Tag: christian

To Acquire Spiritual Guidance :: Nov 2009 Teaching for our Times TFOT Lesson

Based on a talk given by Elder Richard G. Scott at the October, 2009 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Click on Mormonmom to see my other Teachings for our Times (TFOT) lessons.

Opening Hymn: Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah

Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk on Acquiring Spiritual Guidance was inspiring, uplifting and filled with instructions that each of us can apply in our daily lives.  Earlier this year, the General Relief Society Presidency directed each of us to seek our own personal revelation as we strengthen our ward and stake Relief Societies, I felt this was timely information coming now from Elder Scott.

One of the key doctrines of our Church is that, once we are baptized and confirmed, we have the Holy Spirit as our guide for ANY concern we have in this life. That is a great comfort, but, like many of the blessings given to us from our Heavenly Father, it must be honed, practiced, and used regularly. Right now – I pray each of you is being taught by the Spirit. I’m just the eye candy who brings along pretty images, uplifting music, quotes from Spiritual Giants like Elder Scott that I was impressed to include after praying about each of you and hiw I can use my talents to invite the Spirit who will teach.

Joseph Smith said, “Follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will BECOME in you a principle of revelation.”  In other words, second nature to you.  Elder Scott testifies that this is the true source of peace and happiness.

Learning how to be led by the Spirit takes a strengthening of faith in our Father and in Jesus Christ.  It is not a casual expectation, but a purposeful period of growth.

I spoke about the importance of inviting the Spirit to teach. Let me take a minute to talk about “The Spirit”. As far as I’ve been able to learn there are three ways to understand the term ‘The Spirit”:

1. The Light of Christ
Everyone is given the light of Christ as a Child of God.

2. The Holy Ghost
Many religions reference the Holy Ghost. Cite OT/NT

3. The Gift of the Holy Ghost
Reserved for those who receive the ordinance of baptism by those having authority to confer the gift. This gift isn’t enjoyed in its fullness until fire and the Holy Ghost baptize the recipient.

Back to Elder Scott’s talk. After noting that in times past if one sought guidance they would turn to mentors or advisors, the information overload that is a characteristic of our time, means turning to others for advice can be a very risky proposition. As a digital marketing executive, I often use the analogy ‘it’s like drinking from a firehose’ to describe this phenomenon. Think about it – so much information, but none of it is filtered or curated. Whom do we trust? What criteria do we use?

Rather than bemoaning the plight of the times we live in, we should welcome the excuse to turn our eyes upward for inspiration. Elder Scott seems to be saying that humans as trust agents will always be inadequate and that we will be better served by seeking to commune with the Lord directly through appealing to the Holy Ghost.

Think about this for a minute – our Father has created a condition where if we, of necessity, are dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life, We are entitled to seek personal inspiration in all of life’s decisions – especially the important ones that affect the family.

I loved this thought! Personally, it has been a year of uphill trials. I do not know where I would be without specific guidance that I have received through the relationship I have personally developed with my Heavenly Father that allows me the blessing of personal answers and spiritual guidance. The impressions I receive from the Spirit are like my own Liahona, leading, guiding, helping me reset after yet another prideful, headstrong battle I’ve lost because I was a little too much “in the world”, ignoring the clear message I wrote down in my journal or margin of my scripture study notes. Again and again I return with humility and a real understanding of what “broken” feels like, each time a bit more contrite and determined to make the correct choice.

Discussion:

  • What can you do to enhance your capacity to be led to correct decisions in your life?
  • What are the principles upon which spiritual communication depends?
  • What are the potential barriers to such communication that you need to avoid?

Elder Scott admits that learning to consistently recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit, distinguish them from one’s own impulses and desires, and act courageously to fulfill them are accomplishments that we would be lucky to achieve in a lifetime. However, Elder Scott clearly believes that developing these skills is necessary here on Earth for our individual salvation.

And perhaps most importantly, in these times of Internet information overload, his guidance honed over the decades feels achievable through the examples he offers us.

For instance, Elder Scott notes the Prophet Joseph Smith’s instruction to John Taylor to begin each day with prayer – being grateful for another day our Father has granted us. Do you pray first thing every single day with an outpouring of gratitude?

President John Taylor wrote: “Joseph Smith, upwards of forty years ago, said to me: ‘Brother Taylor, you have received the Holy Ghost. Now follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will become in you a principle of revelation.’ Then he told me never to arise in the morning without bowing before the Lord, and dedicating myself to him during that day.”

So I asked the question rhetorically, yet in these hectic latter days, it is too easy to overlook in the daily haste to satisfy the necessities of temporal life. For example, if I’m woken up by my 3 y.o. doing the potty dance, after I escort her to do her necessary business, she’s hungry, so I start breakfast. Then, like mothers (and fathers) around the world every morning, we are joined by 2 more sleepy, hungry children and somewhere in the blur of showering, breakfastimg, teeth brushing, clothes being put on, hair pulled into ribbons, lunches being prepared, and busses arriving – it is all to easy to forget that simple, precious morning prayer of thanksgiving.

What I’ve learned to do is have the scriptures in the kitchen, so that a verse or two can be read during the morning “Waltz of Chaos” (as I call it) to ensure we all have the right start to the day.

{TIME CHECK: ask for other ideas to help remember our gratitude prayer each morning}

Elder Scott teaches through a couple of powerful stories:

In the first, a humble Priesthood leader taught a lesson from his heart. The content of the lesson was less memorable than the impression the leader gave that promoted spiritual guidance:  humility, intense desire to communicate truths, pure love of the Savior, as well as those who are taught, sincerity, pure intent, love, and spiritual strength. The spirit was present and powerful as this man struggled to express himself within the church.

In the second example, Elder Scott attended a Sunday School class where the teacher was using the fruits of his education and study to share insights into the lesson, less from a desire to inspire his pupils and more from what Elder Scott interpreted as pride — of a desire to impress his fellow congregants with his knowledge.

By keeping his lesson simple and focusing on his testimony of his ministry, the priesthood leader in the first story impressed Elder Scott with his sincerity and emotional depth. By contrast, the intellectual approach of the Sunday School teacher left Elder Scott irritated and bored.

As we are blessed to have so many teachers in our Ward who are MDs, PhDs and Professors at the University of Michigan, I realized that too often I’m caught up in the intellectual pursuit of prideful teaching to demonstrate I can teach doctrine just like an MFA class, albeit with more spiritual preparation,

Talk about one of those humbling wake up calls I spoke about earlier!!! Letting the Spirit teach me as I listed to Elder Scott, again, was recognizing the difference here between the emotional and the intellectual – this contrast naturally exists in our brains (right-vs-left), between our ‘brains’ and our ‘souls’ between men and women. Heavenly Father made us this way to learn through both faith and reason together.

As a teacher, I am striving more than ever to embrace the humbleness of the Priesthood Leader’s approach in the first story. Because every time I get up here, I’m cognizant of the fact that many of you have forgotten more about this Gospel, Church Doctrine, lessons of our Presidents, General Conference talks and the like than I will EVER KNOW, even if I focused my studies on these topics for the rest of my life!

So I try to infuse my lessons with whatever material I can bring from my personal experience and talents for emotional storytelling through images + words to bring some shred of relevance to my ability to teach for our times.

And yet, the more important message here from Elder Scott is that either course can invite the Spirit.

-Pause and repeat-

Remember with both lessons, Elder Scott felt the promptings of the Spirit. He stopped paying attention to his immediate surroundings and started listening to and interacting with the voice of God. Whether interested or biding his time, Elder Scott felt the Spirit and chose to listen to it instead – to be taught by the Holy Ghost – instead of from the content of the lesson being provided to him in sketchy English or served up in an overly intellectualized lesson.

Consider this: the manner in which Elder Scott recorded his personal inspiration in both stories follows the pattern that Joseph Smith directed us to follow based on the revelations he received. Once written, the revelation was examined to see if it conformed to the mind and will of God and changes could be made. It speaks to the imperfection of human intermediaries and the humility needed to keep at revelation until we start to get it right.

And, much like Joseph Smith, Elder Scott teaches that:

A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus [TPJS, p. 151]

Paying attention to the first promptings is valuable not for the promptings, but because it indicates an openness to the process of revelation. Just as it is important for the teacher to be prepared spiritually to guide, the students to be open spiritually in order to receive guidance. 

He gives us ten things we should do as listeners:

1. Attend class prepared, with a readiness to learn
2. Be aware of impressions that may come
3. Write them down as soon as possible
4. Ponder what you have written
5. Study the meaning

-pause-

6. Pray to the Lord, and review what was taught, and what was learned
7. Wait for a feeling of peace and confirmation
8. Thank Heavenly Father for the guidance
9. Ask: “Is there more to learn?” You probably will have additional impressions, but it takes courage to ask.
10. Repeat the process from beginning to end as many times as is necessary. 

Elder Scott says, “Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.”

One very important warning. 

“Satan is extremely good at blocking spiritual communication.” We have all been sidetracked by the destroyer.  “The Lord will not force you to learn.  You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you.”

Elder Scott encourages us to practice, have patience, and be aware.  Inspiration comes to us in different ways.  By following the above ten steps, realize the unique way Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit communicate with you.

Elder Scott then launches into a critique of pornography, highlighting in particular the potentially corrosive effects of pornography on family relations. Perhaps more importantly, he discuss its effect on the soul. He notes that the adversary is at pains to induce “individuals, through temptation, to violate the laws upon which spiritual communication is founded.”

The notion is that Satan achieves his goal if “he is able to convince them that they are not able to receive such guidance from the Lord.” The presence or absence of revelation in the life of the individual is presented, in this talk, as the surest means of judging one’s current standing with the Lord

So. Whether you are interested or bored by this simple lesson prepared with as much humility as my intellectual pridefulness allows at this point in my mortal journey, your involvement in the process is considered sufficient sacrifice for God to honor it with those first intimations of revelation through the Spirit with whatever you need to learn.

{time check: tell Unicorn story with sketch after 4 hours of being taught the Plan of Salvation}

Elder Scott counsels us: The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.

For those ensnared in pornography or other damaging, compulsive behaviors: re-establish communication with God! We have to authorize the Spirit to take an active role to guide and teach us. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ won’t interfere in our lives without our consent – our free agency. We must pray and ‘knock’ to ask for help to overcome addictions – anything that can cause us to lose our way and stumble alone into darkness.

Remember the Jalapeno and grape analogy — be more aware of what/who you surround yourself with and how any negative emotions can block out the positive and good all around you.

Intellectual conversion to Christ is fragile, if left solely to ontological syllogisms and epistemological arguments.

Spiritual conversion to Jesus Christ is the emotional bedrock of belief that leads to continuous personal revelation by the Spirit. Adding intellectual enlightenment to sustaining spiritual belief and following the personal guidance offered by the Holy Spirit will help each of us learn what we need to during this mortal existence so we are prepared to be reunited with our Father and family as we journey beyond the veil.

Discussion

(Time permitting — we ran out of time due to the discussion questions raised earlier in the lesson. If we had the time, I would have divided the class into thirds, selected a spokesperson for each group and handed them a quote and question for them to discuss and present back to the Relief Society):

1. However, it is my judgment that there are many members of this Church who have been baptized for the remission of their sins, who have had hands laid upon their heads for the gift of the Holy Ghost, who have never received that gift, that is, the manifestations of it. Why? Because they have never put themselves in order to receive these manifestations. They have never humbled themselves. They have never taken the steps that would prepare them for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Therefore they go through life without that knowledge, and they have not the understanding. Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1958, p.21 – p.22

Question: “How do we draw a balance between spiritual self-reliance and relying on the Spirit?”

2. D&C Section 84: 45-46 says: For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spir, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.

Questions: What the difference is between being “guided by the Holy Ghost” (for those who have been told to “receive the Holy Ghost” by the laying on of hands) and being “guided by the Light of Christ”?

How can one discern whether an answer has come through the Light of Christ or the Holy Ghost?  What difference does it make?

3. “I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. ” D&C 38:30

Questions: What does it mean to be self-reliant in spiritual things?

Why is it important to be spiritually self-reliant?

**********

I bear my testimony that our a Father in Heaven very much wants to help us endure to the end through this mortal trial. He gave us His only Begotten Son and through Him, the Atonement. All He asks is for us to humble ourselves, ask for help and follow the guidance of the Spirit – be faithful to the truth He shows us! The Plan of Salvation He has given us through the Prophet Joseph Smith helps us navigate the temporal reality but it also builds our soul for eternity. I pray that I never lose my sense of awe over the workings of My Heavenly Father in my life with my family on both sides of the veil and in the world at large.

I know this Church is true and it is divinely led by great men like our current Prophet Thomas S Monson and his Counselors as well as the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who teach us doctrinal truths for the modern world. I’m grateful for this inspiring talk Elder Richard Scott delivered at the October, 2009 Semi-Annual General Conference and leave this lesson with you in the glorious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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”.

Adversity :: July 2009 TFOT Lesson

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.



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.

LFOT ~Lessons for our Times: Celestial Marriage

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.