I used to hear quotes like the following and feel guilty:
“The Lord said also, ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matt 7:21) And I was thinking that there are as many wards and branches in the Church as there are people in this room, one for one. And what great accomplishment there would be if every bishop and every branch president in all the world, wherever it’s possible…had a storage such as has been suggested here this morning..and took to their three or four or five hundred members the same message, quoting scripture and insisting that the people of their wards and branches do the things the Lord has requested, for we know there are many who are failing. ‘Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1976, p 124.)
For years I used to think about how I knew I needed to begin a food storage program … but then my heart would fail me. I just plain didn’t know where to start. I knew I needed to begin, but the task seemed too large. Well, if one thinks an action is too big, those actions follow suit and nothing ever gets done.
Finally, one day, I realized I was spinning in circles — and I was manifesting no faith. I stopped the spin and sat down, literally. First I began to think about what having a food storage really meant. The biggest realization came when I started to break down what a year’s food supply implied in simple terms.
For example, one week of meals implies 21 meals (more or less): 7 breakfast, 7 lunch, and 7 dinner. To make my meal storage easy, why not plan on having the same dinners weekly? Therefore, if I planned on spaghetti for Monday nights, I would need 52 packages of pasta for a year’s supply, in addition to 52 jars of spaghetti sauce (i.e. 52 weeks of Mondays in a year).
Of course, this is not a full meal. I might (to make it easy) store 52 cans of corn for a semblance of veggies with the meal. Not a fancy meal, but it would be food nonetheless for my small family. Plan this out for the 21 meals in one week’s time … and you have a charted course to begin building your food storage! (Begin with the first goal of having one week’s of food in storage. Once that is completed, double that to two week’s worth of food supplies. And so on. Little by little soon becomes a lot — and much quicker than we might think! Ah, this is the pathway of faith.)
Times are rough that face us currently. Whether it is news of a trucker strike (which could clear the grocery store shelves in less than a week) or news of a bird flu epidemic that would force quarantine large populations, having a planned food storage system will greatly ease the stress of many traumatic situations. Let us therefore, be faithful to what the Lord’s servants have counseled us for decades — to have a food storage and to begin it now!
To learn more how to begin a food storage system, little by little, visit the Provident Living website. To read more of President Kimball’s talk, “Family Preparedness, visit “Family Preparedness,” Ensign, May 1976.
Families, can’t live with them, don’t want to live without them!
Isn’t it funny how the ones that we love the most can also be the ones that make us the maddest? It seems to me that the ones that I love the most can push all my buttons the wrong way. Probably because they know all the right buttons to push. Of course by saying this, I’m fully aware that the ones who love me the most can say the exact same thing about me.
My extended family is pretty normal, at least we like to think we’re mostly normal. We have our good times and our bad days. We have days when we all agree on the best course of action, and we have days when we absolutely know the right thing to do and everyone else is wrong. We have days when we just can’t get enough of each other and we have those other days too. I’m sure your family isn’t that different from mine. So what do we do when we don’t see eye to eye with each other?
Well, if your family is like mine, we sulk and we vent to our spouses or to anyone else that will lend a sympathetic ear. We refuse to talk to the guilty party for a couple of days. Then we kiss and make up and we’re one big happy family again. Well, we don’t literally kiss and make up but you get the idea. My family is such a central part of my world, I really can’t imagine a life without them. My extended family (parents, siblings, cousins, etc) is just as important to me as my own small family.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes known as the Mormon Church) values the “family.” Our theology and our lifestyles in the Church are Christ-centered and family-centered. “Mormons place particularly strong emphasis on family as the basic unit of the Church and of society…There is also much focus on extended family, genealogy, and personal family history, providing young and old with a stronger sense of roots, identity, and belonging. The highest and most sacred ordinances of our faith relate to our families, both living and dead, and some of these ordinances take place in our temples.” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles)
Adversity is everywhere. It’s in our homes and families. Adversity, even the most minor examples, can damage relationships and destroy families. How do we ensure that the adversities that we face on a regular basis in our families doesn’t lead to the destruction of these sacred relationships? I’m not talking about major trials and challenges. I’m referring to the simple every day occurrences that usually just annoy and irritate us. You know the kind of thing that can happen when someone says something that is completely innocent but taken the wrong way. Or when someone forgets to say something that should have been said or simply forgets (like a birthday). How do we stop such minor incidents from becoming full blown problems?
We do so by acknowledging that despite our differences and disagreements, we are all still part of a family. We apologize. We listen and we are listened to. We acknowledge the other point of view as valid and we expect that our point of view is acknowledged and respected as well. If we are lucky, we will also be counseled by a loving spouse or a dear friend who isn’t afraid to point out how childish the whole argument is. If we are extremely lucky, we’ll listen to the promptings of the Spirit and we will forgive the real or imagined slight and love the target of our wrath again.
Adversity can either break or strengthen us. It can do the same thing for a family. As part of Heavenly Father’s plan of redemption, all people experience adversity during their lifetime. Trials, disappointments, sadness, sickness, and heartache are a difficult part of life, but with the help of the Lord they can lead to spiritual growth, refinement, and progress.
Through adversity, we can come to know the Lord as never before. It is during times of adversity, whether they be great or small, that we need to strive especially hard to remember the teachings of our Savior and to do as He would have done. “As we experience adversity in our own lives, let us, like Job, remain steadfast in our faith. Like Paul, let us seek to develop Christlike traits through our suffering. Like the Savior, let us learn obedience and meekly submit to our Heavenly Father’s will.” (Elder Monte J Brough Of the Seventy)
I’m grateful for a Church that places such a strong emphasis on the value and importance of the family. I’m grateful that my Church teaches me all that it does about the importance of our relationships, not just with our immediate families, but with our extended families as well. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helps me to put things in their proper perspective when it comes to families. It helps me to realize that despite all their flaws and imperfections, I love every person in this wonderful circle that is my extended family and I know they feel exactly the same about me!
Often a new member is permitted by the spouse to bring the children to church, but not to let them get baptized. This is sometimes stressful for the child, especially if he is seven and all his friends are getting baptized. Often, teachers of these children spend a great deal of time talking about baptism, to help the children prepare, and to recognize their baptisms afterwards. There are lessons on keeping the covenants they made at baptism.
If your child won’t be allowed to be baptized, talk to him about it as soon as possible, so he isn’t expecting to be baptized on his birthday. Plan ahead how to do this so the other parent isn’t put in a bad light. Explain that when children’s parents both have the same religion, they naturally want their child to belong as well. However, when the parents don’t have the same religion, they sometimes choose to have the child make his own choice when he’s older. Tell him the age you and your spouse have agreed on.
Next, help him understand that Heavenly Father won’t be upset with him. We’re asked to be baptized, but we’re also told to honor our parents and the church doesn’t allow children to be baptized without the permission of both parents, so Heavenly Father will want him to wait. Some children have been able to convince the other parent to change his mind, but you’ll have to weigh the risks of encouraging your child to make this effort against the benefits. You don’t want your spouse to ease the stress by stopping the attendance to church.
Share with him the covenants made at baptism and show him that he can promise Heavenly Father in prayer to keep those same covenants, even though he can’t make them through baptism. He can live the gospel until he is able to be baptized, and can then make the formal covenant Heavenly Father has asked him to make. God knows the desire of his heart and will judge him accordingly.
Talk to the child’s Primary teacher and leaders so they are aware of the situation. Explain what you have told your child so they can build on that when the subject comes up in class. Ask them to emphasize what he can do rather than what he can’t do—not that they won’t continue to talk about baptism, but they can add in the information that you can keep those covenants even before you are baptized.
Help your child learn a simple explanation he can give to friends who ask about his baptism. There are many stories in The Friend (the children’s magazine) on this subject that you can share with him.
Filed under: Gospel Principles, Practices & Precepts, Jesus Christ
I have a rather unique mind with a vivid imagination. That’s a combination that can get me into trouble on occasion. It also can paint scenarios in my mind that can take me on trips filled with hills, valleys and surprising curves, thus the topic of this blog came about.
If I had 30 minutes with Jesus Christ what would I do? Well, first I’d ask Him to stay longer, natch. But in all seriousness there is so much I would want to ask, so much I would want to learn . . . just to bask in the presence of our Lord and Savior, I cannot begin to imagine the incredible feelings which would wash over me.
From the time I was a small child I have always turned to the Savior for support when I needed it. I think I would spend at least half that time thanking Him for always being there when I needed Him.
I recall when I was 17-years-old and found out that I had a heart condition that would kill me if I didn’t have surgery. Over the course of the next few months my health continued to grow worse until in August of 1981 I was wheeled into surgery. Elder Russell M. Nelson, then a world renowned heart surgeon and now a living apostle of Jesus Christ, performed that open heart surgery which saved my life. There was a brief moment, before the sedation took effect when fear swept through my entire body. Very sweetly and very kindly I heard, “Be at peace. All will be well.”
Was that my Savior? I don’t know, but I know no angels speak words that are not the words of Jesus Christ. So, in essence, it was my Savior assuring me I would survive that surgery and go on to live my life. I am now 44-years-old with no heart problems. This is one thing I would wish to thank Him for, face to face.
Through the last seven years as my husband has struggled with end-stage renal failure and drawn close to death over and over, I have continually leaned on my Savior for the strength to be the wife that I need to be, to love my husband as he deserves to be loved and to be the helpmate I promised to be before we came to this earth. I have leaned on my Savior as terror has swept over me as my husband was rushed from my side, blood pulsing from every part of his body. I have leaned on my Savior as my husband lay in a drug-induced coma, his stomach and abdomen still open from the life-saving surgery. Time and again, regardless of the situation, my Savior has granted me the strength and support I have so desperately needed to keep moving forward.
And so with my 30 minutes I believe I would express my gratitude, sit, listen and beg to be enfolded in His arms, cradled and protected from the onslaught of wickedness and evil so pervasive in our society. I would crave to hear, “Well done my daughter, thou hast served Me well.” And then I would rest, assured that my Savior loved me and would walk the remainder of this mortal path with me.
Filed under: Gospel Principles, Practices & Precepts, Jesus Christ
I am a daughter of God. As such, I believe strongly that there is much I have to do in this life to prove to my Heavenly Father that He was right to send me to this earth that I might prove myself in this phase of eternity. Mortality.
The Plan of Salvation tells us we lived before we came to this earth. No, I am not speaking of reincarnation, which is a false doctrine, but of premortality, that phase of eternity where we lived as spirit children of our Heavenly Father. It was there we learned about the plan of salvation and the opportunity Heavenly Father would give us to come to earth, having proven ourselves in our first estate; having chosen the side of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the War in Heaven (Revelations 12:7-12) and been granted the gift of a physical body and the chance to prove ourselves in our second estate.
And now here I stand, a student of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a fierce defender of the faith. I have been called a Mormon apologist and I am that. I have been called a defender of truth and righteousness, and I am that as well. I stand, shoulder to shoulder, with my brothers and sisters in the gospel as standard bearers to the world testifying with all the might, power and strength the Holy Ghost can give us . . . of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I have known from my earliest cognizant memory that He was my Redeemer and my Savior. I have testified of this in churches and homes, across pulpits and tables, even on the couches of friends and family. And this I feel compelled to testify of once again.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He suffered that we might live . . . so much did He suffer that it caused Him to bleed from every pore. (D&C 19:18) And as He hung from that cross on Golgotha, once again the weight of untold numbers of worlds fell upon His pain racked body and every farthing was paid that eternal justice might be satisfied. Three days passed, and on that beautiful morning 1,975years ago He broke the bands of death (John 20) and became the first fruits of the Resurrection.
Because of Jesus Christ’s willingness to descend from heaven, leaving His heavenly throne, to come into the world in a lowly and meek manner . . . we will live forever. Every single human being ever born will be given the gift of resurrection. Eternal life . . . that’s up to you.
So I will be as an ensign unto the nations, proclaiming to the world of the literal Son of God, Jesus Christ. And as Alma of old I cry unto the heavens:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the atrump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! (Alma 29:1)
A few nights ago I attended my son’s school program. Though it was focused around nursery rhyme stories, the main message was one I needed to hear: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Yes, it is an old adage, but it’s also one that I hadn’t thought about for a while. If I had to sum up the Plan of Salvation into one sentence, it would be found in the scriptures.
2 Nephi 2:25— Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
Though this life is a testing period for us, it is also meant to bring us happiness now and joy in the eternities if we choose to follow Jesus Christ. We are God’s children, we carry the light of Christ within us, we can be happy. We all have a great capacity for joy within our hearts if we will follow the recipe that the Lord has given us. But, where are the instructions? The recipe is in the scriptures.
If you opened your scriptures at any given point, how far would you have to look to find a reference to happiness or joy? Odds are, not very far. Heavenly Father is very serious about our happiness. We are His children, what parent doesn’t bend over backwards to give their child happiness, peace, safety and love in this life? Our Heavenly Father is no different. Let’s examine some of the instructions He gives us that hold the promise of joy.
Our faith should be centered on Jesus Christ the source of living waters, from whom all blessings flow.
Isaiah 12:3— Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
Observe the Sabbath as a time to reconnect with Heavenly Father and replenish our spirits.
Psalms 118:24— This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Develop the talents and blessings that the Lord has given you.
Matthew 25:21— His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Seek for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Galations 5:22— But the fruit of the Spirit is clove, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Observe the gospel of Jesus Christ within your home, and instill a testimony of Him in your children.
3 John 1:4— I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Endure your trials well, use them to learn and grow closer to God.
2 Nephi 9:18— But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
Keep the commandments.
Mosiah 2:41— And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
Repent of your faults and sins. Actively work to bring your life in line with the example of Jesus Christ.
Mosiah 4:20— And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
Be willing to forsake the things of the world in favor of the things of the Savior.
Alma 22:15— And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
Share your testimony of the gospel and the blessing God has given you with others.
Alma 29:9— I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.
Doctrine and Covenants 18:15-16— And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
Work for the things you need and those things you desire in righteousness.
Psalms 128:2— For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Value knowledge and seek out learning of all types.
Proverbs 3:13— Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
Love and serve your neighbor.
Proverbs 14:21— He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
As you can see, there is guidance for a happier life for almost any situation we may find ourselves in. So, when life seems to be full of lemons. Go to the Lord’s scriptures for instructions on how to turn you low points into blessings of joy.
Filed under: Gospel Principles, Practices & Precepts, Jesus Christ, Plan of Salvation
When we fully come unto Jesus Christ, are we born again?
Conversion is a process, not an event. Conversion comes as a result of righteous efforts to follow the Savior. These efforts include exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of sin, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in faith.
Although conversion is miraculous and life changing, it is a quiet miracle. Angelic visitations and other spectacular occurrences do not bring conversion. Even Alma, who saw an angel, became converted only after he “fasted and prayed many days” for a witness of the truth (Alma 5:46). And Paul, who saw the resurrected Savior, taught that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) – (Gospel Topics: Conversion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, www.lds.org)
Lets examine these one by one . . . in order to be fully converted we must:
Exercise faith in Jesus Christ: Faith in Jesus Christ begins in one place. Is He your God, Redeemer and Savior? Do you accept Him as the Son of God, one chosen and foreordained from before the foundations of the world to save and redeem the children of God that we might continue forward in our eternal progression?
Once you have truly accepted those facts into your heart, a mighty change comes over you. You wish to be a better person. You wish to help others seeking, find Him. You change your thoughts and actions to be in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. (Alma 13:12)
So no, you are not literally born again, but you are born anew as a son or daughter of God. In thus believing, you recognize that this mortal probation is about more than simply existing in the world, but is about growing, developing and triumphing over the world. That is faith in Jesus Christ.
Repent of our sins: We must cast off our sins and glory in being clean and new. The Atonement of Jesus Christ has given us the gift of being able to repent of our sins.
The full scope of the Atonement is something rarely understood, even by Mormons across the globe. If the weight of all the children of God’s burdens caused Jesus Christ, even the Son of God, to bleed from every pore, how enormous was that burden? We, as mortals, will never be able to understand the depth and breadth of that price, but I invite you to understand a little more about what you’ve been given. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said,
“Nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. It is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the entire history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and all other things rest.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie as quoted by Tad Callister in The Infinite Atonement, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 2000 4) – (Candace E. Salima, At-one-ment: Mormon Understanding of the Atonement, 2007, http://ldsblogs.com)
In so paying this enormous and incomprehensible price, Jesus Christ ransomed us, paying for our sins, sorrows and illnesses, that we might shake off the natural man, have the capacity to repent of our sins and walk with Him into eternity.
A greater gift I cannot imagine, and all we must do is repent of and forsake our sins.
Be baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost: The waters of baptism are an amazing thing. I was baptized when I was eight-years-old and while I don’t remember the specifics of the occasion, I do remember coming up from those waters, held safe by my father’s strong hands, and feeling clean.
Now I hadn’t sinned much in the first eight years of my life, not many children do, but neither had I been perfect. For that brief shining moment I was clean of all my sins and it was the most powerful feeling. The burdens of mortality were lifted and I was given a gift, the gift of beginning again, when I was old enough to make decisions, to live this mortal life as I had intended to when I was looking down from heaven.
After baptism, those with priesthood authority laid their hands on my head and bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost to be my constant companion as long as I remained worthy of his presence in my life. What an incredible blessing that has been. In times of great danger I have felt the soft whisper of warning in my heart, altered my course of action and been preserved. In times of questioning and seeking for knowledge I have felt the confirmation of truth and the Holy Ghost testifying of divinity of Jesus Christ that I might know with my whole heart and soul that He lives and Has paid that price that we might live also.
Elder Henry B. Eyring tells us,
First, receiving the Holy Ghost takes faith in our Heavenly Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ. The memory of a great spiritual experience in which that truth was confirmed to you won’t be sufficient. You will need to be sure of your faith in the moment of crisis, which may come at any time, day or night, when you plead for the influence of the Spirit. You must then be unshaken in your confidence that God lives, that He hears your cry for help, and that the resurrected Savior will do for you what He promised to do for His servants in His mortal ministry:
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26) – (Henry B. Eyring, “Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times,” Ensign, Jun 2007, 18–24)
Endure to the end in faith: And finally, enduring to the end. That seems to be the hardest part for everyone. Mormon history is filled with story upon story of individuals who endured to the end, despite all odds. Many of us face obstacles that seem insurmountable at times, but that is merely an illusion. There is nothing given us that cannot be overcome and done so with great eternal glory.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told of difficult times in his own life:
We all go through different life experiences. Some are filled with joy, and others with sorrow and uncertainty.
I remember a time when things didn’t look good for our family when I was a child. It was in the winter of 1944, one of the coldest during World War II. The war front was approaching our town, and my mother had to take us four children, leave all our possessions behind, and join the millions of fleeing refugees in a desperate search for a place to survive. Our father was still in the military, but he and Mother had agreed that if they were ever separated during the war, they would try to reunite at the hometown of my grandparents. They felt this place offered the greatest hope for shelter and safety.
With bombing raids during the night and air attacks during the day, it took us many days to reach my grandparents. My memories of those days are of darkness and coldness.
My father returned to us unharmed, but our future looked extremely bleak. We were living in the rubble of postwar Germany with a devastating feeling of hopelessness and darkness about our future.
In the middle of this despair, my family learned about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the healing message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This message made all the difference; it lifted us above our daily misery. Life was still thorny and the circumstances still horrible, but the gospel brought light, hope, and joy into our lives. The plain and simple truths of the gospel warmed our hearts and enlightened our minds. They helped us look at ourselves and the world around us with different eyes and from an elevated viewpoint.
My dear brothers and sisters, aren’t the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and our membership in His Church great reasons to rejoice?
Wherever you live on this earth and whatever your life’s situation may be, I testify to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the divine power to lift you to great heights from what appears at times to be an unbearable burden or weakness. The Lord knows your circumstances and your challenges. He said to Paul and to all of us, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” And like Paul we can answer: “My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) – (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Have We Not Reason to Rejoice?,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 18–21)
I testify to you that Jesus Christ meant every word when He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) In this life we were never intended to carry our burdens alone. Therefore enduring to the end was never meant to be attempted with the aid, comfort and support of our Savior Jesus Christ.
And so, in living these principles in our lives we are fully converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to Him as our Lord, Savior and Redeemer. The Son of God who paid the ultimate sacrifice that we might be born anew, able to fully rejoice in the light and love of the one who ransomed Himself for us.
Filed under: Gospel Principles, Practices & Precepts, Leading a Balanced Life, Plan of Salvation
Each of us comes into this world with gifts, talents and skills. Society holds the actress/actor, singer, writer, athlete or politician high as a standard of talent which has been groomed and perfected. But there are other talents, not as evident, which are of greater value in the world.
In the book of Matthew we read of a group of men who were given the same number of talents and then we learn what each did. Some grew their talents, others buried them in the earth to protect them. Guess which ones the Master was happiest with? Oh yes, the one who grew his talents. Equate those with the talents you have been given.
Have you the gift of listening? Caring? Loving? Learning? Teaching? Preaching the word of God? There are untold and unheralded numbers of talents in the world. Perhaps you may have the gift of looking out at the world and seeing her majestic mountains, her jungles teeming with life, her desert sands with rock formations rising high above, all the earth with her many beauties. It is possible you have the gift of seeing beyond the wars, rumors of wars, crime, poverty, illness and sorrow to the eternities which we are reminded of in the smile of a baby. The more overt gifts were mentioned at the beginning. But these subtler gifts are the glue that holds society together.
If you pull them into your heart, never sharing these marvelous gifts, you will be as the one who buried his talent. Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of the Seventy, said:
Every person comes to earth as a unique individual. Similar threads may run in families, but each of us has a tapestry all our own. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “Each person in this life is endowed with those talents and capacities which his pre-earth life entitle him to receive. Some by obedience to law acquired one talent and some another.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. (1966–73), 1:688)
The Lord made it clear that it is not good enough for us simply to return to Him the talents He has given us. We are to improve upon and add to our talents. He has promised that if we multiply our talents we will receive eternal joy.
In modern revelation the Lord affirmed the principles in this parable: “But with some I am not well pleased, for … they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. … Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.” (D&C 60:2, 13) – (Ronald A. Rasband, “Parables of Jesus: The Parable of the Talents,” Ensign, Aug 2003, 32–35)
We, as the children of God, were sent to earth to grow. We grow by developing the skills and talents given us by God in order that we might help others to develop their talents and remember who they are.
Learn what yours are, develop them until you have become the master of those talents and then use them to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Above all, acknowledge Jesus Christ in your successes, for all our talents and abilities come from God. As you do so, the day will arrive where you too will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Filed under: Full-Time Missionary, Missionary Training Center
I just flew home from Utah, completely exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Yesterday was one of the highlights of my life – I put my first of four sons in the Missionary Training Center, heretoafter known as the MTC. I knew it was going to be both brutal and fantastic. I came prepared with a purse full of tissue and a prayer in my heart that I would be strong and not collapse in a heap of pitiful tears in front of my son and the entire MTC.
When my husband, son and I drove up to the MTC we were excited to see scores of soon-to-be-missionaries and their families pouring onto the grounds. We later learned that 256 missionaries were to enter that day. We followed the signs to the special parking area which was reserved for new missionary families. There was a palpable air of excitement.
My son said, “This seems so unreal!”
His big day had finally arrived. We had talked about it, prayed about, saved for it, and even sung about it his entire life and now it was finally happening.
We stopped at the cross-walk with a few other families and I couldn’t help but ask, “Elders! Where are you going?”
We quickly met one young man going to Washington DC, another going to Switzerland, and another going to Bulgaria. At the other side of the cross-walk we played cameraman for each other next to the famous Missionary Training Center sign. Every time another missionary walked by I’d shout out the same question and get an excited “Hong Kong! Brazil! New York!” It was so exciting to watch the ranks of God’s newest army file in.
It has been 23 years since I entered the MTC myself, headed for the Spain, Madrid mission. So many wonderful feelings came flooding back into my mind and I wished I could join these new missionaries and do it all over again. What a privilege it was to be a full-time missionary for the Lord.
The instant we stepped foot on MTC soil we were greeted by at least a dozen smiling volunteers, directing the way we should go. We first dropped off my son’s luggage in the designated spot and took more pictures next to each landmark we deemed important and/or entertaining, such as the famous “Missionaries on Bikes” statue.
We then walked to the front doors of the MTC where signs directed the parents to enter one door and the missionaries to enter a different one. I stopped dead in my tracks, saying, “Wait! We have to say goodbye already?”
Another volunteer kindly explained the separation was only for 30 seconds so the missionaries could register and get their name tags. I was relieved and grateful I didn’t have to use my year’s supply of tissue hidden in my purse yet.
Once inside, my son was given his first official name tag with a big red dot on it, indicating to all within a square mile that he was a “Greenie,” in other words, he was a brand new missionary! We were told that it was tradition for a loved one to put his name tag on. The thought of that significant deed was too emotional for me to handle so I let my husband do the honors while I caught the historical moment on video.
We wandered around the lobby taking pictures for a while and then finally went to the chapel just down the hall where some of those touching “Mormonad” commercials were playing…as if we weren’t teary-eyed enough already! Between commercials short slides were shown that shared interesting statistics about the MTC and missions around the world.
The chattering crowd quickly quieted down as the MTC 1st Counselor greeted us and began the meeting. I was doing great until he invited us to sing the traditional missionary hymn “Called To Serve.” That’s when the tissues first made their appearance. I remember singing that song in Spanish in the MTC so many years ago, surrounded by a sea of enthusiastic and humble missionaries who were preparing to go forth unto every nation. Everyone always sang in their mission language, resulting in an awesome “Day of Pentecost” sensation. My heart couldn’t handle the immense joy I felt to be able to bring my own son to this sacred place and have the same spiritual, life-changing experiences. What an honor it was to be there again in the midst of these fishers of men.
The MTC President, his wife, his counselor and his wife all spoke loving words of advice and comfort and then they showed us a sweet video of missionaries going all over the world to serve. The moment of separation finally arrived as the 1st Counselor suggested the wisdom of what he called “the Bandaid Technique” for saying goodbye: it’s less painful to do it quickly.
Many tears were shed and loving words spoken as we hugged our wonderful missionary good-bye. A true bitter-sweet moment. I’ve never been so proud of him as I was that moment. He was well-prepared and anxious to serve. Thoughts raced through my mind of when my son was first placed in my arms and I fell in love with his sweet little face. What a privilege it has been to be his mother and watch his life unfold to this very moment.
The MTC President shared a scripture with us that I will keep in my heart during the next two years. It is found in Doctrine and Covenants 6:20 which says
“Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.”
He assured us parents that as our missionary was leaving our arms, he was entering the arms of the Savior. There is no better place to be.
This blog is the second in a series of four. In the last blog, I suggested that finding a balance between too strict or too lenient parenting can be found in the words and examples of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Finding the balance is not only important for the development of our children, it’s pretty important for the mental health of us parents. We can watch what He does and then try (and try again) to use it with our own children.
The first piece of this parenting puzzle is knowledge. There are two basic things our Father in Heaven wants us to know before He gives us the next puzzle pieces of choice and responsibility. They are:
1. The Target – Where We are Going
2. The Rules of the Game – How to Get There
1. The Target
Our Father in Heaven helps us “begin with the end in mind” as Steven Covey says. He gives us a vision of our end-state of life and tells us what the point of life is to be.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. )Moses 1:39)
He wants us back with Him. He wants to share all that He has with His children. He then tells us who we are, so we aren’t completely overwhelmed and unbelieving that this is possible.
For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. (Acts 17:28-29)
Jesus Christ then gives us a challenge – to strive for perfection.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
It seems impossible! But Christ’s challenge keeps our sites on a target that is unchanging. He knows that we will not achieve the goal of perfection in this life, but we can work toward it every day.
This knowledge gives us confidence and direction. With the end in site, the standard high, and knowledge of our divine heritage, we can move forward, knowing that we can do hard things and that the reward is fantastic.
The same principles can be used with our children. We can help them visualize the end-state, whether we are talking about eternal or earthly things. When my son was eight, he went for about a two-month spell where he wouldn’t get out of the car at his violin lesson. Frustrated, I asked his wonderful violin teacher what she would do in my shoes. Should I physically drag him inside? Should I go home? Should I give him a punishment or bribe him? This mother of seven talented children told me, “Tell him that he can become a wonderful, gifted musician and this is what it takes to get there.” I tried it. I can’t say that he immediately bounded out of the car with a smile on his face, but he started coming back into the lesson and is still taking the violin years later. Because he stuck with it, he can now see that he IS a talented and gifted musician. This knowledge now feeds his interest. Visualizing the end-state is powerful and motivating. It keeps the standard high and the target in sight.
As a simple example, it can work with vegetable eating. Instead of pleading, bribing or punishing, we can help our children see the end goal. “When you grow up you are going to be a big vegetable eater. Your body needs the vitamins and you will find some that you love as an adult. At dinner, our family takes one bite of everything, even if you’ve had it before and even if you don’t like it. We need to see if those vegetable taste buds have kicked in yet – you never know when they will.”
We can also help our children to know who they are – that they are children of God and should act accordingly:
“You are a child of God and your body is a miracle gift. Smoking and drugs destroys that amazing body.”
“You are so intelligent. I know you can think of better words to use.”
“You can be kind, even when he teases you. Heavenly Father knows you have the power to choose how you respond.”
We can use this same principle in our own families. We tell our children they are the “Honest Ahlstroms” and that integrity is a family heritage. We share stories of grandparents and other relatives who have shown honesty during hard times. If they lie, we are firm but positive. “You are an honest Ahlstrom. We expect more.” Their potential is greater than they have shown and the standard is still high.
2. Rules of the Game
Once we know where we are going, we really need help in knowing how to get there.
We have more pieces of knowledge so we know what to do:
1. Commandments and direction
2. A mentor
3. A personal guide
Commandments and Direction
First, He gives us commandments and direction. The children of Israel had the 10 Commandments and the Law of Moses. With Christ’s coming, we have a fulfillment of the law and a higher expectation. After Christ gives the Sermon on the Mount where He outlines a new gospel, He tells us how to achieve the end-state.
20 Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (3 Nephi 12:20)
The scriptures contain a complete outline of the law with blessings and punishments that come with keeping or breaking the law. Prophets and apostles give more information about the law and warnings when the people start breaking the laws. If we had no law, then any behavior would be acceptable – there would be no right or wrong. He knows that any behavior will not get us to our end goal. The commandments are a generous plan that gives us guardrails for life. They are the most efficient way back to the target.
There is no question that we need family law. Bedtimes, manners, chores, and other rules keep order and progression in place. We tell our children to stay out of the street to keep them safe. We feed them nutritious food to keep them healthy. We have them brush their teeth to avoid pain and decay.
But at the same time, we don’t need to come up with a rule and corresponding blessing or punishment for every behavior – we can point our children in so many instances to the perfect law of Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, He has given us the basic laws and then lets us practice law-giving in our own families.
In God’s wisdom, He knew that we would need an example to follow. We have a mentor in Jesus Christ. The only perfect individual to walk the earth, He shows us the way.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (Moroni 10:32)
Just as Christ is a mentor for us and for our children, our Creator also places us in families. You are your child’s mentor, no matter how intimidating that responsibility may be.
A Personal Guide
We may call it our conscience, intuition, our “gut feeling”, the light of Christ, or the gift of the Holy Ghost. All of humanity is given the gift to known good from evil. (2 Nephi 2:5)
With this innate knowledge of right and wrong, there can be no plausible deniability that we did wrong because we didn’t know better. Kids seem to have an uncanny sense of right and wrong. They are the first to call out unfair treatment.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as the Mormons, we believe that the Holy Ghost can speak to all of humanity. We also believe that in order to receive the opportunity for constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, we must be baptized and confirmed, Then we must stay obedient and worthy to keep this magnificent gift.
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
- and –
32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32)
Whew. When our Father in Heaven gave us the ability to choose, He first prepared us well. This is a stunning amount of knowledge –
- We are headed back to live eternally with God
- We are His children
- We have commandments to help us return
- We have a mentor in the Savior
- We can have a personal guide in the Holy Ghost
Talk about an amazing support system. Any other thoughts? I am sure that you have many more ideas and examples of knowledge given and used in your own families. We would all love to hear about your experiences with knowledge, so please comment if you would like.
Before we move to the next piece of the puzzle – choice, we need to first see that it is not given in a vacuum. Knowledge is first given to help the choices go well.