Monthly Archives: July 2017

Latter-Day Saints Pay Attention to General Conference Warnings

This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday morning session of October 1976 conference.

 

I debated whether to put a colon after Latter-day Saints, or not. I opted for no colon.

 

Our family looks forward to General Conference twice a year. When the kids were small we played Bingo, prepared and delivered reports on General Authorities, and ate special meals that were reserved for General Conference weekend only.

 

With small children, it was hard to hear all of conference, but we made a point of reading them in the Ensign the following month. As the kids grew older, the following Monday we would talk about what was said and let our children lead the discussions (they were short).

 

Conference was exciting because we were going to hear from our favorite speakers. Everyone, including the very littlest, was taught to recognize the prophet. As the years go by, discussions focus more and more on what the prophet is telling us, because we know that what he says must be taken seriously. Not that his words have changed, but our hearts have.

 

As we all know, we have fifteen prophets. The senior member is our president and leader, and the one we revere as THE prophet, but his counselors and the twelve apostles speak with equal authority and our ears must be open to all they say.

 

Did our prophets know what we would face 40, 100, 170 years down the road? Yes, I believe they saw as Seers. And tried to warn us. But our listening skills have needed improvement.

 

Today, we understand that one of Satan’s greatest targets is getting us to break the law of chastity. He’s tried everything and succeeded in many different ways. I have read so many talks (so far while doing this General Conference Odyssey) warning us about morality. They knew! What we were in for! In the future of today!

 

President N. Eldon Tanner talked about the purpose of conference: that it is to give warning to the Saints. We all understand that committed Latter-day Saints pay attention to General Conference warnings.

 

I read a funny little post earlier this week that kind of made me laugh at its painful irony. It can be read here. The same idea was spoken forty-one years ago by our then prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, as quoted by Pres. Tanner.

 

“That the Church’s stand on morality may be understood, we declare firmly and unalterably it is not an outworn garment, faded, old-fashioned, and threadbare. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and his covenants and doctrines are unchanging: Old values are upheld by the Church, not because they are old, but rather because through the ages they have proved right.”

 

Some people actually think the church will change their stance on LGBT rights. They don’t understand that the central doctrine of our church is birthing the children of God and teaching them eternal, unchanging principles of the gospel. It isn’t for God to conform, it is for us to give up our will to His perfect way.

As Latter-day Saints, we can listen to conference and follow through with these four guidelines Pres. Tanner quoted from a talk Thomas S. Monson had given before: Listen, Learn, Labor, and Love. The future prophet, Thomas S. Monson said,

 

“Soon this historic series of conference sessions will come to a close. The throngs will leave, the lights will dim, the strains from the organ will fade and disappear; but you and I, we will never again be the same. We have heard a prophet’s voice, even that of President Spencer W. Kimball. We have worshipped together in love. We have felt our Heavenly Father’s divine approval. Hopefully, each has decided: I will listen; I will learn; I will labor; I will love. To assist us in our determined course the ever-present help of the Lord is assured.”

 

Then, Pres. Tanner mentioned a talk Boyd K. Packer gave. The original talk isn’t found online, unfortunately. Elder Packer recalled the story of the Teton Dam (near Rexburg, Idaho) and its subsequent destruction. Where over 5000 lives were affected and could have been killed, instead, they had listened to the warnings given, helped their neighbors, and escaped with their lives. The meaning of his words was not lost. “There are chapter after chapter of miracles. The whole episode stands as a mighty miracle. And the whole disaster looms itself as a warning.”

 

Pres. Tanner’s conclusion is a warning to us:

 

“And so, my brothers and sisters and friends, the main purpose of … general conferences, the main purpose of this conference, is to sound the voice of warning. You who hear and are warned must warn your neighbors. If we fail to heed the warnings given, or fail to warn our neighbors, we all may be lost.”

 

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the tone has changed in our General Conferences. Our leaders are speaking with more directness. We are seeing more tears over their concern for us. Their pleadings are no longer suggestions. Possibly, the clock now reads 11:59 and the hour is but a moment away for us to greet our Savior.

 

Will we be God’s miracles, having listened and acted upon all the General Conference warnings, and be left standing on that great day?

Four Steps to Overcoming the World

Part of living in the last days is that evil and wickedness are abundant, cunning, and overwhelming. We must choose righteousness over wickedness; but many find themselves in the middle because they haven’t chosen yet, they are confused, or they have been tricked into thinking that the middle is righteousness. When we choose righteousness we are taking our first steps to overcoming the wickedness that surrounds us, in other words we are overcoming the world.

 

In the John 16:33 Christ said:

 

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

 

What does Christ mean when he said that he had overcome the world? Christ’s entire mission was to overcome the world – the natural man, temptations, sin, etc. – so that we could have the possibility of returning to our Heavenly Father. Jesus was baptised, so we must as well. Jesus introduced the sacrament, and so we partake weekly. Jesus performed the Atonement, so that we may be forgiven of our sins when we repent. Jesus was resurrected three days after his death, and so we will be able to be resurrected as well. Jesus overcame the world, and so we must, in our own way as well:

 

“For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you.” (D&C 64:2)

 

Jesus Christ overcame the world, but he was perfect. How are we, fallible natural men and women supposed to overcome the world? In the April 2017 general conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen taught us four ways to do so.

 

  1. Love for the Savior

 

In 1 John 4:16-19 we read:

 

“And 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.

 

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

 

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

 

We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:16-19)

 

Jesus loves us, and as we learn about and feel that love, we grow to love him. “Perfect love casteth out fear.” When we love Jesus, we will have the courage to follow Him, and make righteous decisions, even when the world is taunting and screaming at us to do the opposite. Elder Andersen said that this love is not a one event thing, but a lifelong process. It starts with learning how to pray, singing songs about Jesus, hearing and reading the stories about Jesus, developing a relationship with Him, and putting all that we have learned to action.

 

  1. Accountability to God

 

Elder Andersen described the difference between those who do not want to be accountable to God, and those who know that we are:

 

“Those overcoming the world know that they will be accountable to their Heavenly Father. Sincerely changing and repenting of sins is no longer restraining but liberating, as ‘sins [of] scarlet…[become] white as snow.’

 

Those of the world have difficulty with accountability to God – like a child who parties in his parents’ home while they are out of town, enjoying the ruckus, refusing to think about the consequences when the parents return 24 hours later.”

 

When I was younger, I attended an activity wearing an inappropriate outfit, my mom found out and disciplined me the next day. In frustration I said, “Why can’t you just let me do what I want, and God can punish me later?!” Her response still touches my heart, “Because I am your mother, and God entrusted me to teach you what is right and to lead you back to Him.” The natural man argues that earthly consequences shouldn’t exist, that they infringe on our agency; but our accountability to God must begin here on earth. We cannot wait until later.

 

How do we show accountability to God here on earth?

  • Keeping the commandments
  • Keeping our baptismal and temple covenants
  • Staying faithful to our eternal companions
  • Taking the sacrament each week.
  • Repenting of our sins

 

The list goes on…

 

  1. Unselfishness

 

In chapter 23 of the book of Matthew Jesus describes the Pharisees as being worldly. He explains that their motivation for their works is to be seen and praised by others. Jesus says that this is not the way to live and in verses 10 and 11 says:

 

“Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

 

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:10-11)

 

We are to serve others, not expect others to serve us. We are to serve others for love of them and Christ, not for the praise of the world. Elder Andersen gave some examples of selflessness that we should all embody:

 

“The happiness of our spouse is more important than our own pleasure. Helping our children to love God and keep His commandments is a primary priority. We willingly share our material blessings through tithing, fast offerings, and giving to those in need.”

 

  1. Safety in the Prophets

 

In choosing to follow the Savior, we will be ridiculed by the world, we will be hated by the world, and we will be ignored. But if we focus on our connection with God, and following the guidance from His chosen prophets, we will find safety in this world. The teachings of our prophets – both ancient and modern – are inspired by God, and are literally a road map back to our Heavenly Father. Of course there is safety and blessings in following their counsel! When I follow the teachings of the prophets, I feel the Holy Ghost tell me that I made the right choice. He will do the same for you.

 

So what does overcoming the world accomplish? According to Elder Andersen, “greater peace in this life and a greater assurance of your eternal destiny.” What a blessing to have greater peace in this life! The scriptures expand on what that eternal destiny is. When we overcome the world we will be clothed in white in the eternities, our names will remain in the book of life, and Jesus will acknowledge us before our Father. (Revelation 3:5) When we overcome the world we will have a part in the first resurrection. (D&C 76:64) When we overcome the world we will gain eternal life. (Revelation 2) When we overcome the world we will live with God. (Revelation 3:12)

 

Trying to overcome the world may seem daunting at first, but I testify that if we follow the advice that Elder Andersen has given us, we will succeed. When we love Jesus Christ, accept our accountability to God, become selfless, and look to our prophets, we will have the strength and ability to overcome the world.

 

8 Gifts of Truth That Polarize Evil

This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Priesthood session of October 1976.

 

President Marion G. Romney’s talk was titled: “Your Gift from God,” where he described to us what Peter taught in the New Testament. It inspired me to read 1-2 Peter for myself. Sure enough, I found eight gifts from God. These gifts of truth will polarize evil and shower blessings from heaven.

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Emotions in the Scriptures

In our day, many people proclaim that we must always be happy and positive and if we are not, then we are need help. Emotions have been categorized into negative and positive or good and bad emotions.

The world teaches that happiness, rejoicing, and peace are good and positive emotions and we must seek for them, and that sorrow, anger, and mourning are bad and need to be cured. However, with a careful reading of the standard works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one can learn that God takes a different view on the matter.

If we can learn the truth about emotions, we will be better equipped to deal with and understand our own.

Let’s look at some scriptures to learn truth about emotions.

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Guest Stand: Christ-like Compassion vs. Affirming or Condoning Sin

Related imageAs members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a sacred duty to God to stand as witnesses for marriage and the family as ordained of God. However, some are speaking about same-sex marriage and relationships as though these are the right choice (and even a good choice) for our loved ones. When they do this, they encourage people to abandon the straight and narrow path and their covenants for the artful guise of something temporary that will not last. For some, it may be much easier to carve out a way to appear tolerant and compassionate in the eyes of the world and, by so doing, deflect the persecution and condemnation of associates and friends. However, adopting the compassion label in order to make something spiritually destructive appear benign, spares only ourselves at the expense of those in spiritual peril.

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Guest Stand: Pioneers in a Cultural Frontier

Erin RiderI recently attended a religion and faith conference at Harvard Divinity School, where I heard Dr. Laurel Thatcher-Ulrich define frontiers as a place where two cultures merge and create tension. Pioneers, she said, are the people who forge a new path out of this cultural blending.

Over the last four years, I have felt like one of the pioneers described by Dr. Ulrich. In 2013, I packed up my stuff and moved from Salt Lake City, UT, to Washington, D.C., to begin a JD/MBA program at Georgetown University. Every single day since that move I have stood on my own personal frontier as my religious and cultural heritage began to merge with my academic training, often creating conflict as the leanings of my professors and classmates clashed with prophetic guidance from Church leaders. Through this merging and clashing process, I have had to forge my own pioneer path by deciding how to combine my faith and trust in the Prophet with the academic and social expansion of my worldview. This is not an easy task. Looking back over my time at Georgetown, I have often reflected on what it means to be a pioneer both socially and in the classroom. Continue reading

Human Saviors

General Conference Odyssey post for the Saturday afternoon session of October 1976.

 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria

For the past three weeks, I have been in Europe where life is quite different from America. For starters, Europeans don’t understand why Americans like so much ice and air conditioning. Nevertheless, they politely accept our barbaric ways.

 

Europeans are either extremely religious (it varies between personal devotion and traditional behavior) or not religious at all. Either belief makes missionary work very difficult. But, Mormons have not come to play, they have come to save. The saints who are there are strong, the missionaries are fierce, and visitors come and go, shining their light at a steady flow. All are human saviors.

 

My thoughts have run deep as I ponder what it’s like to live my religion in a place so full of monuments, idols, gold, and ritual. As I read the talks in this session, my thoughts easily tied into the impressions I observed these past three weeks.

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The Glorious Little Stream that GIVES!

When my girls were young, we would hike around a beautiful reservoir, surrounded by tall grass and towering pine trees. As we made our way around this man-made lake, we took notice of the many streams that fed into it. We walked among the wildflowers in the path of the stream and we spotted all of the deer and moose who grazed on the grassy marsh. It was glorious and inspiring, even to my youngest child.

Our hike always ended on the dam that contained the reservoir. On one side was the beautiful lake with the wildflowers, green grass, and animals surrounding it. On the other side, there was a small, trickle of water that escaped the man-made dam. The trickle wandered it’s way through a dry landscape of sage and yellow grass. It was at this viewpoint that my children and I would discuss the cause and effect of having our progression stopped…. or dammed. We pondered on what we do in our lives that would cause our progression to stop. The girls would then imagine the power that comes when our personal progression joins the personal progression of others…. in the same pattern of  the many streams join forces to create this small lake.

As Children of God, we have endless abilities and potential. We become even more powerful when we join with others.

The Lord knew that His children would be at their greatest when they become of “one heart, and one mind”. But how does He teach us this pattern? In God’s infinite wisdom, He sent His children to this earth by way of the most fundamental unit… The Family!

A family grows much the same way that a large body of water is formed. It just takes one drop of rain to join with other drops to form streams, then multiple streams form rivers, rivers combine to create lakes, seas and oceans…. This pattern of combining forces will continue in this same manner throughout the eternities before us, just as they have in the eternities that preceded us.

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that glorious? Continue reading

The Happiness Lie Part 2: Enduring to the End

This is Part 2 of a 2-part post. Part 1 talked about the path to true happiness and can be read here.

 

“Endure to the end” is a common phrase found in LDS terminology. The dictionary definition of endure means to suffer patiently or to remain in existence. So it’s common to view the term in a negative way.  However, when applied to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to endure is a very positive thing. As briefly introduced in Part 1, endurance and happiness can be misconceived as opposites. I would like to use Part 2 to show how we can find happiness in the face of enduring to the end.

 

When I was younger I took swimming lessons at my local recreation center. During the final level of lessons, Level 7 (which took a few years to get to), I dreamed of getting on the swim team. I didn’t pass Level 7 the first time around, and my coach told my mom it was because I didn’t have enough endurance that passing required. I took Level 7 again, and passed the second time, but barely. The coach took pity on me and moved the brick from 12 feet to 6 feet so that I could succeed in diving to the bottom of the pool and bringing the brick to the surface – so I guess I didn’t really pass, the coach accommodated for me. The word endurance was brought up frequently that it was something that I didn’t have, so I didn’t attempt the swim team, and I hated the word endurance.

 

Luckily for people like me, it is spiritual endurance, not physical endurance, that God asks us to have. But why do we have to endure, or suffer patiently, if the gospel is supposed to bring us happiness? Because outside forces, such as temptations, trials, and the actions of others can affect our happiness. This is where enduring to the end comes in. All of the scriptures that talk about enduring to the end promise that those who endure to the end will be saved and receive eternal life. However, each scripture also couples enduring to the end with other aspects of living the gospel. This leads me to believe that in order to successfully endure the tribulations of the world, we must be living the gospel as fully as we can.

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The Happiness Lie (Part 1)

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)

 

“Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” (President Gordon B. Hinckley)

 

I recently came across an opinion that believed that enduring to the end contradicts happiness. This opinion believed that one can’t be happy while enduring; therefore, one must choose, and happiness (the world’s definition of happiness) is the better choice. Sentiments like this one are quite common today. Happiness has been redefined to meet the world’s standards. And according to the world, happiness redefined trumps following the Lord’s commandments.

 

I’m sure that most of us have listened to or read phrases such as, “Doing (fill-in-a-choice-contrary-to-the-commandments) makes me happy, and God just wants me to be happy” or “God would rather see me happy than force me to (fill-in-a-commandment-that-they-are-avoiding).” Of course our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. The Plan of Salvation is also called The Plan of Happiness, and throughout the scriptures the message of the gospel is commonly referred to as “glad tidings.” But this idea that the world’s version of happiness is the kind of happiness that God intends for us is a lie perpetuated by Satan. Satan wants us to think that the temptations he is throwing at us will lead to true happiness. But that is not true. What leads us to true happiness can be found in the words of the scriptures and our modern day prophets, not in the philosophies of men.

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