Tag: wife

General Conference Notes — Saturday Sessions

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

Saturday Morning Session

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

President Thomas S. Monson:

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

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

Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang “Choose the Right”

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Twelve:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve:

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

The choir sang “My Heavenly Father Loves Me”

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

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

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

The choir sang “Come, Come, Ye Saints”

Saturday Afternoon Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Hymn: Come, Come Ye Saints

 

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

Three Examples 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one by one, 

digging their graves with a teaspoon 

because it was all she had with which to dig. 

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

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

the baby, 

Quietly died in her arms.

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

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

This was her prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
ArtBook__043_043__JesusWalkingOnTheWater_____thumb[2] 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

jesus_second_coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adversity :: July 2009 TFOT Lesson

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

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

Click on Mormonmom to see other TFOT lessons.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

President Eyring reminds us about the poor in Alma 34.

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

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


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

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


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

Discussion

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

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

Sometimes, we face adversity brought on by other people.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Discussion

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


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

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


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

He promises us the absolute power to overcome all things.

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

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



Easter Sunday | Resurrection + Atonement

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

What wonderful timing to find this inspiring video of Elder Holland’s talk, “And None Were With Him: An Apostle’s Easter Thoughts on Christ, from last week’s 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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

Through the Resurrection, Jesus’ life story became his parting parable that we in these latter days may learn, teach others and be edified. Equally important is the gift of the Atonement.  Can anyone recite the 3rd Article of Faith? We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctrine: 2 Ne 9:4-20

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

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

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

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

Application  2 Ne. 9: 18-52  Please consider what we must do to achieve Eternal Life as well as what we must avoid.

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

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

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

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

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

Packer quote

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

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

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

Now that my knowledge of the gospel has deepened and grown, I realize that it wasn’t about the Savior. It wasn’t about Heavenly Father. The Atonement was for us.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

During my Temple worthiness interview with the Bishop, we discussed the concept of clean vs unclean because I felt I would never be worthy to enter the Temple. He gently taught using Alma the Younger as a parable – after the penance was done, I too, was able to rise from my knees, truly new. As I left the interview, the power implicit in the gift of the Atonement was engraved forever upon my heart as I was judged worthy to enter the Temple – the House of our Holiness, the Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holland Atonement Quote

TFOT: The Sacrament Meeting

Relief Society: Lessons For Our Times

The Sacrament Meeting and The Sacrament

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

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

The Sacrament Meeting Teaching for Our Times


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Drink ye all of it;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LFOT ~Lessons for our Times: Celestial Marriage

Relief Society: Lessons For Our Times

Celestial Marriage

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

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

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

russell-m-nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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.