Robert D. Hales has been in poor health for many years, yet he keeps bouncing back and giving us sweet, sustaining, powerful talks. I bet he wishes he could move on, but this is his willing sacrifice, as a true disciple of the Lord, to endure to the very end.
We don’t talk about sacrifice much these days. There are simply too many ways to avoid it now. But God requires sacrifice from each one of us in order to enter His kingdom. I think Elder Hales was gently reminding us of this when he made these statements:
“There were many who claimed to be righteous in one or another aspect of their lives. They practiced what I have called selective obedience.”
“Faith is a catalyst. Without works, without virtuous living, our faith is without power to activate discipleship.”
“Now is the time to recommit ourselves to being His disciples with all diligence.”
I have often thought of the contrast between Jesus Christ’s purpose in life to my own. How did He stay focused on His mission without getting sidetracked repeatedly? How did He not want to have, or do, anything that was His very own? How did He always think “my Father’s will” before “my will” in everything He did?
I was pretty excited as Elder Holland started out his 2017 April General Conference talk with “There is sunshine in my soul today” because as a generally happy person, I can relate to that; it’s easy to write about. However, as he immediately went on, he took me more and more out of my comfort zone when he talked about times it is hard to “smile and [feel the] ‘peaceful happy moments.’” There are so many things I could write about in relation to his talk: depression, suicide, unrealistic beauty expectations, stereotypes, war, being single in the Church, being childless in the Church, even times when we should keep sacred things to ourselves, but I’m not going to write about those today. The part that struck me were Elder Holland’s words about caring for the poor, which particularly made me think more about the homeless. I agree that with the staggering “economic inequality in the world, I feel guilty singing” of the blessings which I have.
A goal of the Church is to help people become self-reliant so that they can care for themselves and those around them. However, if people are unable to become self-reliant, we still need to do something to help. The First Presidency recently said it doesn’t matter how people became homeless, but our willingness to help them says something about us: “The causes [of homelessness] are varied, and solutions are often difficult, but whether homelessness stems from conflict, poverty, mental illness, addiction or other sources, our response to those in need defines us as individuals and communities.”Continue reading →
This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday morning Welfare session of October 1975.
General Conference has changed much over the years. One such change has been the Welfare session, which used to be held in the early hours of Sunday morning, before the actual Sunday morning session. It was typically attended by both male and female leadership where temporal issues were addressed. This session was discontinued in the 1980s.
But because this week we are talking about welfare, I thought I would run through the fascinating history of this spiritual–though temporal–law. It was during the years of World War I, the Depression, and World War II that the church seriously focused on the welfare needs of its people. The Relief Society played an important role in its development.
In his April 2017 General Conference talk, titled, Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives, President Nelson teaches that if we want to know how to be healed and receive salvation we must learn about Jesus Christ and how to be like Him. To receive those promises, there are things we must do. In Doctrine and Covenants section 88, Christ counsels, “draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63)
I love the word “diligently” in this scripture. Diligently means action marked by persevering, painstaking effort.
President Nelson is earnestly trying to lead us to Christ. He gave counsel in what we can do to seek Christ diligently.
Earlier in the year, President Nelson invited the young adults of the Church to diligently search the standard works for all of the words and works of Christ. He continued that theme during General Conference:
“Today I would like to speak about how we can draw into our lives the power of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
We begin by learning about Him. ‘It is impossible for [us] to be saved in ignorance. ’The more we know about the Savior’s ministry and mission—the more we understand His doctrine and what He did for us—the more we know that He can provide the power that we need for our lives.”
Elder Nelson points members of the Church to the scriptures. He said that he spent time reading the references about Jesus Christ from all of the subsections of the Topical Guide. He counsels us to do the same as well as to read the Living Christ.
Pointing us to the man, Jesus, President Nelson corrected word usage that has become common in the Church.
“It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases,” he said, “such as ‘the Atonement’ or ‘the enabling power of the Atonement’ or ‘applying the Atonement’ or ‘being strengthened by the Atonement.’”
He continued by explain the problem with shortcut phrases, “These expressions,” he declared, “present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Where do we go to receive a remission of sin? We go to the Savior, Himself. Christ declared:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
As a second witness to those words, President Nelson declared, “The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him.”
Seeking out all of the scriptures about the Savior is seeking diligently to know the Savior.
In addition to searching through the words and works of Christ in the scriptures, President Nelson continued his counsel us on how to diligently seek the Savior. He asked us to, “stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world”, “make sacred covenants and keep those covenants with precision”, “seek for ways to keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world so there will be nothing blocking [our] access to the Savior’s power,” and to reach up to the Savior in faith.
Diligently doing these things, Elder Nelson declares, will allow “His [Jesus Christ’s] power will flow into you.”
“And then,” he says, “you will understand the deep meaning of words we sing in the hymn ‘The Spirit of God’:
The Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding. …
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst.”
President Nelson concluded that, “the gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with His power, which is available to every earnestly seeking daughter or son of God. It is my testimony that when we draw His power into our lives, both He and we will rejoice.”
This month, our Relief Society Visiting Teaching message has been on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Taking Sis. Burton’s challenge, I read and studied it and was really happy to learn some wonderful things.
Simply put, the oath and covenant of the priesthood (found in D&C 84:33-44) is a two-way promise; that when ALL faithful members willingly receive the priesthood (and all its responsibilities) Heavenly Father will, in turn, give us ALL that He hath. Read on to discover how this involves women.
We are facing one of the most complex challenges of our generation: How do we stay firm and grounded in the doctrine and standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while simultaneously loving family members who are living lifestyles that include serious sexual sin? How do we lead with love and compassion while being loyal to the commandments, warning against sin and not condoning actions? How do we teach children and youth who are finding it increasingly difficult to discern sin and sinful behavior when their peers and the media say it is acceptable and in fact, very good? And, using Elder Holland’s words, “How do we distinguish between the sin and the sinner?” These concerns and questions are in the hearts and minds of many members of the Church right now. They are ones that prophets and apostles have answered time and again, but are so often misunderstood that they are in need of frequent repetition. Continue reading →
In closing the 1975 General Conference, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball stated some personal goals that he would go home to pursue:
“While sitting here, I have made up my mind that when I go home from this conference this night there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through with conference.”
We too have recently concluded another wonderful conference where so many thoughts and ideas have run through our heads. Maybe you think, as I do, that hope comes from having a desire for personal improvement? First of all, I am humbled to hear a prophet say he has his own work to improve, and second, I am eager to learn so that I also might overcome my weaknesses in order to be a stronger servant of the Lord’s. That is where my hope is, that I can work toward being useful to the Lord as I work through my weaknesses.
In fact, that’s why I enjoy this General Conference Odyssey so much. What our prophets said 40, 150, 2000, 3500 years ago is always going to be self-improving and worth pondering. The Plan, set by our Heavenly Father, was set in motion to make us better people in order to fulfill the purposes of our creation. We work toward obedience and Jesus Christ carries us home; it’s that simple.
Some of the highlights of the 2017 conference reminded me that I need to practice certain behavior better. Sis. Bonnie H. Cordon quoted Amy Wright, who discovered a strange paradox. Continue reading →
Two years ago this Easter, I lost a very special friend to an unkind and excruciating death because of cancer. In the few short months between her diagnosis and her death, our friendship grew even deeper in its spiritual and eternal scope. We shared deeply our testimonies and our feelings about our Savior, Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father and the glorious Plan of Happiness. We laughed and we cried. When the final weeks turned into days, our visits took more time, but our conversations were no longer. With my friend too fragile to speak, we would just hold hands and sit together. Continue reading →
When I was a teenager there was a 7-Eleven convenience store seemingly on every corner. You couldn’t drive a couple of miles without passing one of their establishments beckoning you in for a Slurpee. They were everywhere. Back then I had no idea that each and every time I saw their green, orange and red sign there was a message there for me, a spiritual reminder hidden in plain sight.
Do you remember 7-Eleven’s slogan? If you’re my age you certainly do. It is often cited in the advertising industry as one of the most memorable slogans ever……
“Oh, Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven!”
Who knew that there in the store’s name, signage, and slogan was a message of spiritual encouragement, an invitation to remember the marvelous atonement performed by our Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m sure the company has no idea what their advertising is helping me, and soon you, to remember.
Nestled midway through the Book of Mormon, is the record of a once-rebellious young man – who after full repentance and a total conversion to the gospel of the foretold Savior of the World, Jesus Christ – was transformed into the mighty government and prophet leader Alma.
In chapter seven of Alma is recorded his teachings to the people of Gideon concerning the Saviors birth, His mission – culminating in the fulfillment of the atonement by His bearing the sins of the world and loosing the bands of death – and the promise that those who repent, are baptized, and keep the commandments of God will inherit eternal life. After his own life experience, Alma speaks with power, and I’m sure great gratitude of the miracle of the Savior’s gift of the Atonement. Listen to his words: