This week we celebrate Independence Day. It’s known for BBQs and fireworks but is really so much more. The Declaration of Independence – the signing of which we celebrate on this holiday – was divinely inspired! The men who wrote and signed it were honorable men chosen by God. The events leading up to it were prophesied of in the Book of Mormon, and latter-day prophets have affirmed these truths.
In the April 1898 General Conference, President Wilford Woodruff said, “Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men.” In this same address he went on to describe how the signers of the Declaration, along with George Washington and others, appeared to him and insisted that their temple ordinances be completed, which they immediately were. President Woodruff stated, “Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.”
This is simply marvelous to me. We are living in a country whose founding documents were inspired by our Father in Heaven. The Founders were such noble spirits that they were allowed to appear to a prophet of God and personally request their temple ordinances be done. This can only mean that there is a divine purpose for the United States of America, and we, as citizens, play an important role. It is our responsibility to preserve the freedom Heavenly Father established here, just as it is our responsibility to help spread the gospel that He restored here.
It was a large gathering. John calls it “a great multitude.” They had come to listen to the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, hoping to see another miracle. They were not disappointed. Christ had the 5,000 sit on the grassy ground. He took five barley loaves and two small fishes offered by a lad, blessed and broke them, and the disciples distributed the baskets of food to the crowd. When all were filled, the remnants were gathered up, 12 baskets full. John records that those who witnessed the miracle then said, “this is of truth that prophet that should come into the world.” 
The next day the multitude followed after Him. When they confronted Him about why He had left, He answered that they were more concerned with the food that He had provided than His message. Then came the beautiful sermon on the symbolism of the manna from heaven to the Children of Israel.
“I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead…I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever…”
The crowd was mostly frustrated with this teaching. It was to be spiritually discerned, but they could not receive it. When they realized that their physical need, their bodily appetite, was not to be satisfied again, they lost interest. John sadly records,
“from that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” Continue reading →
Back in the old days, they had a welfare session of conference where they taught principles of self-reliance. We no longer have a “ full session” like this, but we still talk A LOT about self-reliance. Instead of food storage, garden growing, and homemaking skills, today our leaders remind us to stay out of debt, get a good education, and upgrade computer and work skills.
We live in a different world, but it isn’t all that different.
First, they were called Work Days because the sisters would get together regularly to work toward a common goal. In the early days, in the Salt Lake Valley, the sisters literally worked together to make items to be sold in their consignment shops. They also learned how to buy, sell, and trade on the Stock Market (because of the wheat they were growing and managing).
Later, the name changed to Homemaking as mothers were looking at ways to make their homes better places. They canned food items together, rolled bandages to be sent off to war, and took classes on nursing, well-baby care, social services, and gospel study.
Later still, these meetings were called Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment meetings, shortened to Enrichment Night. As the world changed, it became more desirable to add intellectual enrichment to a woman’s life. Over the years, however, the objective was always to provide security to a woman for herself, her family, and her home.
All of these meetings had one purpose: to bless and strengthen families.
Sister Smith (former Relief Society General President) spoke at this Welfare meeting and listed these four considerations:
Are we as Relief Society officers motivating and actually training the sisters in the necessary skills of family preparedness, and then helping them to put these into practice?
Are we counseling among ourselves and with our priesthood leaders so that adequate and realistic plans for home storage and production are being developed and carried out?
Do our homemaking mini class plans respond to the various needs of the women in our ward?
Are we helping the sisters know how to estimate needs and replenish their home production and storage program?
This list can easily be applied to today. Listen to our most recent directive listed in Handbook 2:
“To supplement the instruction in Sunday meetings, Relief Society sisters may participate in additional meetings. These may include service, classes, projects, conferences, and workshops. In these meetings, sisters learn and accomplish the charitable and practical responsibilities of the Relief Society. They learn and practice skills that will help them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen their families and make their homes centers of spiritual strength, and help those in need. They learn and apply principles of provident living and spiritual and temporal self-reliance. They also increase in sisterhood and unity as they teach one another and serve together.”
The handbook even offers a list of the very most important things we should be focusing on in order to take care of our families.
Marriage and Family
Self-reliance and provident living
Temple and family history
Sharing the gospel
All of these can be categorized as topics having to do with the welfare of the family. The handbook additionally invites Relief Society presidencies to decide how often to hold any or all of these activity meetings. In other words, meetings aren’t just monthly anymore. They can be weekly, bi-weekly, on-going, etc. And many different classes can be going on during any given week; all according to the needs and interests of the sisters in the ward.
Church programs come and go, but Relief Society has always been in the business of strengthening families and saving souls. I wonder how much stronger our families would be if we organized classes that got us talking more openly about our struggles with self-reliance. Really working to overcome the pressures of the world is what true self-reliance is. Sadly, the world is enslaved by monetary and other debt more than ever before. Sis. Smith warned,
“We have been told that the gaining of this independence will come to Church members only in proportion to their obedience to the word of the Lord in this matter. Obedience brings security and self-sufficiency. It breeds confidence and a peaceful attitude.”
“There are many people in the Church today who have failed to do, and continue to argue against doing, the things that are requested and suggested by this great organization [the Church].”
Nothing has changed between his day and ours. He continues:
“And so my feeling is today that we emphasize these two scriptures:“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.” And the other: “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? … We talk about it, we listen to it, but sometimes we do not do the things which the Lord says. So we would do well to listen to what we have been told and to follow it explicitly.”
At a recent family party, I was thoroughly entertained by 2 year old, Joey*. Joey is always thinking, and his little legs work even faster than his imagination. With a pool, trampoline, and several cousins around, there was lots for little Joey to do…. luckily, Joey’s dad, Brian*, was always there…. watching, protecting and teaching his darling little boy.
You see, Brian was quite a bit like Joey when he was young. Always thinking, always moving. He knows what is in his little son’s mind because he used to think the exact, same, imaginative things! So, when Joey starts heading for the deep end of the pool with a rock in his right hand and a towel in the other, Brian easily foresees a scene where the rock gets thrown, the towel gets wet, and Joey ends up with a scar across his forehead….. luckily, Brian can still move faster than his son and another crisis is successfully avoided.
The only real crisis occurred at the end of the day when Joey was determined to head to the pool instead of the car. In full meltdown mode, Joey asserted that he wanted to stay and he made a mad dash to the pool. Brian’s strong arms quickly scooped Joey up and carried him to the mini-van where the little boy soon fell asleep.
Joey’s antics were entertaining to say the least. I left the party with a great respect for Brian and his endless dedication to teach and protect his little boy.
Oftentimes, children don’t want the help of their fathers. They want to adventure off on their own and experience life on their own terms. They have little understanding of the natural consequences that follow certain actions and they interpret dad’s laws as “unfair” or “mean”.
Just as there are natural consequences to Joey’s rock hitting a swimmer’s head, there are natural consequences…. good and bad…. to all that we do.
The laws and commandments that our Heavenly Father provides will lead His children to good consequences while helping us avoid the bad. Just as Brian can’t change the law of gravity in order to avoid injury from Joey’s rock, Heavenly Father is bound to obey the same natural laws that He teaches us to obey.
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” [D&C 130:20–21]
I am sure that there are some who imagine that we have a vengeful Heavenly Father who writes laws for the sole purpose of stumping our ability to receive a perfect score on this test of life. Sometimes it’s hard to take our little corner of understanding and get a clear picture of what our Father in Heaven has in store for us. We tend to be like Joey and lash out against a father who wants to protect us from the natural consequences that come from falling into the deep end of the pool.
Why do we not trust our Heavenly Father and follow all of His laws with exactness? Surely the laws that He shares with us will bring good consequences and result in joy. Why do we think that freedom comes by running away from our Father?
President Gordon B. Hinkley taught, “True freedom lies in obedience to the counsels of God. It was said of old that “the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light.” (Prov. 6:23.) The gospel is not a philosophy of repression, as so many regard it. It is a plan of freedom that gives discipline to appetite and direction to behavior. Its fruits are sweet and its rewards are liberal.…”
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1.)
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17.)
One of the greatest blessings that the Lord has given His sons to help them understand the love and wisdom of our Father in Heaven, is the opportunity to be an earthly father. There is no other way to learn the depths of love, sorrow, joy, and concern than becoming a parent. From the moment your child is born, you feel an instant love and connection that binds you forever. Watching your child struggle with an illness will bring you greater worry, concern and humility that you have ever experienced before becoming a parent. Likewise, in watching your child overcome adversity, you will experience joy and gratitude that is far greater than anything the world can offer. These are the gifts that come from fatherhood.
As fathers experience life through their child’s eyes, they can get a better sense of how our Father in Heaven sees His children. They better understand His love and His desire to see us obtain all that He has. This is why fathers work so hard to provide and protect their children. This is why they take their job of presiding very seriously. Fathers know what is at stake if they fail to teach their children of the natural consequences that follow every action.
So, here’s to Brian, and other fathers around the world. May they find the strength to keep saving their children from the deep end of the pool and falling rocks. May they continue teaching right from wrong. And warn against things like excessive debt, poor eating habits, improper dating, laziness, too much screen time, etc., etc., etc.,…. not because they want to be mean, but because they have the perspective to see the natural consequences that follow each action. We thank you!
Raising a Sin-Resistant Generation in our era is not easy. So much of what is logical and true has been corrupted. Our children are left to sift through half-truths and confusing lines of reasoning to find their way in this world.
Covenant keeping mothers would love to remove all corruption from the path our children have to take, but we realize that we cannot do it alone. Gratefully, there have been three, recent General Conference talks from President Russell M. Nelson, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, and Sister Joy D. Jones that each lay out inspired directions that will help mothers raise their children as a Sin-Resistant Generation.
From President Nelson’s talk, we find this list (bullet points added):
1- “We need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and
2- Who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world.
3- We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation;
4- Women who know how to receive personal revelation,
5- Who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment;
6- Women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families;
7- Women who teach fearlessly.”
8- “We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and
9- Who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation.
10- We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms.
11- 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.
12- We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.”
The battle rages on as we fight against worldly evil. Yes, the world fights dirty, and we must always be on our guard, but even more important than defending truth is knowing Jesus Christ, for He is the cure.
The Savior asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” They answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:13-16).
As we fight the adversary and the evil doings of this world, we cannot forget the reason why we fight. It is to proclaim the Son of God, even Jesus Christ.
Back in the 70’s, clearly our prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, knew what we would face forty years later. As I read these conference talks, I am amazed at how applicable they are for our day.
“We, the members of the Church, proclaim our liberty and our renewal of our faith and our assurance that we do have control in our own families and can rear our children to love truth and to be happy in the deathless dignity of man, governed by the eternal and moral laws of God.”
What a rallying cry!
He goes on to warn us that “the enemies of faith know no God but force.” Indeed, at every turn, those who choose morality are bombarded with others who steal liberty, demand compromise and cry false judgment.
But don’t despair! Continue holding onto your families with your Family Home Evenings, scripture reading, and prayers. Teach the true doctrine our Heavenly Father has given us. And stay true to that truth.
In his talk, Pres. Kimball reminds us what the full cycle of human life is. The natural order is
“… childhood, adolescence, youth, parenthood, middle age and the age of grandchildren. … Only by birth can any of these come into being. Only by the natural cycle of life can the great progressive joys of mankind be reached. … Any social system which prevents the individual from pursuing the normal cycle of life … defeats the divine order of the universe and lays the basis of all sorts of social problems.”
It is my understanding that all of us chose to come down to earth to prove our worthiness and desire to Come Unto Jesus Christ. We must have known there would be some sacrifice involved because we knew we would be given weakness to overcome. “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble” (Ether 12:27).
Our weakness is a catalyst for humility and sacrifice. And these two qualities ironically are our greatest tools. This is how we call upon the Lord to fight our battles who will ultimately come off victor. And make no mistake, every one of us has been blessed with weakness so that we can use these tools.
Being humble and sacrificing our will to Jesus Christ are not only the antidote to every weakness we hold dear, they are also the antidote for wickedness. For those who stubbornly hold onto their weakness and wickedness, He waits lovingly and patiently. For those who struggle to let go of both, He lovingly encourages. All of us can be sensitive, loving, patient, and encouraging because we are all stubborn and we all struggle. But ultimately, through Jesus Christ, we can release our weakness and become free.
Unfortunately, humility and sacrifice are seen by the world as weakness. The world would tell you to hide your weakness or flaunt your weakness into acceptable behavior. It will never tell you to sacrifice your weakness to the Lord so He can make you a better person.
It is our weakness (or dependency) when given to the Lord that allows the Lord to win our battles for us. So we have no cause to fear when we give ourselves to Him in our weakness.
“…for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Pres. Kimball stood at the pulpit and declared:
“There are a half a hundred special witnesses in this room this day. There are tens of thousands of [men and women] under the sound of my voice, all of whom would, in one great chorus, answer that question–’Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
I add my own voice to that chorus.
Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Jesus Christ is the cure for the ills of the world. And because of Him, I will be made whole.
Consider the story of the rich young man, as found in the Book of Mark:
“17 ¶ And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:17-22)
Sometimes I wonder, “Am I even as good as the rich young man?” I am neither rich, nor young, nor a man. I do not have wealthy possessions and I do not live in the time of the Savior. Yet I don’t think I have spent enough time in my life asking if I am keeping all the commandments and what more do I need to do. And if I asked would I do as bidden or go away sorrowing?
Repeatedly in our current culture, I hear the phrase, “You are enough.” The scriptures say things more like:
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)
“O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27)
“12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;” (Philippians 2:12-15)
There is work that I still need to do before I am enough. My salvation has not yet been worked out. I need to obey more. I need to repent more. I need to perfectly keep all my covenants. I need to gain knowledge. I need to despise not, doubt not, and hearken more. I need to live so as to always have the Holy Ghost with me as promised in the Sacrament prayer. I need to continually ask the question of the rich young man: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” And then, unlike the rich young man, I must do as commanded.
If I want to receive eternal life, I cannot afford to waste away my days believing I am enough or that I have done enough. I must choose not to be satisfied with where I am today. To be satisfied is to stop progressing.
In my head, I often compare the phrase, “You are enough” to the hymn More Holiness Give Me. This is my desire.
More holiness give me,
More strivings within,
More patience in suff’ring,
More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Savior,
More sense of his care,
More joy in his service,
More purpose in prayer.
More gratitude give me,
More trust in the Lord,
More pride in his glory,
More hope in his word,
More tears for his sorrows,
More pain at his grief,
More meekness in trial,
More praise for relief.
More purity give me,
More strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains,
More longing for home.
More fit for the kingdom,
More used would I be,
More blessed and holy–
More, Savior, like thee.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the true definition of truth. Is there only one truth or can anyone make up their own truth?
The definition we find in the scriptures is when the apostle John quotes Jesus, who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and later Jesus states, “The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me” (D&C 93:26). We also learn that “truth was not created or made” (D&C 93:29), which means it cannot be changed or modified; it is absolute.
The people of our day are doing their darndest to change truth, and I don’t believe it’s possible, yet this is the great dilemma of our day.
So, here’s my question: Do we shame, squirm, or stand for truth?
Every June, the LGBT community and its supporters engage in a month-long celebration of “Gay Pride Month”, filling social media with rainbow profile pictures, flying rainbow flags, and gay pride festivals and parades. Support for same-sex marriage is visible even with some of those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With its legalization in June 2015, like those in the Book of Mormon, we observed “that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws … which the Lord commanded … and they saw that their laws had become corrupted” (Helaman 4:22) and “this was alarming to the people of the church, and also to all those who had not been drawn away after the persuasions” (Alma 2:3).
Some members of the Church have also been “drawn away after the persuasions” of the world and support same-sex marriage. However, they may not fully recognize that their support for it inadvertently supports serious sexual sin. These relationships are (and always will be) incompatible with the doctrine and standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To this point, we may be asking ourselves, “So why is this particular sin supported by more members of the Church than any other type of sin? Is there any other sexual sin that’s supported like this one? What is it about this one that many seem to be so comfortable with supporting and affirming, but not others?” The answer to these questions is sobering: gay marriage has become a protected class of sin.
Will the controversy of modesty ever end? Not likely. However, those of us who have chosen wisely will simply continue holding up the torch beckoning others to join. We have come to know that “our decisions determine our destiny” (Thomas S. Monson, “Believe, Obey, and Endure,” May 2012). “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him. We will stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places.”