a family is sealed in the temple, that family may become as eternal as the kingdom of God itself.

Why are sealings so important? Why must we be sealed together? What are we ultimately doing when we seal people together?
Being sealed together as an eternal family is the very order of heaven. It is the kind of life our Heavenly Parents live. In other words, the family is not just the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity.

Elder McConkie also wrote:
All things gain enduring force and validity because of the sealing power. So comprehensive is this power that it embraces ordinances performed for the living and the dead, seals the children on earth to their fathers who went before them and forms the enduring patriarchal chain that will exist eternally among exalted beings.

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Facilitate a discussion: What kinds of marriages are there? Think about your friends/ family.
• What must we do to be worthy of the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom?
• How does a covenant marriage protect us in today’s world?
• What is God’s purpose for marriage?
• How did God design marriage as a refuge — a safe haven — from a troubled world?
• What kinds of spiritual challenges have you faced — to humble, stretch, and refine us?

*****Write on one side of the chalkboard, Civil. Write on the other side of the chalkboard, Celestial. Discuss what makes a Celestial marriage different from a Civil marriage.

Civil Marriage: Til Death Do Us Part
1. Home, church, office, almost anywhere
2. Justice of the peace, minister, judge, bishop
3. Until “death do us part”
4. Not extended to the family unit (just between man and wife)

Celestial Marriage: Covenant for Eternity
1. Sacred sealing room in the temple
2. One having sealing power from the prophet of the Lord
3. For time and eternity
4. A family unit forever (children are sealed to their parents if converts, or born into the covenant because their parents had a Temple marriage)

Elder Nelson makes a strong point about the difference between marriages that end with ‘death do you part’ and a sealed marriage for eternity. He tells us, “I read in a newspaper obituary of an expectation that a recent death has reunited that person with a deceased spouse, when, in fact, they did not choose the eternal option. Instead, they opted for a marriage that was valid only as long as they both should live. Heavenly Father had offered them a supernal gift, but they refused it. And in rejecting the gift, they rejected the Giver of the gift.

In the Eternal Marriage Student Manual, we are taught by President Gordon B Hinckley that God is the designer of the family. “He intended that the greatest of happiness, the most satisfying aspects of life, the deepest joys should come in our associations together and our concerns one for another as fathers and mothers and children.”

D&C 88:33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

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But, Elder Nelson asks, what of the bretheren who are not married? He reassures them that through no failing of their own, they deal with the trials of life alone. No blessings will be withheld from His faithful Saints. The Lord will judge and reward each individual according to heartfelt desire as well as deed.

Jesus Christ, for all His love and devotion to children, never married. And yet, without him, we might not ever know celestial marriage.

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God’s plan of Salvation is the ideal of Marriage and Family.
Elder Nelson explains that list of unique problems and issues and circumstances is as long as there are individuals. All of these difficulties, and more, are part of our mortal existence. What Elder Nelson is teaching us is that regardless of our individual situation, God’s Plan of Happiness is still in effect for every one of His children, and it remains an eternal promise of happiness for ALL. If any of these blessings cannot be realized in this life, through no fault of our own, then they will be realized in the next life.

I loved the line, “mortal misunderstandings can make mischief in a marriage’. We are 2 imperfect people, each of whom has their own agency, who have to work together to secure happiness — it requires a concerted effort. Add in children, 2, 3 or more each with their own agency and it becomes like herding cats getting the family to exaltation.

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God’s plan of happiness is based upon agency. Returning to the analogy of the shopper, the choice for celestial marriage or other, what Elder Nelson calls ‘lesser alternatives’ are up to each one of us. Some marital options are cheap, some are costly, and some are cunningly crafted by the adversary. His favorite target is the family. Satan would lead millions more than the unavoidable few out of their sacred promises by prospects of something better, sweeter, or finer. But Satan is a liar. He will “not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (Alma 30:60).

There is only one source of enduring happiness. When we act contrary to promises, covenants, counsel, and impressions, we are acting contrary to the nature of happiness. Elder Nelson also explains that if a lesser choice has been made, a choice can now be made to upgrade it. In order to do this requires a mighty change of heart and a permanent personal upgrade.

In Joseph’s vision of the celestial kingdom, he describes those who are there in these terms: These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all. These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

Men and women who are just — good men and women, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be made perfect through Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. Bringing us back to the Plan of Salvation, of which the atonement of Jesus Christ plays a central role. For without the atonement, none of this…Celestial marriage…would be possible.

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Celestial marriage is a pivotal part of preparation for eternal life. It requires one to be married to the right person, in the right place, by the right authority, and to obey that sacred covenant faithfully. Then one may be assured of exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God. What an amazing promise. He makes this wonderful declaration to us, repeating what the Lord has promised.

I am so grateful for a living prophet who guides this church. I’m grateful for the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. I know Jesus Christ lived and atoned for our sins, was resurrected. I love our Savior. I hope to continue to be more like Him in this new year.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



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