Thursday, July 28, 2011

"The Spirit of Revelation" -- Elder David A. Bednar

This talk is on such an important topic. It is a foundation of out religion that we can receive guidance from God, and do use that counsel to govern out church and our own lives.

The first, and essentially important, step is being able to receive revelation. Elder Bednar tells us that everyone who has received the gift of the Holy Ghost at confirmation, if they are "acting in faith to fulfill the priesthood injunction to 'receive the Holy Ghost'", meaning, they have a "Sincere desire and worthiness [to] invite the spirit of revelation into [their] lives," can and will have guiding personal revelation afforded to them.

But how can we gain this state he is describing? Elder Bednar puts it perfectly:

"Because the Spirit whispers to us gently and delicately, it is easy to understand why we should shun inappropriate media, pornography, and harmful, addictive substances and behaviors. These tools of the adversary can impair and eventually destroy our capacity to recognize and respond to the subtle messages from God delivered by the power of His Spirit. Each of us should consider seriously and ponder prayerfully how we can reject the devil's enticements and righteously 'apply unto it', even the spirit of revelation, in our own personal lives and families."

I was talking to Danny the other day about this topic. He said that while he was on his mission in Armenia, that he would teach The Word of Wisdom and the commandments different than most missionaries. He would tell them that they needed to rid themselves of their bad habits of smoking and drinking in order to qualify for baptism, but he would also tell them that they would eventually need to rid themselves of ALL bad habits in order to become perfected. These may include: sleeping in, over eating, not serving others, hot temperament, laziness, etc. etc. etc.

And he is totally right. As we master ourselves, we can "master" the world around us, because we can in control. If one drinks and drives, they are no longer in control. If on is sober and drives, they are more in control. If one follows ALL traffic laws, they have the most control. And so it is in every aspect of our lives.

This includes personal revelation. The more clutter of all kinds we release from our lives, the more open our channels of revelation can become. We can become closer to Heavenly Father.

I have a testimony of personal revelation. Just like our earthly fathers give us directions, Heavenly Father wants to help us in our lives. I know this is true because I have experienced it myself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"The Essence of Discipleship" -- Silvia H. Allred

The root of the work "Disciple" is "Discipline". It denotes one who is disciplined. This talk especially touches on Visiting and Home Teachers, who need to be disciplined in their service to their sisters and families.

When Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society in 1842, he said the purpose of the society was:

"relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes...They will pour oil and wine to the wounded heart of the distressed, they will dry up the tears of the orphan and make the widow's heart to rejoice."

This past Sunday, out tri-stake had a special Relief Society Fireside put on by Sister Doxey of the Relief Society General Board. She spent considerable time speaking about the Visiting Teaching program. She even asked in open forum if we believed visiting teaching to be outdated.

Of course none of us said the program was outdated in front of Sister Doxey! But it got me wondering. If I don't feel the program is outdated, then why am I not more valiant in my visits and care of my girls?

She then asked us how we could "breathe new life" into Visiting Teaching. What a good question! Sister Allred gives a good suggestion:

"When love becomes the guiding principle in our care for others, our service to them becomes the gospel in action. It is the gospel in its finest moment. It is pure religion."

Grandma Rosenlof and I had a discussion on Sunday about this very topic. She argued -- and I agree -- that love is the bottom line of everything we do in the church. Some people believe it is obedience, that our obedience is the bottom line because we are required to do many things. And it is true, maybe for some people that is their bottom line. At a Zone Conference on my mission, we were taught that there are many motivations for people to do things. The first level is obligation -- because they feel they have to. The second level is fear -- because they are afraid of the consequences of NOT doing the action. The third level is love -- someone decides to do what is right because of their sincere love for the recipient, or for Christ.

Any and all of those motivations are good motivations to do the right thing. It is better to do your visiting teaching as an obligation and a fear to have to call in a 0%, but visiting teaching becomes what it is meant to become when we sincerely love our sisters.

So, love must become the guiding principle. Getting a check mark on the percentage sheet is not motivation enough for me to do my visiting teaching. However, if I consider that my girls may be going through a tough time, and might be praying that I will come by and be their firend and become an answer to their prayer -- THAT is motivation. That is love.

And love does not wait until the last day of the month -- it comes often.

She also talks about Home Teaching:

"Inspired Home Teachers bless lives and provide the blessings of the gospel to every family unit. In addition they lend their strength and talents in other ways, such as helping a family in need of home repairs, [or] in helping a family move."

Last Sunday, our Home Teachers came over and taught us from the First Presidency message in the latest Ensign about Commitment. Even though most every Home Teacher will teach that lesson this month, their lesson seemed tailored to us specifically and really touched my heart.

The very next day we called our Home Teachers to help us carry some heavy equipment into our apartment -- and they so willingly came over to complete the task.

I am grateful for my valiant Home Teachers and want to become a valiant Visiting Teacher.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"The Sanctifying Work of Welfare" -- Bishop H. David Burton

Often, as a "poor, starving college student" I forget about the important work of administering to the poor. The fact is, that everyone can give something.

President Heber J. Grant wanted to stress the importance of welfare, and said they would go so far as to "close the seminaries, shut down missionary work for a period of time, or even close the temples, but they would not let the people go hungry."

This puts things more into perspective for me. I go to institute every week, I served a full-time mission, and I attend the temple once a week. But when was the last time I administered to the poor and needy? That effort, on my part, needs to be more frequent.

Bishop Burton ends his talk with this thought:

"[Serving the poor] is the sacred work the Savior expects from His disciples. It is the work He loved when He walked the earth. It is the work I know we would fine Him doing were He here among us today."

In Christ's time, I believe poverty probably looked a lot like it does today. Probably people begged on the street corners, slept in alleyways, and went hungry each night.

I think we can be quick to assume that administering to the needy was somehow easier for Christ because He is the Savior. But the fact is, we have the opportunity to become saviors to those people who most need our help.

When I was little and we were living in California, seeing people begging to cars at stop lights was a very common sight. Because of the prevalence, the Relief Society sisters came together and made food kits in gallon Ziplock bags including assortments of foods and necessities. Inside was also placed a pass-along card with a picture of Jesus Christ.

One afternoon, as we were stopped at a read light, a man had a sign indicating he was hungry and needed help. My mom had me pass the bag up to her and she handed it to the man through her window.

The man had tears in his eyes. He first thanked us so sincerely, then fell to his knees and thanked God for this miracle. The instance humbled us immediately. I will never forget that man's reaction.

Being ready and willing to help is much of the problem. We must be ready and willing before an opportunity arises to give, or Satan will do his best to steer us into selfishness.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"More Than Conquerors Through Him That Loved Us" -- Elder Paul V. Johnson

This talk is all about afflictions: why we have them, what to expect, how to conquer them, and the results. For all of those experiencing bad hardships, read this talk. It is really very nice.

I like when he said this:

"At times it may seem that our trials are focused on areas of our lives and parts of our souls with which we seem least able to cope."

Well of course this is true. We have many "experiences" each and every day. But if we are good at that thing, we just complete the task easily and do not consider it a trial. Only if it is an area we struggle in do we call it a trial and get frustrated.

But as he goes on throughout his talk, the point is that these trials make us stretch and grow.

The Apostle Paul said:

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

This is the same Paul that was "beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and who experienced many other trials." And he calls trials "light"! We all need to follow his lead in appreciating and learning from our trials.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Waiting on the Road to Damascus" -- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I love President Uchtdorf, and I love this talk. It rings true in my life today.

The theme here is basically to stop waiting around! Don't just hang out on the "road to Damascus", waiting for a grand spiritual display. Our testimonies and spiritual experiences are not usually landed upon -- but they are searched out with diligence.

A huge part of that process is being able to hear and heed the voice of the spirit. President Uchtdorf says:

"To better hear His voice, it would be wise to turn down the volume control of the worldly noise in our lives....Let us learn to hearken to the promptings of the Spirit and then be eager to heed them."

Both hard things to do. To consciously turn down the "noise" in our lives, and then turn up our spiritual sensitivity. And then, once we've received a prompting, getting off our bums and doing them!

Recently I heard someone say that the Lord always asks us to do things out of our comfort zone. Or else, we would not grow. So often those promptings will inspire us to go do something we normally would not want to do -- but if the Lord asks it, it will be worth our while.

He goes on to say, however, that the Lord expects us to study first before coming to Him in prayer.

For example. Perhaps you have a lot of time and want to do some organizational volunteer work. It would be more difficult and more unlikely that the Lord would place "Provo Youth Adventure Camps" in your mind, then if you went online, searched for organizations you are interested in, made a short list of ones that fit your schedule, and then praying for inspiration on which one to join up with.

Joseph Smith did the same thing when he prayed to know which church to join. He attended many different congregations, talked with people he trusted, and read from the Holy Bible. Only after he knew each church and their doctrine did he go and ask the Lord. But in his circumstance, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him that none of those churches were true. But he was prepared, and because he was prepared, it showed real intent -- which is fully intending to act upon whatever answer is given.

President Uchtdorf makes a good point:

"If we are thinking only of ourselves, we may miss some of the most powerful spiritual experiences and profound revelations of our lives."

How often do I look back on my prayer and think: "wow, that prayer was such a self-centered prayer" or look back on my day and think: "wow, that was such a self-centered day." Days are so much better spent in the service of others.

As something I mentioned before in this blog, President Uchtdorf says:

"By becoming the answer to someone's prayer, we often find the answer to our own."

It is so easy to believe that the antidote to woe is self-pity and "vegging out", when in fact, getting up and serving someone quickly cures the problem! It is like magic how much better you can feel.

Some people may believe that would be burying the problem. Not at all! It helps us to put our problems into perspective, allows our minds to be active, and find ways to solve the problem and move forward.

Lastly, he quotes Saint Francis Assisi who said:

"Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words."

Spreading the gospel is a huge form of service. It is allowing others the chance to obtain happiness in this life and also into eternity. And as Assisi is suggesting, spreading the gospel is all about being a good example to others and living each day what you believe.

Uchtdorf talks about using social media to spread the gospel. That is why I have this blog -- to inform those of this gospel, and to strengthen the testimonies of those who are already members of the church.

I hope that we can all do better at listening to the spirit, and then boldly acting upon the promptings we receive, especially ones in sharing the gospel.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Priesthood Power" -- President Thomas S. Monson

I love the talks given by Thomas S. Monson. Instead of maintaining a constant theme, his talks usually consist of nuggets of truth -- almost as if he did not write a talk at all, but is simply guided by the Holy Spirit in what to say.

President Monson implores:

"Should there be anything amiss in your life, there is open to you a way out."

and then he quotes Exodus 20:7 and Isaiah 1:18:

"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow," "and I, the Lord, remember them no more."

Every time I read those verses, it reminds me of the time I visited Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, England. My study abroad group made a very quick stop there on our way to Stratford Upon Avon.

Coventry Cathedral was a very very old cathedral, but was completely bombed by the Germans during World War II. leaving up only a few walls -- a very hollow shell of a church remaining.

But years later, the town of Coventry rebuilt a new cathedral adjacent to the old one. Instead of copying the original design, they rebuilt a beautiful and modern structure covered in stained glass windows to let in a lot of natural light.

While we were there, there was some kind of exhibit of quilted strips of cloth. They were absolutely gorgeous. My favorite one -- the one I will never forget -- started out a very deep red at the top of the quilt, and gradually got lighter and lighter until the bottom of the quilt was pure white. The words of the scripture trickled down --

Though your sins be
as Scarlet

They shall be as
white as

The words also changed color with the quilt.

I am not sure why that display hit be so hard when it did. I began crying right there in that cathedral.

Perhaps it was a visualization of such an "abstract" concept. How can Christ do it? How can He be so loving and forgiving to take that deep red fabric of our lives and dip it into the bleach of His atonement? How does He not think twice? It is pure love.

Coventry Cathedral itself is a symbol of this miracle. They were bombed to the lowest of the low, but they rebuilt a brand new cathedral without blemish and without spot.

I know Christ can and does take away our sins. He suffered our sins in order to do so. May we just follow His instructions to repent and the blessings of scarlet sins turned snow white can be ours.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Learning in the Priesthood" -- President Henry B. Eyring

President Eyring tells a story of an old High Priest who he went to visit. They sat for a while and reminisced about good times and their service in the priesthood. The old man asked:

"Why am I still living? Why am I still here? I can't do anything."

But President Eyring noted:

"He was lifting me with his faith and his love. Even in our short visit, he made me want to do better."

When I read that, it warmed my heart.

Going out each day into the world and showing much charity and giving much service is a wonderful thing. But those experiences also need to change us as people so that we can be the ones who inspire others to do better.

In turn, these are the people we need to surround ourselves with. Good friends that will lift us and support us in righteous causes.

But there are others who are not at a place in their lives where they are currently lifting and supporting -- but just need to be lifted and supported for a time by someone else. Here is where our service is especially needed.

I hope I can be better about lifting others and not just being in constant need to be lifted. As soon as we receive, we should turn around and give.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Your Potential, Your Privilege" -- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

President Uchtdorf begins with an astounding story. He said there was a man who dreamed to sail the Mediterranean on a cruise ship, so he saved up all his money for his ticket. But he used every last penny he had on the ticket, so he knew he could not eat all the delicious food on board or participate in all the fun activities.

He packed a whole suitcase full of canned beans and crackers and mostly stayed in his room. He only came out to see the cities of the Mediterranean that he had forever dreamed to see.

On the last night of the cruise, a crew member came to his room and asked which farewell party he would be attending. The young man replied that he could not afford to go to any of them. That is when the crew member informed him that this was an all-inclusive cruise and all the food and entertainment on-board was included in the price of his ticket.

"Too late the man realized that he had been living far beneath his privileges."

That story makes me cringe! However, what should really make me cringe is the realization that I, as well as many of us, are living far below our privileges.

Again, as in every other conference talk this April, Uchtdorf makes a call to action. He says:

"somewhere between the hearing, the writing of a reminder on our smartphone, and the actual doing, our 'do it' switch gets rotated to the 'later' position. Brethren [and sisters!] let's make sure to set our 'do it' switch always to the 'now' position!"

As members of the church, and simply as human beings and children of God, we have so many blessings and privileges. Heavenly Father wants us to reach out and also bless the lives of others. It is when we serve and contribute that the light of Christ truly shines forth and we then know that we are living up to our privileges.

I know that there is so much out there for me to give and to grow. My "ticket" here on earth included a loving family, quality education, and amazing people who surround me with understanding and friendship. But I also know it includes so much more, and I need to discover what that is before it is too late.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Sacred Keys of the Aaronic Priesthood" -- Larry M. Gibson

I was having a bit of a hard time connecting personally to a talk directed towards Aaronic Priesthood holders, especially quorum presidents. But I did appreciate the talk, and it helps me respect those young men more.

Towards the end of his talk, he says:

"The Lord taught...that priesthood means reaching out to serve others."

Thomas S. Monson is quoting, saying:

"The priesthood is not really so much a gift as it is a commission to serve, a privilege to lift, and an opportunity to bless the lives of others."

Many people criticize the church for not allowing women to hold the priesthood, as if the priesthood was a source of dominance in the men.

Joseph Smith the Prophet said it perfectly in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41:

"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned."

A man cannot use his priesthood to bless himself, but only to bless others.

I have been blessed by the power of the priesthood before in many ways. I know it is God's power given to man on earth.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Hope" -- Elder Steven E. Snow

Obviously a certain message is being said, or I am only picking up one certain message, but the theme of General Conference definitely has been about desires, what matters most, and acting upon those things. Elder Snow says his version like this:

"Hope can inspire dreams and spur is to realize those dreams. Hope alone, however, does not cause us to succeed. Many honorable hopes have gone unfulfilled, shipwrecked on the reefs of good intentions and laziness."

I like how he uses the word "shipwrecked". It implies that this person has so much excitement for their future endeavor that they prepared and loaded up a ship and shoved off from shore. However, he said the ship's demise came by good intentions and laziness.

Good intentions are trouble. They work well for us because they allow us to do nothing and feel good about that.

"Oh sorry, I had every intention to clean the dishes, but then I remembered about a homework assignment and got totally caught up!"

Later, in our minds, this translates to:

"I would have done the dishes, but it was impossible for me to do them given the circumstance."

Which translates to:

"I did the dishes"

But did you? NO! The dishes are just as dirty as if you would have said:

"I had no intention to clean the dishes whatsoever. I was sitting around doing nothing all day."

This becomes uber dangerous when it comes to our hopes and even more fatal when it comes to the commandments. There is no room for excuses in judgement -- all that will be judged is the work that has been done, not the work we almost did.