Tag: latter day

5 Ways Women are Uniquely Important to Strengthen the Kingdom of God

“May the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come”

–D&C 65:6

Listen to this quote by Elder Ballard: “For the devil is stealing time, the time we would spend to wonder at spiritual things. Instead, we get so caught up in the things that ‘seem’ to matter, when all of us need to slow down and find a time to contemplate.”

I have always considered my time-wasting to be merely a matter of my lack of self-discipline. The idea of the adversary getting in my house and family time – STEALING our time, well, it ticks me off and I’ve re-doubled my efforts to not go beyond the time I set aside to have some ‘me’ time without bingewatching 2 full seasons of Friends of Netflix.

As the breadwinner, I don’t have enough time as it is to nurture everyone in my immediate family (husband, 3 daughters) AND get all the church/school/home/life stuff that needs to get done while I feel like a 1-woman circus act, continuously juggling the many balls of responsibility in my life right now.

It’s important to know that some of the balls are made of rubber (“was the PTA meeting on Tuesday? Sorry”) and will bounce back. I worried about those things more when I had single-digit aged kids, but not at all now. Because I know that  the most special and beautiful spheres are made of glass. Investing time, energy, and talent helps ensure I never drop them but instead lift them up and teach them how to choose happiness so they learn to float instead of be juggled by me.

I want you to take a moment to think about how the Devil steals your time.

More than anything else, Elder Ballard’s quote reminded me that I need to create more time to tune it all of and just quietly think, pray, journal and study the scriptures. I used to go to the gym between work and home. It was my time to take care of my body and decompress from my work day and think about how I could be the best wife and mother when I got home. I literally blocked 2 hours out of the calendar from 5-7 every weeknight.

Carving out those moments just to think is not always easy. I equate it to cleaning out the basement: If I spend an afternoon sorting, throwing away, and reorganizing the stuff in our basement, inevitably someone in the family will bring out even more stuff and ask if there is someplace in the basement they can put it “for a while”.

It is that way with thinking time. Life – or sometimes the Devil – has a knack for finding out about our quiet time, and figuring out something “important,” “fun” or “urgent” to shove into that space we’ve just cleared out as our private time for thinking, studying and contemplating.

If we stopped to think more, we’d stop to think, more

I know that making a case to prioritize “thinking time” could appear a little self-focused, but, personally, I think if I stopped to think more, the Spirit would have a better chance to reach me, and I would be better prepared to – what is it we say every Sunday – ‘strengthen home and family’…

If we don’t make the time to think, we will eventually stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, and sabotage ourselves in a self-fulfilling cycle of despair that ensures we don’t receive the very revelations that we so deeply need and desire.

It was the questions that were asked in sincere prayer by a young Joseph Smith that opened the door for the Restoration of all things for humanity.  What would be the consequences of NOT asking questions? Blocking the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father knows that we need at exactly that moment. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell you something YOU needed to know, but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of time forever lost as we waste our time.

Think you never waste time? Spent any time on Pinterest lately? Like YouTube? Check your History to see how many hundreds of hours you’ve watched in videos so far this year. Got an Instagram? On average you are spending 3 hours per post taking photos editing them, uploading with the right titles and tags then engaging with your followers as the still, small voice grows even fainter…

And I’m right there with you on Facebook where it seems my best friends are destined to be pixels scattered around the world. I am convinced that “Facebook” is a wormhole to a dimension where 5 hours here is 10 minutes of time there. Then my stomach growls at midnight as I realize I forgot to eat dinner, the kids are already asleep and the only ‘small voice’ I hear is the Adversary gloating over his victory. Again.

President Hinckley once said, “We are here to assist our [Heavenly] Father in His work and His glory, ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39). Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere.” What a humbling statement by a prophet of God. He is saying that what each of you do as valiant Young Women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is as important as what He was called to do as the Prophet before President Thomas S Monson.

Which brings me to your sphere of responsibility to help build the Kingdom of God. After you have time to ponder, what can you do, especially the young women of the church?

The power of a converted woman’s voice is immeasurable…

A woman’s sphere of influence is unique

…one that cannot be duplicated by men. 

Because of that influence, women have an important responsibility
in strengthening the Kingdom of God on the earth.
-Elder Russel M Ballard

Elder Ballard has shared five important ways that women are uniquely qualified to strengthen and build the Kingdom of God

1. Why are we born as a man or a woman? We are here to find each other as part of our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness to experience this mortal plane as one or the other that we have chosen in the pre-existence. This is an eternal vision, not specific to 2015 America. “Most everyone has family or friends who have been caught up in various troubling contemporary social issues,” he said. “Arguing about the issues generally does not bring any resolution and, in fact, can create contention.

It is by focusing on belief in the Lord that will bring reassurance and encouragement as you move forward in doing whatever you are asked to do. Faith is the first principle of the gospel. Our testimonies, peace of mind and well-being begin with taking the first step when we cannot see where it leads, but our Father in Heaven knows it is best for our spiritual growth and eternal happiness.

2. In the April, 2015 General Conference talk, Elder Ballard said: “ Men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but [men] are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by a husband and wife.

I know some of you are thinking, well then, why are men ordained to the priesthood offices and not women? And my response is: why do you need more to do? If you have been a mother to a child – you win at life in my humble opinion. As a trailblazing digital marketing leader in the US, I’m often asked to list my biggest accomplishment and I know they want to hear about the astonishing stories

I tell them my greatest accomplishment so far has been bringing a new life into this world three times. Because NOTHING –  being on an aircraft carrier, meeting the Prince of Wales or the

He has organized His Church as He has.” It is when thinking about the things not fully understood that individuals have to rely on faith.

“Do we believe that this is the Lord’s Church? Do we believe that He has organized it according to His purposes and wisdom? Do we believe that His wisdom far exceeds ours? Do we believe that He has organized His Church in a manner that would be the greatest possible blessing to all of His children, both His sons and daughters?”

Women are integral to the governance and work of the Church, and it is through our participation as we serve as leaders in Young Women, Relief Society and Primary in addition to our service as teachers, missionaries, temple workers, and most importantly, in our homes and communities (that includes online, y’all) —that we are able to use our unique spiritual gifts.

“Let us not forget that approximately one-half of all of the teaching that takes place in the Church is done by sisters. Much of the leadership provided is from our sisters. Many service opportunities and activities are planned and directed by women. The counsel and other participation of women in ward and stake councils, and in general councils at Church headquarters, provide needed insight, wisdom, and balance.”

Elder Ballard added pointedly: “…And let me add that any priesthood leader who does not involve his sister leaders with full respect and inclusion is not honoring and magnifying the keys he has been given. His power and influence will be diminished until he learns the ways of the Lord.”

3. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the Church, but equal does not mean that they are the same. Although responsibilities and divine gifts of men and women differ in their nature, they do not differ in their importance or influence. Men and women have different gifts, different strengths, different points of view and inclinations. That is one of the fundamental reasons why we need each other. It takes a man and a woman to create a family, and it takes men and women working together to carry out the work of the Lord in the Church.

4. Elder Ballard explains, “When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is by definition priesthood power.”

“While the authority of the priesthood is directed through priesthood keys, and priesthood keys are held only by worthy men, access to the power and blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children,” he said.

Blessings of the priesthood are not limited to men alone; they are available to all who have entered the waters of baptism and subsequently received their endowment in a temple.

The endowment is literally a gift of power. All who enter the house of the Lord officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. This applies to men and women alike,” he said.

5. The world needs women of the Church who know the doctrine of Christ and who can bear testimony of the Restoration.

“Never has there been a more complex time in the history of the earth,” he said. “Satan and his minions have been perfecting the weapons in their arsenal for millennia, and they are experienced at destroying faith and trust in God and the Lord Jesus Christ among the human family.”

All—women, men, young adults, youth, and young boys and girls—have the Lord’s purposes and His Church to defend, protect, and spread throughout the earth. More distinctive, influential voices of faith from women are needed, for only women can show the world what women of God who have made covenants look like and believe.

None of us can afford to stand by and watch the purposes of God be diminished and pushed aside. I invite you to seek the guidance of heaven in knowing what you can do to let your voice of faith and testimony be heard.

“We must all defend our Savior and testify that He is the Christ, that His Church has been restored to the earth, that there is such a thing as right and wrong. If we are to have the courage to speak out and defend the Church, we must first prepare ourselves through study of the truths of the gospel.”

We live in a world today that is caught in a steep, slippery slide of diminishing moral values. Against that backdrop, your character and integrity as young women of the Church stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding masses mired in mediocrity. Mediocrity is spiritual cancer. You are anchored to eternal truth.

Elder Russel M Nelson said, “As you adhere to the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you will be in great demand. . . . You will gain protection and spiritual strength in complete obedience. After all, those who do not stand for something will likely fall for anything.”

Do your choices and decisions that you make today influence your future? Or the future of others, people you maybe haven’t met yet, or may never meet?  Let me share with you the story of Gøsta Berling of Norway. As a child, he suffered from heart valve damage due to rheumatic fever. As Brother Berling grew older, heart surgery became necessary for him to live. At the time, as this was back in the 1960’s, only a handful of physicians in the world had the training and experience to perform the surgery. One world-reknowned heart surgeon made the trip to Norway and successfully replaced the damaged heart valve, allowing Brother Berlin to enjoy a long, healthy life where he subsequently served as a mission president and translated the Doctrine and Covenants into Norwegian.

In the role of translator and mission president, President Berling had a great influence the lives of many others. And the surgeon who extended President Berling’s life? He was someone who made the most of his gifts and education, performed at the top of his profession as a heart surgeon yet was never sidetracked from the gospel of Jesus Christ or his family.

That surgeon was Elder Russell M. Nelson.

If we develop our character, the Lord will use us to bless the kingdom and the world by blessing individuals. Consider the kinds of decisions you will be called upon to make in your life. How will you use your talents, your education and perhaps most importantly, the spiritual lessons you have learned?

Whether you make your contributions to the world in an operating room, or like me, in a boardroom, or like my mother in a classroom, or most importantly, in your own living room — you can and will make a difference in the world and build the Kingdom of God in these latter days, if you move forward in faith with a righteous life.

The most important lesson to learn today is to bring your decisions and efforts before the Lord in your daily prayers and ask for further light and direction. Trust Him. He knows you, and He loves you.

My dear sisters, alll of us in the Presidency love and admire you; we pray for you. We know that you desire to heed the whisperings of the Spirit, to follow the Savior, and to be His hands in this great work to build the Kingdom of God in these Latter-days. I bear witness that this work is true, that each of you is a child of God. The Savior is at the head of this Church with President Thomas S. Monson as His prophet.

May you always find joy is my blessing and my prayer that I leave with you along with this lesson about building the Kingdom of God, in the sacred name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen

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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.”

 
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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.

TFOT: Mother’s Day | A Mother Heart

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

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

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

Read Proverbs 31: 10-27.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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.