Tag: Atonement

General Conference Notes — Saturday Sessions

My notes (in between tweets) from the 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Saturday Morning Session

President Henry B. Eyring conducted the Saturday morning session, with President Thomas S. Monson providing general commentary followed by talks from Elder Scott, Sister Matsumori, Elder Clayton, Brother Osguthorpe, Elder Bednar, and President Uchtdorf.  Here are the key points made by each speaker (with direct quotes noted as such):

President Thomas S. Monson:

  • 83% of members live within 200 miles of a temple
  • There are 130 operating temples
  • 16 have been announced or are under construction
  • 5 new temples announced

    • Brigham City, Utah
    • Concepción, Chile
    • Fortaleza, Brazil
    • Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
    • Sapporo, Japan

Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang “Choose the Right”

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Twelve:

  • Inspiration to know what to do | being guided by the spirit
  • Power, to be able to do it
  • Sometimes truth is revealed when you are not actively seeking it
  • Pornography is one of the most damning influences on earth, and is overpoweringly addictive
  • Commit to overcome it now
  • If you pray with all your heart, you can learn to be consistent with the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Parable: a humble priesthood leader in Mexico teaching a lesson inspired Elder Scott, while a well-educated Sunday School teacher in the States, using obscure examples, did not edify or inspire because it came from a desire to impress (pride).

Sister Vicki F. Matsumori, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency:

  • Being touched by the Spirit is like being wrapped in a blanket.
  • Help others understand
  • The Spirit will not dwell in unholy temples
  • We should find ways to feel the Spirit every day and weekly at Church
  • “Be still and know that I am God”

Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy:

  • Generally burdens come from 3 sources
    1. Natural product of the conditions of the world
    2. Imposed on us by the misconduct of others
    3. Imposed on us by our own mistakes and shortcomings
  • Burdens provide opportunities to practice virtues — blessings in disguise
  • “People struggle everyday under burdens that tax their souls.”

The choir sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”

Russell T. Osguthorpe, General President of the Sunday School:

  • “We are all teaching future leaders of the Church.”
  • A good teacher can help save lives
  • Teaching involves sharing the key doctrine, an invitation to action, and then the promised blessings
  • “Learning and teaching are not optional activities in the Kingdom of God.”
  • Teachers can inspire their students to change, to do better, to set sights higher

Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve:

  • “More diligent and concerned at home”
  • Express love and show it. When was the last time you told your spouse, your child, your parents you love them?
  • Testimonies that express love might be appropriate, but the public statement shouldn’t be the only time they hear it
  • Feeling the constancy of love is a rich blessing
  • Bear testimony and live it. When was the last time you bore your testimony to your spouse, your children, or your parents
  • We need to bear it, we need to mean it, and most importantly, we need to live it
  • Be consistent. Results don’t come each time
  • The consistency of our intent and work is the great lesson
  • A single paint brush stroke is not critical, but all of the strokes together create a beautiful painting

The choir sang “My Heavenly Father Loves Me”

The choir sang “Oh, May My Soul Commune with Thee”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, on showing love as a disciple of Christ and the unconditional love of God for us:

  • Of all the things we are known for, are there things we should seek to be known for?
  • How do we become true disciples of Jesus Christ? Love God. If ye love me, keep my commandments.  Love should be the center of our life in:
    1. family
    2. callings
    3. livelihood
  • “Love should be our walk and our talk.”
  • Keep trying. Try to believe, learn of God, study the scriptures, follow the prophets, listen to the Father, do the things He asks of us
    • How can we hear the Father’s voice?
    • Why is love the great commandment?

The choir sang “Come, Come, Ye Saints”

Saturday Afternoon Session

President Eyring conducted the Saturday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Oaks, Elder Hales, Elder Zeballos, Elder Callister, Elder Watson, Elder Anderson, and President Packer. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given.

The choir sang “Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise”.

The choir sang “Know This, That Every Soul Is Free”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve, on God’s love and law:

  • God’s love and God’s commandments
  • The love of God does not supersede his commandments.  His commandments do not diminish the love of God
  • Despite mortal confusion over the relationship between love and law, love does not supercede or render inapplicable law or God’s commandments. Mercy cannot rob justice.
  • Counsels a balanced response — every parent knows you can love a child and be angry and disappointed
  • The love of God is so universal, even those who are rebellious benefit
  • Where do parents draw the line with children that are not following the commandments? Don’t go to extremes.
  • Real love does not support self-destructive behavior

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Twelve, against secularism and atheism:

  • We live in a time where secularism is deepening.  “Atheism … is spreading across the world.”
  • We declare We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost
  • Why is belief in God so important?“Without God, … our mortal experiences would have no purpose.”
  • Cultivate a diligent desire to know God lives. He does.

Elder Jorge F. Zeballos of the Seventy, on the Atonement:

  • The command to become perfect may seem impossible, but it encourages us to achieve the best of ourselves
  • “God will not require more than the best that we can give.”
  • Let us with enthusiasm do all that is within our reach
  • It is possible to achieve the impossible. We can receive eternal life. We can be happy now.

The choir sang “Come, Ye Children of the Lord”

Elder Tad R. Callister of the Seventy, on the Restoration:

  • Joseph was the Lord’s anointed servant. He restored knowledge of four fundamental truths not recognized by contemporary Christianity:
    1. God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are two separate, distinct beings
    2. The Father and Son have glorified bodies of flesh and bones
    3. God still speaks to man today; the heavens are not closed
      Does God love us as much today as before?
      Does God have the same power today as then?
      Do we need him as much today as then?
    4. The full and complete Church of Jesus Christ was not on the earth
  • Were there not angels before? Mary, Joseph, Peter, James, John, Cornelius, Paul, Stephen all saw angels
  • Some people get sidetracked and lose their faith over minor issues: “There will always be some intellectual crisis looming on the horizon.” At some point, one must trust in God.

Elder Kent D. Watson of the Seventy, on temperance:

  • Temperance = avoiding anger and pride.
  • Peace of mind and security and happiness does not come from buying things we can’t afford. It comes through self-control and faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Happiness comes from being diligent in keeping covenants
  • Like tempered glass or tempered steel, a tempered soul is one that has gained increased spiritual strength.

Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Twelve, on repentance:

  • Testifies of the Savior’s overpowering love for a repentant soul.  Spiritual arms of mercy, safety, love
  • We rejoice in repenting and the joy of forgiveness
  • Apart from the rare unforgiveable sin against the Holy Ghost, “there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.
  • “Will ye not now return unto me… that I may heal you?”
  • Repentance is more of a journey than an event
  • “You can’t feel what I have felt”  One who does understand. He does. He has felt your pain.
  • I promise you, relief will come
  • Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance

President Boyd K. Packer of the Twelve, on hearing the guidance of the Spirit:

  • “We are given our agency; we must use it wisely.”
  • We must use our agency wisely
  • Pure intelligence can be spoken into the mind  — the Spirit can protect you
  • Keep your mind clean and free from the clutter of the world
  • “One of the adversary’s sharpest tools is convincing us that we are no longer worthy to pray.” No matter who you are and what you may have done, you can always pray
  • Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind, in your heart. Pray on your knees.
  • Prayer is your personal key to heaven and the lock is on your side of the veil.
  • “Thy will be done”

The choir sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”.

Advertisements

Be of Good Cheer :: August 2009 Teaching for our Times Lesson

Based on a talk given by President Thomas S Monson at the April, 2009 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Opening Hymn: Come, Come Ye Saints

 

 During his talk, President Monson focused on the blessings that come from membership in the Church.  President Monson taught powerfully from the examples shown by Church members throughout history who endured incredible hardships with faith. These are “the experiences of those who have struggled and yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer as they have made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives,” he said. “This attitude is what will pull us through whatever comes our way.” 

Three Examples 

President Monson uses a trio of stories to illustrate how it is possible to Be ofGood  Cheer, even during the worst trials imaginable.

His first story is from his personal ancestors migration from Sweden to Zion, enduring the hardship of 8 weeks on a boat. The journey claims the life of a child who, according to custom, must be bound and buried at sea. Witnessing the death of your young child, then burial at sea and then somehow finding joy again? 

The second story President Monson shared was about a faith-filled man who overcame physical adversity through spiritual faith. 

And the third — Elder Benson’s moving story about the German latter-day saint woman who lost absolutely everything and found her Savior.  Through her harrowing ordeal, President Monson impressed upon us all how it is possible to be of good cheer even in the harshest of times. 

This woman — a German mother and Latter-day Saint — lived in East Prussia at the start of World War II. Her husband was killed during the war.  She and her four children, the oldest was 7, found themselves living in territory now occupied by others and she, along with all other Germans, was ordered to leave.

Having no form of transportation, she began a 1000-mile journey on foot. 

Let’s put that into a little perspective. That’s like any one of us traveling from Michigan to Dallas, Texas with 4 small children. She was permitted to take only a small hand-pulled cart – the size of a Red-flyer wagon — and whatever would fit into it.  They had no money, so they were forced to gather food from the fields as they traveled. 

 Winter came and they had only rags wrapped around their feet, because the shoes had fallen apart. The young mother carried her baby as the 7-year old pulled the cart. They avoided troops and other refugees who might prove dangerous. 

And then, after weeks of exposure to the cold with only rags to cover them and a scant amount of food to eat, her children began to die. She buried the three oldest children, 

one by one, 

digging their graves with a teaspoon 

because it was all she had with which to dig. 

Imagine digging an entire grave for your child in the frozen ground with only a teaspoon, a grieving mind and a broken heart …

As she approached the end of her 1000 mile journey, her last  surviving child, 

the baby, 

Quietly died in her arms.

 But she had no spoon left. Kneeling on the frozen ground, covered with ice and snow, she dug the last grave with her fingers over the course of several heart-breaking hours. 

At that moment, she felt she had lost everything:  her husband, each of their four children, their home and even her country.  With no one left to live for, she contemplated suicide, when the Holy Ghost prompted her to pray.  She tried to ignore it, but finally obeyed. 

This was her prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left-except my faith in Thee. 

I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them. 

Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return-together-to Thee. 

As she prayed, she was reminded that no matter how painful this life on earth could be, there was a great promise for her if she held on and kept up her spirits – to ‘be of Good Cheer’

She knew that she had a loving Father in Heaven and that Jesus Christ died for her – for each of us- so we could live again. And she knew through her beliefs as a Latter-day  Saint, that families can be together forever. 

God is our Father — he loves us too much to take our families from us if we love them enough to do what it takes to keep them forever. 

It was her knowledge of these things and absolute faith in God and the Plan of Salvation that gave her the courage to get back on her feet and finish her journey through life. 

President Monson said, “When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated….her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation.”

In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again

She testified that if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.”

 
ArtBook__043_043__JesusWalkingOnTheWater_____thumb[2] 

Imagine that through your worst mortal trial; you can be the happiest person on earth! 

Because of the knowledge of a living God and the atonement of Christ – Be of good cheer!

There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us! 

 Question: How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we might face?

None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. 

However, we are told, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.’ 

How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? 

Again from the scriptures: ‘Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.’ ” 

 We are taught as Latter-Day Saints that the gospel is not a gospel of fear. The scriptures are filled with admonitions to be cheerful and not afraid. 

This can prove challenging when it seems the world is falling apart and the media is determined to keep you in a state of fear to sell newspapers or increase ratings. If I may make one side comment here about the choices we make: I’ve chosen to not have cable tv in my new home. All that my children see is what I’ve set up for them on the computer that is hooked up to the tv sets. They can watch the inspirational messages on Scripture Scouts Radio or the Mormon Channel on YouTube as well as wholesome movies on Netflix. All of these I choose for them. Since taking media out of our home, I have personally felt less stressed and worried about what’s happening ‘out there’.  It helps and it works.

 If we do all we can do to prepare for hard times, we can also choose to trust God, or choose what the adversary would like: for us to be afraid. You can’t always control what happens, but you can choose your attitude.

 

jesus_second_coming

No matter what disappointments, frustrations, or even tragedies we face during our mortal probation, because of Christ’s Atonement, we know that if we continue to have faith in Him, and do our best to live righteously, we can eventually join Him, and our Heavenly Parents, in realms of glory. 

“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17). 

 Everyone is going to have difficult experiences throughout their lives, but for me, it’s about prayer several times a day, every day, scripture study, journaling, and listening to General Conference talks as well as other uplifting media has strengthened me and brought me closer to the Lord. It has also helped me to see which things are the most important in my life. 

 The final story shared by President Monson will haunt me forever with its corresponding message: the blessing that Christ has given me through the Atonement. The deep understanding of the atonement and of my purpose here on earth have truly blessed my life. I can’t imagine living my life any other way.  

How has being a member of the church blessed your life? 

 President Monson ended his talk with this admonition: “From the holy scriptures we read, “Behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in [Him], they who have endured the crosses of the world, . . . they shall inherit the kingdom of God, . . . and their joy shall be full forever. ”I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. 

Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us. 

My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”

Discussion 

Divide the class into four groups, with a leader for each group, and give each group a hymnbook. 

Assign each group one of the verses of the hymn “Count Your Blessings” or “Come, Come Ye Saints”.  

Have each group find the message of their verse (or verses). 

Encourage them to think of examples from scripture stories, Church history, or personal experiences that teach the same message. 

After each group has had time to think of ideas, have the leader read the verse to the class and then share the ideas the group discussed. 

                                                   ************

I bear my testimony that this is the Lord’s Church. Only a loving Father would want His children ‘to be of good cheer’ and then offer His own son to restorfamilies will be reunited forever.

One of the greatest blessings in my life through membership in the church is the sense of purpose and peace that it has brought into my life. The focus on the family and helping each other has been a real blessing. 

I am grateful that these things have been a part of my life. Preparing this lesson taught me, probably most of all, to be of good cheer.  No matter what the adversary tries or the mortal struggles of health issues, long-term unemployment, loss of a beloved family member….

That’s why I am so grateful for a living Prophet, Thomas S Monson, to guide us, teach us and receive modern revelation for the entire Church. This exceptional talk strengthens my testimony that this is the true church and I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father as well as my sisters here in this room for the kindness and support you’ve shared with me.

I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God that was translated by the courageous Prophet, Joseph Smith. I believe it is the greatest book ever published alongside the Bible.

 Be of good cheer today and forever, my sisters. Find joy in your everyday journey. I say these things in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Easter Sunday | Resurrection + Atonement

Easter Sunday: The Resurrection & Atonement
April 12, 2009  (updated on 4/16/2017)

What wonderful timing to find this inspiring video of Elder Holland’s talk, “And None Were With Him: 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.

Today we are going to focus on the Resurrection and blessings of the Atonement.

Through the Resurrection, Jesus’ life story became his parting parable that we in these latter days may learn, teach others and be edified. Equally important is the gift of the Atonement.  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.

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 His son, our Savior Jesus Christ, are significant and constantly surrounding us. Jacob, the younger brother of Nephi, described the Atonement with the singular word “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)

He is able to do all of this for us, and much more, because of the Atonement
Consider the following passages from 2 Nephi and the order they are presented:

  1. Doctrine (2 Ne. 9:4-20)
  2. Application (2 Ne. 9:21-38)
  3. Invitation (2 Ne. 9:39-52)

Doctrine: 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)

3. 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

4. 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)

Application  2 Ne. 9: 18-52  Please consider 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)

Invitation Using both 2 Ne. 9: 29-52 and 2 Ne. 10: 1-8, search for the answers.

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?

Packer quote

Let’s read a familiar verse from Isaiah 53: 4-5. As the verses are read, think about how they apply directly to you on this glorious Easter Sunday.

“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.”

When I was investigating the Church, doctrinal discourse and gospel-based thinking were all new. I asked the missionaries what seems like a rather simple question: why was the Atonement necessary? Why would God require His son – his own child — to suffer and die yet the Lord pardoned Abraham from a similar sacrifice? Why? If He is omnipotent (and I testify He is), 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 for us.

In short, Jesus Christ “came into the world … to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; that through him all might be saved” (D&C 76:41–42)

The Atonement is the most important event that has ever occurred in the history of mankind. Why? Remember that the Fall of Adam brought two kinds of death into the world: physical death and spiritual death. Physical death is separation of the body and spirit. Spiritual death is separation from God.

The atonement is the foundation our entire world – humanity even — was built upon. Without the Atonement, our bodies and our spirits would have been separated forever, and we could not have lived again with our Heavenly Father. He planned for a Savior – and chose Jesus Christ – to come to earth to redeem us from our sins and from death.

Consider what 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.”

It was Easter Sunday, the third day after His Crucifixion, that Christ took up His body again and became the first person to be resurrected. In Matthew 28:5 the angels who guarded His tomb said, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” His spirit had reentered His body, never to be separated again.

 

For me, when I was baptized, I truly felt the individual gift of the Atonement as my sins were washed away. I know 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.

During my Temple worthiness interview with the Bishop, we discussed the concept of clean vs unclean because I felt I would never be worthy to enter the Temple. He gently 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 as I was judged worthy to enter the Temple – the House of our Holiness, the Lord.

While I know and testify 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 the only truly perfect man to walk the earth. How great the love of our Heavenly Father has for us that He would send His Only Begotten Son to suffer and die for the rest of His children. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

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 found in the Old Testament were imperfect – so too are ours today.

We simply do not have the power to sanctify ourselves. Without the Savior, no offering we give is enough. But, we must make our offering as best we can so that it can be sanctified. In short: we must repent.

In the Garden of Gethsemane the Savior saw each one of us and our ancestors as well as our offspring. He loved each of us enough to suffer for our sins, our weaknesses…

The Savior’s Atonement makes it possible for us as imperfect mortals to overcome spiritual death. Although all people will be resurrected, only those who accept the Atonement will be saved from spiritual death as it says in the 3rd Article of Faith. Which is where I started this talk that I now leave with you in the glorious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Holland Atonement Quote

TFOT | Pray Always

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.

TFOT: The Sacrament Meeting

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.

How can I make Easter more Christ-Centered for my family and me?

Easter Sunday, 2008

I was asked to talk on the subject: How can I make Easter more Christ-centered for my family and me? So, what is Easter? As it is defined in the Bible Dictionary:

Easter: This word occurs only once in the Bible (Acts 12: 4) and then would be better translated passover. The word Easter is from Eastre, a Norse goddess whose pagan festival was observed at the spring equinox. The association of this pagan goddess with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was only by adaptation and synthesis. There is no real connection. Jesus, being the Lamb of God, was crucified at passover time and is the true Passover (see 1 Cor. 5: 7). He was raised from the grave on the third day thereafter. It thus became a springtime anniversary, and has come to be called Easter in the Christian world.

Easter has no real connection with Jesus Christ other than denoting the time of year in a familiar vernacular as to when his resurrection occurred.

In the February 2008 issue of Ensign, the question was asked, “How Can I Make Easter more Christ-centered for My Family & Me?” This is an important question since, as I learned from conversations I had as well as research I did online that many saints have mixed feelings about this holiday. Sister Marilyn Wood’s response to the question posed by Ensign draws attention to the heart of the matter:

Several years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted our children to associate Easter with the Savior and His love for them and not necessarily with bunnies, chickens or Easter eggs.

Personally I would have to add Easter dresses, little girls’ hats, handbags and shoes to her list. Oh, and flavored jelly beans. But my worldly concerns are not driven as much by Jesus Christ or Easter as much as by my daughters’ ever growing feet and the warming temperature (at long last). I have learned that many families with young children within the Church celebrate the Spiritual Events of Easter Sunday separately from Easter Bunny visits and Easter Egg hunts. Because sometimes the Easter Bunny and egg hunts overshadow the spiritual significance of the Easter holiday. And sometimes we get caught up in the secular nature of the holiday with its bounty of chocolate and jelly beans to the exclusion of the religious nature.

Easter in many Christian religions has become shorthand to describe the time around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a recent press release by the Church, it proclaimed: this Easter weekend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will join the Christian world in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints practice Easter much like the rest of Christianity. They embrace the symbolism of renewal found in nature and expressed in tradition. But something more concrete than symbols and more meaningful than rituals underlies this time of rebirth. The foundation of this season of hope is the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the “life and the light of the world”

Death. Rebirth. Resurrection.

In the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, there is a monologue about death that got me to thinking about resurrection and subsequently, the value and meaning of the atonement:

Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death?

There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering and stamped into one’s memory. And yet I can’t remember it.

…We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling with the knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there is only one direction, and time is its only measure.

Do we really appreciate the value and meaning of the atonement? Can we have gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice if we didn’t at sometime experience that dread of death? Isn’t that one of the big reasons why the veil of forgetfulness was given? So that we must experience this life as it is given?

I’m the first to admit that I’ve just started my spiritual journey. I am still building my testimony, but I ask those of you with stronger testimonies, did you always know with perfect knowledge that when your eyes shut that final time on earth, they will open in the Celestial Kingdom? As I ponder the question of mortal death as the end of this earthly, terrestrial life, it fills my heart with joy and gratitude as I begin to appreciate just what a deep and meaningful doctrine the gospel gives us.

When my husband and I read the Book of Mormon for the first time, we both got stuck right around Alma. Apparently we weren’t the first converts to do so. Could it be that we spend so much time in Alma because it contains much about what inspires us and brings us closer to God? I studied Chapter 11 in Alma in preparing for this talk because it centers on the important lesson that Christ will not save people in their sins – only those who inherit the kingdom of heaven are saved. It tells us that all men shall rise in immortality. And there is no death after the resurrection. Let me read from Alma 11:42:

Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

It seems to me that one of the greatest restorations Joseph Smith gave us through the Book of Mormon is one of the lost truths that the atonement grants us this life. The one that finds us here together every Sunday Sacrament. Think about how this celebration of life should be part of Easter. Which brings me back to the original question – how CAN I make Easter more Christ-centered? Celebrate life. Be thankful for the many blessings each of us enjoyed this past year. The lessons we have learned and the experiences we shared. Pray for the missionaries who are dedicating two years of their precious life towards sharing the gospel with our friends and neighbors.

And if part of your existing family tradition is to hold an Easter egg hunt and/or give Easter baskets or other gifts, sit down with your children and explain that when we search for Easter eggs and candy, it is like how we should diligently search for Christ throughout our lives. And gifts, whether it is a beautiful dress, oversized chocolate bunny or a box of jelly beans, gifts represent the ultimate gift and sacrifice of the Savior—the Atonement and resurrection.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.