Tuesday, January 16, 2018

President Nelson

I have missed studying conference talks about the life of the Savior as I did during December and discussing them online with a group.  Or discussing conference talks with a Facebook group for 40 days after October conference.  I have still read several conference talks in January, but when I don't have a structure for my reading, it doesn't feel quite as meaningful and I'm also more likely to skip it on busy days.  So I'm creating a structure for myself. 

Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson died a little over a week ago.  His funeral was on Friday.  He touched countless lives, including mine.  I mean, I never met him personally (although Michelle did get to shake his hand once).  But his teachings and his life and his biography have impacted me.

 President Russell M. Nelson held a special worldwide broadcast this morning (1/16/18).  He will serve as our next prophet.  He selected Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring to serve as his counselors.  Each of them spoke for a few minutes.  I loved their messages...I was working during the broadcast, so I watched it tonight.  So yesterday I decided  that it would be a great idea to go back and study some of his former talks.  A couple of them I have reread pretty recently, so I am not necessarily going to go in order.  I'm going to read recent talks that sound inspiring to me each day and share my thoughts here. 

Sustaining the Prophets  (How appropriate for today...1/16/18)
"Imagine the privilege the Lord has given us of sustaining His prophet, whose counsel will be untainted, unvarnished, unmotivated by any personal aspiration, and utterly true!"

"My dear brothers and sisters, if the Restoration did anything, it shattered the age-old myth that God had stopped talking to His children. Nothing could be further from the truth. A prophet has stood at the head of God’s Church in all dispensations, from Adam to the present day.4 Prophets testify of Jesus Christ—of His divinity and of His earthly mission and ministry.5 We honor the Prophet Joseph Smith as the prophet of this last dispensation. And we honor each man who has succeeded him as President of the Church."

"Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us."

"Twenty-six years before he became President of the Church, then-Elder George Albert Smith said: “The obligation that we make when we raise our hands … is a most sacred one. It does not mean that we will go quietly on our way and be willing that the prophet of the Lord shall direct this work, but it means … that we will stand behind him; we will pray for him; we will defend his good name, and we will strive to carry out his instructions as the Lord shall direct.”

"The living Lord leads His living Church!12 The Lord reveals His will for the Church to His prophet."

"President Monson continued: “Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] assures [us] that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm.”

What a wonderful system...and what a tremendous blessing to know that the living Lord leads His living Church!

A Plea To My Sisters (October 2015)
Inspiring Quotes:
Speaking of President Packer and Elder Perry's wives at the loss of these two great men, Elder Nelson says, "Through their husbands’ final hours and continuing to the present day, these stalwart women have shown the strength and courage that covenant-keeping women always demonstrate.2 It would be impossible to measure the influence that such women have, not only on families but also on the Lord’s Church, as wives, mothers, and grandmothers; as sisters and aunts; as teachers and leaders; and especially as exemplars and devout defenders of the faith."  Do I show strength and courage?  Sometimes I feel pretty weak and fearful.  It's so much harder for me to truly act in loving ways consistently than I feel like it should be.  But I do believe that women have such an impact on others.

He quoted President Kimball's prophesy, given in 1979:  "Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world … will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world."

Then President Nelson said, "You are the women he foresaw! Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world, along with their families, to the Church in unprecedented numbers!6
We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God!"  This is the kind of woman I want to be.  Those are the character traits I want to possess:  virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith.
I love President Nelson's story of his wife Dantzel.  He was discouraged after an unsuccessful heart surgery.  He cried all night.  He thought he'd never perform another surgery.  But his wife told him he needed to get up and start learning more.  Otherwise, other people would have to study and learn what he already knew.  And so he did.  And he went on to perform many successful surgeries, including one that saved President Kimball's life.

"My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration."
"Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation.12 We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve."

Monday, January 15, 2018

Parents Visit

My mom and Mike spent the weekend here.  They arrived Thursday and left today.  We got to spend some time with them each day except Sunday because my mom was pretty sick on Sunday.  They looked at some houses while they were here, but didn't find any they liked.  But they are impressed with their real estate agent and I think if they are willing to extend their search into some other areas, they will be able to find something they will be happy with.  We will be pretty excited to have them closer!

Today we went to lunch at 5 Guys before they headed to the airport.  Alfredo had to work but he met us for lunch. 

I feel very blessed to have such wonderful parents.  Sara talked to my mom for a few minutes on Thursday and she said on Sunday that my mom seems just as kind and happy and wonderful as me.  (If I'm even half as wonderful as my mom, then that is quite a compliment.  My mom is such a Christlike person.) 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How Can I Know My Heavenly Father

This, essentially, is the lesson I taught the YW (girls age 12-18) at church about God.  There were a few parts that went a little off script as I felt prompted to share slightly different things. 

There is a Jewish proverb that tells of a man looking into the distance and seeing a blur.  As it got closer, he could tell it was a man.  As it got a little closer, he saw that it was a neighbor.  As the man drew near, he realized it was his friend.  The message is that the farther away you are from a person, the more sterile and unrecognizable they become.  So it is with God.  Unfortunately, much of the world envisions God as some unknowable, unrecognizable force rather than as a loving Father.  We are so very blessed to have the knowledge of God that we have.

Two quotes that help me recognize and remember how well we know/knew our Father:
 “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us.” ---President Benson

Brigham Young said, "When you . . . see our Father, you will see a being with whom you have long been acquainted, and He will receive you into His arms, and you will be ready to fall into His embrace and kiss Him. . . . You will be so glad and joyful. . . . When you are qualified and purified, . . . you can endure the glory of eternity."

Going along with that quote, I am listening to a talk on CD by John Lund.  He said that God walked and talked with us for thousands of years.  All things are present for him...so while we have a veil of forgetfulness placed upon us, He knows and remembers everything about us because our past, present and future are before Him. (See for example D& C 38:2)  I don't know how to explain that or even really understand that, but the scriptures teach that we can't comprehend all the things which God can comprehend. For example, we read in Mosiah 4:9:  "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."

Why is it important for us to know our Heavenly Father?  Hopefully the girls will have some answers to this question.
Here are a couple of my answers:

John 17:3 "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

*Knowing Heavenly Father helps us to make better decisions, makes it easier to do what is right.

Jeremiah 29:

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
I read a BYU devotional given by a professor at BYU, Andrew Skinner.  He quotes the Prophet Joseph Smith who said: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God” (Teachings, 345).

 Then Brother Skinner explains,"In other words, one of the foundation stones of the restored gospel is a knowledge of what kind of being God actually is. But not only do we need to understand what kind of being God is, we must come to know God. In the same sermon from which we just quoted, the Prophet Joseph further stated, “If any man does not know God, . . . he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle” 

Brother Skinner also said, "Thus everything of sacred significance connected with our future rests on both our coming to know about God the Eternal Father and, ultimately, our coming to know Him. “If men do not comprehend the character of God,” said Joseph Smith, “they do not comprehend themselves” (Teachings, 343). God and men are of the same divine, eternal species, and if we do not comprehend the nature of God, we cannot appreciate our divine parentage nor the very real potential we possess to become like our heavenly parents."

Elder Robert D. Hales said, "Without God, life would end at the grave and our mortal experiences would have no purpose.  Growth and progress would be temporary, accomplishment without value, challenges without meaning.  There would be no ultimate right and wrong and no moral responsibility to care for one another as fellow children of God.
 Indeed, without God, there would be no moral or eternal life."

So for the rest of the time, I'd like to talk about what we know about God and how we can come to know Him better.

What characteristics does God have?  Specifically, in the scriptures, how is God described?  It helps me to think of my father and his best qualities to enumerate the qualities God might possess. 
I asked the Young Women to be prepared to share a scripture that described one or more characteristics of God.  I also had this list (many from the BYU talk by Brother Skinner) with a few verses.
*merciful (D &C 3:10)
 *gracious  (Exodus 34: 6   And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and graciouslongsuffering, and abundant in goodnessand truth,)

*slow to anger (Psalm 145: 8-9)
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

*abundant in goodness
*changes not (Mormon 9:19   "And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.")
*just (Mosiah 29:12)
*God of truth, can not lie (Ether 3:12 "12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.")
*possesses all power and knowledge
*He is love.  (1 John 4:16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.)

*Study of General Conference talks and notes about God from these talks.  (Show poster. )  (Note:  As part of my study of General Conference in 2017, I wrote down every thing each speaker said about each member of the Godhead.  For October conference, I had 6 pages of notes about Heavenly Father!  I took my notes and reduced them to short phrases and created two posters of what we were taught about Heavenly Father.  I hung these up and asked girls which ones felt most meaningful to them.  I was impressed by how often speakers referred to His love for us.  I was also impressed that He knows our sorrows, discouragement, joys, etc.  I mean I knew these things, but it is powerful to be reminded of them.

So how can we come to know both about Him and come to know HIM?  At the beginning I shared that Jewish parable...the farther you are from a person, the more unrecognizable & unknowable they are.  So how do we get closer to God?  I was going to pass out small sections of Elder Hales' talk, Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ and ask each girl to find something in the talk that would help them better come to know Heavenly Father and be prepared to share it.  But we were short on time, and I didn't feel like that was what the spirit wanted me to do.  So I just asked them to share their ideas of how to come closer to God.  They shared several ideas and I shared a couple.

* Study the scriptures.
* Study teachings of prophets.
*Pray to have the Holy Ghost testify of the Father. 
*Attend the temple.
*Attend church, partake of the sacrament.

*Keep the commandments.  (John 7:17  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether
 I speak of myself.)  (Also see 1 John 2:3-5:  "

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.)

What a tremendous blessing to know that God lives!  I challenged them to determine a way to come to know God better.  Maybe you want to make your prayers more meaningful.  Maybe you want to reread some of the conference talks and pay closer attention to what prophets and apostles have taught about God.  Maybe you want to study the scriptures and pay attention to what they teach us about God.  Maybe there is a commandment that you struggle with, and you want to improve your obedience.  As you draw nearer to God, you are "walking in the meekness of His spirit" like our youth theme this year tells us to, and you will gain greater peace in Christ. 

I gave them a box of colored pencils with a quote from President Uchtdorf, "As we draw near to God, He will draw near to us."  I told them they can use these to study or their scriptures or to literally draw.  I love these young women so much!