Friday, April 30, 2010

Conference Quote of the Day

"While the priesthood is presently all over the world, we call on every elder and high priest, every holder of the priesthood to stand, like Gideon’s small but powerful force of 300, in his own place. We now must awaken in every elder and high priest, in every quorum and group, and in the father of every home the power of the priesthood of the Almighty." President Boyd K. Packer: President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I also like the quote he used from President Joseph Fielding Smith: “While it may be said . . . that we are but a handful in comparison with . . . the world, yet we may be compared with the leaven of which the Savior spoke, which will eventually leaven [or lift] the whole world.”

That made me think of President Hinckley when he said, "We cannot expect to lift others unless we stand on higher ground ourselves."

It's funny, I started this post just wanting to share a simple quote that pricked my heart, and now I cannot help but think of related thoughts. For example, Elder Holland's counsel can help us stand on higher ground:

"Exercise more control over even the marginal moments that confront you. If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so watch your step."

I think about how blunt my judgment is. I watch some T.V. and movies - not a lot - that might be considered marginal - characters take the name of the Lord in vain, sometimes inappropriate jokes are made, some of the movies have scenes of violence. None are rated R, but does the fact that I think taking the name of the of God in vain is "marginal" or that I tolerate it in the shows I watch an example of blunt judgment or dull spirituality?

And that leads me to think of the consequences of having dulled spirituality and Elder Bednar's talk on seeing warning signals:

"We also are blessed by spiritual early warning signals as a source of protection and direction in our lives...a spiritual early warning system that can help parents in Zion to be watchful and discerning concerning their children."

A loss of sensitivity to spiritual things by not exercising more control over "marginal" moments in my day not only impacts my own well-being, but also my ability to be the watchman on the tower for my family.

I am just impressed with the focus this conference had on teaching in the home and lifting our standards of living in closer alignment to God's standards. I have been trying to "watch my step" each day so that the Spirit can come at any time to prompt me or help me as a husband and father. I know He will, and I am grateful for the reminder from Brother Beck:

"God’s words to Moses are for you today: 'Behold, thou art my son; . . . and I have a work for [you].'" I know that I am; and I am trying my best to do the work I have been asked to do.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A modern-day testimony

I am preparing a lesson on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and came across this powerful testimony of Elder McConkie:

"And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.

I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.

But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way." (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Ensign, May 1985)

He passed away less than two weeks later.

We are blessed to live in a time of true and living prophets, seers, and revelators - true apostles of Jesus Christ. There is safety in following their council.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What is Intelligence?

I am almost done reading "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling" and it has been a great experience. I almost feel as if I had known him, and I can appreciate the work he did and the man he was even more. In one particular chapter, the author is writing about Joseph's revelations on the universe, stars, time, eternity, and pre-earth life. There is so much to think about on those topics, but the thing that stuck out to me was the idea of intelligence. To paraphrase the author, intelligence means more than knowledge and intellectual capacity. It seems closely related to comprehension, including the understanding of good and evil.

What a beautifully simple truth. Although we strive to gain as much education and knowledge as possible, it doesn't matter whether you are bright or dull. What matters is whether you choose the right. And more important than being able to articulate academic ideas is knowing right from wrong, and choosing the right. Intelligence in this context, makes the following statement even more profound: God's great virtue is the superiority of His intelligence.

I am impressed with the fact that as I progress in the gospel, the more simple it becomes. I think I have quoted these verses before, but they cannot be quoted enough: Moroni 7:15-18

15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Lord Speaks

As expected, here is my semi-annual General Conference report of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This conference was as great as every other conference I've listened to. Elder Holland's talk was beautiful and the General Priesthood session was filled with great council. I wanted to write about Elder Hales' talk though, if only because it was the first one I have re-read since conference ended, and because it was very wise council for our times. (Elder Robert D. Hales, Becoming Provident Providers: Temporally and Spiritually, General Conference April 2009)

My wife and I had been exploring a job opportunity that had some great upsides, but just as many downsides. It seemed like there was no clear answer - at least to me, because I really wanted to accept it. After Elder Hales' talk, I knew that we needed to sit down and read it together and that the answer to our situation would be apparent.

We finally made the time to do so, and within the first couple of paragraphs I had my answer. We finished reading the talk and we both knew what we should do. I had the impression that if I took this job, we'd be so caught up in trying to make ends meet that the good habits we are trying to establish would begin to slip. I knew that we needed to be better prepared spiritually and temporally before we took such a step.

The impression was so real that I thought I had read those words in the talk itself. After I told my wife my thoughts, I tried to find the section of the talk I thought it came from. I could not find those words. I was a little surprised by this and was so sure that I had read something about losing spiritual strength by incurring debt that I read the talk again. After a little searching, I finally found the sentence that must have triggered the thought. Speaking of debt and addiction, Elder Hales said, "All of these excesses affect us individually and undermine our family relationships."

After I read that sentence it was like someone said to me, "If you take this job, you will not be the husband and father you need to be." Although those words were not in Elder Hales' talk, I know where they came from: the Lord speaks to us when we open our hearts to the prompting of the Holy Ghost and are willing to submit our will to His.

When we sit down to study, pray, or listen to a church talk or lesson with the intent and expectation to learn and hear the Lord's voice, and obey it, He will always speak to us (in His own time and way of course). I just read this quote from President Hinckley that affirms this conviction; "Call upon the Lord. He has extended the invitation, and He will answer” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 469).

I know that to be true. The Lord lives and He speaks to us. We just have to wait patiently and listen. I am anxious to go through the other talks and hear what the Lord wants me to know and do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Listening to the Spirit

Since moving to Virginia (Aug 2007), I have been listening to General Conference talks on my iPod on my way to work. Because my commute is sometimes more than an hour each way, I've listened to the same talks many times. To mix things up, I recently decided to download last conference in Spanish. I will admit the reason was not so I could get more out of conference, but rather so I could brush up on Spanish.

What happened was that I really had to listen to the words very carefully to catch their meaning. I had to "open my ears." As I did that, the Spirit touched my heart as these great men and women of the Lord testified of Him and His gospel. Even though I had heard it all many times before, my testimony was renewed.

This small experience reinforced in my mind the importance of really listening to the Lord's voice in the scriptures, at church, and during General Conference. Doing so, I think, can renew our testimonies each day and keep the fire burning strong so that we can have, as President Eyring has taught, "more than a memory of the moment when the Spirit whispered to [our] minds and hearts that God lived, that Jesus was the Christ, and that Joseph was their prophet." (Elder Eyring, An Enduring Testimony of the Mission of the Prophet Joseph, Ensign, Nov. 2003)

I have felt especially blessed this last week to have been born in the gospel as they say. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and know it's true. I know there are prophets and apostle on the earth today. I hope I can follow them, even as they point away from themselves and toward the Savior whom they serve.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Elder Wirthlin

Elder Wirthlin passed away last night. I just found out this morning. A few weeks ago in my Young Mens Presidency meeting, I shared my feelings about him. Growing up, I would tune out when Elder Wirthlin got up to speak at General Conference. I had no idea what I was missing out on until a few years ago. Since that time, I have loved every word of his sermons. Some of my favorites are: Three Choices, Oct. 2003; The Great Commandment, Oct. 2007; and his last sermon, Come What May, and Love It, Oct. 2008.

If you were like me, and previously tuned him out because of his delivery, go back and read his talks. They are inspirational, instructional, and practical. I have been blessed by listening to and trying to follow his counsel. He was a true Apostle of Jesus Christ and I will be a better man by following in his footsteps of obedience and service.

The thoughts I shared with the Young Mens Presidency were that the world has a completely different idea of what a role model should be. Most of my role models were athletes like Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, Don Mattingly, Daryl Strawberry, Roger Clemens, etc. Sure, they were great athletes, but aside from Donnie Baseball and Phil Simms (at least as far as we know), they all had serious personal and criminal problems.

Obviously, the ultimate role model for any Christian is Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer. Isaiah wrote this about the Savior: "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53: 2-3) What a contrast to the world's view of someone to look up to and follow. The world would probably never ask Elder Wirthlin to speak in public. And he certainly wasn't a celebrity. He didn't drive around in a fancy car and wear flashy clothes. But the world would be terribly wrong to ignore his wisdom and his example of love and service. If I had understood that he was the type of man I should look up to, instead of those athletes, I know I would be a much better man today.

I am so grateful for the restored church of Jesus Christ and for living apostles, who are prophets, seers, and revelators. They are the ones we should be looking up to and trying to follow because they are walking in the Lord's footsteps.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

General Conference...Living Water!

The Lord never lets us down! I had been feeling particularly worried about a certain aspect of my life, and the very first talk I really got to listen to (Elder Scott's, in the Priesthood Session) inspired and uplifted me just in the way I needed.

I wonder what would happen if we were to pray , or read the scriptures or attend church with the same attitude we have towards General Conference. I think we would probably find that the Lord is eagerly waiting for us to listen so He can inspire and uplift us. I think of the Nephites/Lamanites when Heavenly Father was announcing the Savior from heaven. They really had to turn to the sound of His voice and "open their ears" to hear Him. (3 Nephi 11:5) I have found that even the strangest of testimony meetings can be just as uplifting as General Conference, if we "open our ears."

I really believe that each moment of prayer, each time we attend church, each time we study the gospel, we can have that “General Conference” experience; when it seems as though what we are hearing/reading is directed at us personally. Of course, I don't think it will happen every time. We all have to experience trials of faith. But I think that if we prepare ourselves to hear the Lord's voice, when we really need to be directed and inspired, He will always speak to us.

I also think of President Monson, when he said something like, 'I want the Lord to know, that when He has something that needs to be done, Tom Monson will do it.' What a great thought! I think we all want to reach that level of trust with the Lord. The more obedient we are - which requires the exercise of faith - the more promptings we will get. And I am confident that the promptings will always be to do something to serve and help another one of Father's children.

I guess what I am saying is that, although we won't necessarily have "amazing" spiritual experiences every Sunday or every time we study and pray (we might not even feel anything), if we have been obedient and are listening for the Lord's voice, He will never let us down in our time of need. When He comes to us, to uplift and inspire, it might not be as quickly as we would like, but I know He will come. And the converse is, if we are disobedient and turn away from Him when more worldly pleasures are calling, we will probably miss out on hearing His voice and an opportunity to prove that when He has something that needs to be done, we will do it. Whenever I begin to feel that I am not getting anything out of my prayers, study, or church, the first thing I do is repent! I know that it is not the Lord who has distanced Himself from me, but that I have turned from Him.

I know that Heavenly Father speaks to us through His Son, through the Holy Ghost and our thoughts and feelings, and through the scriptures. He speaks to us through President Monson and the General Authorities of the church. He can speak to us through our local leaders, Sunday School teachers, Home Teachers, parents, siblings, children. We just have to turn our eyes towards Him and open our ears.

I am thankful that for all the times I have offended Him, He still speaks to me. He does so because I am His son and He loves me. I know I am not special in that regard, but we are all His children and He loves us all without condition.