Tag: teaching for our times

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.

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.



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.

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

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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.

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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.

LFOT: The True and Living Church

Relief Society: Lessons For Our Times

The True and Living Church

by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of 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.

Like many of the talks at the Spring General Conference, President Eyring’s talk, The True and Living Church, opens with the significance of sustaining President Monson as prophet, seer and revelator and President of the Church. And yet, having studied the talk for a few months now, prayed about it and developed today’s Teaching for Our Times lesson, I realize that there is deep significance in the fact that Eyring opens his talk in this manner…and even in the title of his talk, the True and Living Church.

Anyone know where it comes from? The First Doctrine & Covenant verse 30.

And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually-

For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received…

I found out that Section One of the Doctrine & Covenants is the Lord’s preface to the book. It was given in November, 1831 after 65 revelations had been delivered. Here, in verse 30, the Lord is effectively granting authority to Joseph Smith, “the power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of the darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth…

Are those to whom the commandments are given strong or weak? Is weakness forged from strength or the other way around – strength is forged from weakness? So the very foundation of the church is built upon weakness made strong through repentance and humility…and the blessing of knowledge from the Lord.

Repeat: The only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. We need to be worthy both collectively and individually. The collective is important because it’s not enough for the individual or her family but the whole church needs to act together for the Lord to be satisfied with our efforts.

Repeat: For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Why do you think that is? Why is there such absolute language here?

President Eyring spends a great deal of time around the word ‘True’ that I will get to, but I would like to start with ‘Living’.

WHAT IS A LIVING ENTITY?

Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state.

Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of synthesis than catabolism.

Response to stimuli: Interaction and response to its environment.

Reproduction: The ability to produce new organisms like itself.

In the talk, ‘living’ is through sustaining our leaders and via individual and collective development. I think there’s more in what is implied through that concept that I’d like to start with. So what is a living entity? Well, according to science, to be a living entity requires certain specific criteria, characteristics, and inherent abilities. There is some variability in definitions, but generally speaking the short list goes like this <read from list above>

Does the Church exhibit spiritually analogous characteristics that satisfy these physical definitions. I would say yes. The Church exhibits the characteristic of Homeostasis because this is God’s Church. The Church is orderly and, through Temple ordinances as just one example, is also eternal and constant. The Church also exhibits the characteristic of Growth because there is a knowledge of eternal progression. Ours is not a static Church, but rather it is dynamic and yet unchangeable in the sense that the Church has never changed from His perfect course. We need to look no further than lds.org to experience the evidence that the Church is able to respond to stimuli. And all saints know that our Church is able to reproduce through missionary work, when investigators join- they are spiritual offspring who can literally become part of the Church.

According to President Eyring, there are some important characteristics that define the True and Living Church. It’s kinda like when you’re reading a list of ingredients in a package — the ones that are listed first have made the largest contribution. They are the most important. In President Eyring’s talk, this would be the Keys to the Priesthood. This is a critically important point – ours is the only church to have the keys to the priesthood given directly to our prophet from John the Baptist, Peter, John, Moses, Elias and Elijah. The Apostles, after the Ascension of Christ, continue to exercise the keys He left. But eventually, the keys were lost and we entered into the Apostasy.

Restoration of the keys of the priesthood is what makes the Church true. So is the Power to Seal. The sealing power is intricately tied with the ordinances of the Temple. And when you are in the Temple, you are in the House of the Lord. As I prepare for my family’s sealing, I was given a handbook from Bishop Harris written by then Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Boyd K Packer. In the handbook it states: No work is more of a protection to this Church than temple work and the family history research that supports it. No work is more spiritually refining. No work we do gives us more power. No work requires a higher standard of righteousness. The sealing represents the transcendent delegation of spiritual authority from God to man. The keeper of that sealing power is the Lord’s chief representative here upon the earth, the President of the Church.

That is the position of consummate trust and authority. Eyring’s final differentiation that ours is the True and Living Church is that the church is greater than Joseph Smith or anyone chosen to lead. This is how it lives on.

Keys to the Priesthood (show images of keys). Not like these, although the metaphor should not be lost. Because we think about keys unlocking doors to things familiar and valuable to us, like our home, our car, perhaps our workplace. Information is unlocked by keys. As is music.

When we don’t have keys, we are either locked out or we must rely on others to open the door. The savior taught that we need to be baptized by one having His authority. If one wants to receive the ordinances of salvation from someone who is authorized to do so, ours is the true church that can offer these blessings. Back in 1977, President Spencer W Kimball gave the opening devotional address at BYU called, Absolute Truth, which nicely complements President Eyring’s talk.

President Kimball talked about the difference between relative truth, for example, scientific theories that may change from year to year and absolute truth. Jesus Christ overcame death and established the resurrection. This is an absolute truth. President Kimball also connects the dots that Jesus Christ is the only person who could establish resurrection being both mortal (the son of Mary) and the divine (the Son of God).

Before his crucifixion, the Savior recognized the absolute necessity for an organization of persons duly empowered to carry on his work, teach his plan to the world, and persuade people to follow the eternal program. He therefore organized his Church among his faithful followers, with apostles, prophets, and other officials to give his people guidance. He sent those officials into all the world to teach his truths–but to teach them without using force, for the basic law of this world is free agency. Certainly men and women may use their free agency to do as they please, but they cannot ever evade the penalties that might come by reason of any error they make.

The Lord set up his program of organization fully, gave the governing principles and doctrines, and delegated his full authority to his officers to teach and perform ordinances. He ignored all the multitudinous religious organizations then extant and all their manmade doctrines and philosophies and set up his own divine plan. This is true. If all the proponents of the “-isms” on all the continents disbelieve it, it is still true–an absolute truth.

As I continued to research, study and pray on this important topic, I found more inspiration from the Nov 1987 Ensign article, “Keys to the Priesthood”. Elder Nelson references the keys to the priesthood as: precious, powerful, and invisible! Some can lock and unlock in heaven as well as on earth. He goes on to say, “…Preparation, priesthood service, and keys are all related, but different. Service of any type requires preparation. But proper authorization to give that service requires keys.” He then illustrates with an example from his own life, prior to his calling to the Twelve, he was a medical doctor and a surgeon. He had been certified by two specialty boards. That preparation takes many years, yet it carried no legal permission. “Keys were required,” he says. “They were held by authorities of the state government and the hospitals in which I desired to work. Once those holding proper authority exercised those keys by granting me a license and permission, then I could perform operations. In return, I was obligated to obey the law, to be loyal, and to understand and not abuse the power of a surgeon’s knife. The important steps of preparation, permission, and obligation likewise pertain to other occupations.” He then asks: “Why is the power to act in the name of God more important? Because it is of eternal significance. We should understand the source of our authority and something of the keys that control its power. They may benefit every man, woman, and child who now lives, who has lived, and who yet will live upon the earth.”

President Eyring points out that it is important to live worthily so that the keys will continue to be on the earth. How are the keys bestowed? He gives us 4 ways <read from slide>

1. We must examine our lives. President Eyring gives us specific direction: examine your life for the depth of your gratitude as a member of the church. He emphasizes the importance of being grateful for a true and living church. He specifically mentions being grateful for the ordinances of the gospel and for the blessings that the gospel brings to his family. He also promises that the gospel can help to improve your family situation as you embrace its principles.

2. Repent. Remember D&C 1:31:3 For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.

3. Pledge to keep the Lord’s commandments. President Eyring tells us that we need to know through the power of the holy ghost in what ways we can improve ourselves.

4. We truly sustain our leaders when we heed their counsel and keep the commandments of the church. Another way that we can sustain our leaders is by giving service to others. It is important to follow the words of the prophet, so that we can continue to receive his counsel. Simply put, we ALL must remain faithful and humble to properly build up the kingdom of God on the earth.

And yet, there is a paradox at play here because, as humans, we are attracted to strength and confidence yet, as I shared earlier, every one of us has our weaknesses. And there is great power in humility. The Lord has a purpose behind this as he shares in D&C 1:19, 25-8) And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

The Lord’s servants, like all of us, need to rely on and be sustained by Him. We are not sufficient unto ourselves, and we must be humble. The Lord gives us weakness specifically so we may become humble (Ether 12:27.) The Lord’s servants are no exception. The Lord said to Paul: “my strength is made perfect in weakness,” Paul added: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12:9.)

In addition to the keys to the priesthood, another critically important point is that our Church has the Power to Seal. Through the church and ordinances which are in it – the blessings of the sealings affect the spirit world as well as the earthly world….it is the sealing power and our knowledge of it which changes and transforms our family life here and our expectations for the joy of family life in the world to come.

Have you ever thought about how your actions here affect those beyond the veil?

Through service + faith. For example: finding the names of your ancestors and offering them vicarious ordinances is one way you sustain this great work. Offering salvation to ALL of Heavenly Father’s children who have lived in this world. From the beginning, our Heavenly Father has used priesthood ordinances and covenants to build relationships with His children in order to prepare them – us – to return to His presence.

And so, the church is being prepared for the Savior’s return. Evidence of the prophesied perfecting of the church. Steady improvement in members’ lives through simple faith and atonement. Have you ever had a prayer answered? Wait – let me ask a more specific question: have you ever prayed to be shown your weaknesses? For those who have not — are you afraid to do so?

One more thought on fear as a barrier to a deeper understanding of oneself and our relationship with the Savior. We learn in 2 Timothy 1:7 that when we experience fear, it is not of God. It reads: “For the Lord hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In the story of Adam and Eve, even after they had disobeyed Father, they weren’t afraid to face Him. They knew they needed direction and guidance. It wasn’t until the serpent point out their nakedness that they were filled with fear and hid themselves from the Lord.

More perfecting of the church = change our way of thinking. One of the more popular business metaphors for changing for human behavior has to do with boiling a frog. Who is familiar with this approach? Let me quickly explain for those who are not. A frog is a cold-blooded creature. Meaning, if it jumps into a pot of boiling hot water, it jumps out. But if that same frog jumps into a pot of lukewarm or room temperature water, and the pot is put on the stove, the frog just sits in the water, not reacting to the change in temperature. But if you THUMP the pot, it shifts the temperature enough to catapult the frog out of the pot and onto the relative safety of a countertop.

People are not much different. Sometimes we’re the frog — we don’t see the situation around us changing, until it’s too late. It could be something like Hurricane Ike creeping up on Texas or the stock market imploding. On a more personal level, it might be a health issue around anxiety or depression – a ‘social disease’ that is more evident to others than the individual suffering from the symptoms. In my own example, after I had my second daughter, I thought I was a little moody, maybe ‘baby blues’ that would pass. It turned out to be post-partum depression requiring intensive clinical treatment. Had my husband and close friends who knew me best not ‘thumped my pot’, I know I would never have gone to the doctor. I was definitely the frog in the pot and I am forever grateful that my husband thumped it for me. You can thump the pot for someone through prayer and kindness, remind that person that you are there, you care and you can help.

I mentioned earlier that President Eyring also challenges us to measure the depth of our gratitude for a true and living church. Why? Without gratitude, you begin to take things for granted. When you are grateful for something, you will nurture it, care for it, give it an important place in your live and keep it safe. You will also sustain it’s growth and life. In his talk, President Eyring shares that his personal sense of gratitude comes from the blessings to his family. The sealing power and our knowledge of it changes and transforms life, including expectations for joy of family life in the world to come. Eternal families, in short.

He also tells us that we need to know by the power of the Holy Ghost in what ways we can do better in keeping the commandments. And he reminds us why – the scriptures promise that when the Lord comes again to His Church, he will find it spiritually prepared for Him. In other words, He has challenged us to do better and we will. We can and we are doing better every day.

There is evidence of the prophesied perfecting of the church through the steady improvements in members’ lives, often characterized by faith and obedience. One of these improvements is the desired capacity for helping out the poor and those in need.

The Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) as many of you know, was established to help young men and women get a good education and become self-reliant after serving a mission for the Church. The program is funded through contributions of Church members and friends. It is a revolving resource in which money is loaned to an individual to help pay for advanced education or training. President Eyring calls out that the Saints’ giving is independent of economic affluence – he is seeing the Perpetual Education Fund and the Humanitarian Fund being mentioned in obituary notices. I thought it was telling that in the first 5 years (it was established in 2001), it has funded 27,000 students in 39 countries. Perhaps most importantly to the point that this important initiative is changing members’ lives: the average monthly wage of students participating in the program has increased 320% from when they start (average $179/mo) to when they finish college (average $756/mo).

In addition to seeing the increased activity with the Perpetual Education Fund, I must admit, before teaching this lesson today, my grasp of the connection between Fast Sundays and the Church’s Humanitarian Fund was tenuous at best. I learned from lds.org that essentially, it helps people become self-reliant by teaching skills and providing resources for a self- sustained life.

Donations, principally from Church members but also from people around the world, are used to make relief projects possible. Also, one hundred percent of the donations given to the Church’s humanitarian services fund are used for relief efforts. There is no other humanitarian organization on the planet that can make this claim. The Church absorbs its own overhead costs. Between 1985 and 2006, the Church donated cash of more than $201 million and goods of more than $705 million in disaster relief to 163 countries.

More perfecting of the church… Every member a missionary was one of President David O MacKay’s well-known sayings. President Kimball had faith in our ability to continue the effort successfully: “Somehow,…I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open doors. That is my faith” (Ensign, Oct. 1974, 7).

Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized in a small log cabin in upstate New York in 1830, missionary work has characterized our Church. From its earliest days, fanning out to Native American lands, to Canada and, in 1837, beyond the North American continent to England for missionaries to lay the foundation for the Lord’s church. It took 117 years – until 1947 – for the Church to grow from the initial six members to one million. And yet the two-million-member mark was reached just 16 years later, in 1963, and the three-million mark in eight years more.

In the Spring 2008 General Conference, membership was approaching 13 million. Now, imagine if half of those members introduced someone into the church next year. How quickly we could get to 20 million. And if it was done again the following year? 30 million.

More perfecting of the church.

We sustain our leaders and the Lord’s Church as we give service as opportunities are extended to us through his servants. But what about callings? I’ve been studying a lot about the church’s organizational structure this past month because it is a wonderful model that more businesses should study. It helped me to understand how callings work once a position is identified.

Finally, I would like to bear my own testimony that this is the true and living church because we are continually led by a living, caring Heavenly Father through our Savior, Jesus Christ. He has the knowledge and authority to make adjustments, expansions, and give further revelation to us, either individually or to the Church as a whole. This is what makes it the Living Church, and I am extremely grateful for such reassurance, especially in turbulent times. It is a wonderful to not have to rely solely on one or two thousand-year-old texts written by long-dead prophets, in languages we no longer understand for cultures that have vanished.

We are so very blessed to have a living prophet in President Monson being directed by our Savior to provide steadfast direction for such an immense body of saints. And his two counselors, Presidents Eyring and Uchdorf who respectively have provided inspirational counsel to all saints through their General Conference talks this past April.

I am thrilled and humbled to be attending the General Conference next week where I look forward to hearing our leaders share their personal testimony that this is the true and living church. And bringing you, my sisters, more Lessons for Our Times as long as my calling lasts.

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