Monthly Archives: August 2017

Welfare: At The Bishop’s Door

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

This week we read the Welfare session of October 1976. I’m not sure why they stopped having these sessions because it seems to me we need to discuss welfare issues more than ever, before they arrive at the bishop’s door.

 

When we lived in downtown SLC, we were surrounded by welfare problems. Right after Sacrament meeting, lot’s of people would rush to get in line at the bishop’s door. It was so overwhelming, other programs of the church kind of fell by the wayside because if you need help taking care of yourself, you certainly can’t be thinking about much else.

 

Bishop Victor L. Brown listed the six basic elements of personal and family preparedness in order of importance, in his talk:

 

  1. Literacy and education
  2. Career development
  3. Financial and resource management
  4. Home production and storage
  5. Physical health
  6. Social-emotional strength

 

I guess that old adage–If you teach a man to fish–really holds true. An educated person is more likely to find a job. And once income is coming in, anyone can learn how to take care of necessities and save for later needs. When all of that is in place, you simply feel better about yourself and life.

 

Sis. Smith’s talk touches on a subject that happens to be one of my pet peeves. She suggests topics for Relief Society homemaking mini-classes that would benefit families in their welfare needs. Back in the day, women got together and learned skills that could be used in the home to protect, bless, and secure the family. Now, it seems all we do is have parties and promote/sell the latest fads while our families are falling apart.

 

She also mentions the importance of Relief Society sisters working with the priesthood brethren as they seek to bless their ward members. Often, the bishop won’t have a specific goal he would like the ward to focus on, or offer any direction to the Relief Society president. And often, the Relief Society president doesn’t listen to him anyway, because she wants to do what the sisters all want. In either case, homes, marriages, and families are being neglected until a crisis happens–at the bishop’s door.

 

Pres. Marion G. Romney was as direct as I’ve ever heard him. He said,

“As our modern societies follow the course which led to the fall of Rome and other civilizations which succumbed to the deceptive lure of the welfare state and socialism, I think it not inappropriate for me to emphasize again the Lord’s plan for the temporal salvation of His mortal children.”

All the wars our country has fought was to gain and keep our freedoms and liberties. But sadly, all of that is being ignored as we sit back and allow “the welfare state and socialism” to encroach. The Lord’s plan can take care of us, but there is something expected of us first.

 

Pres. Spencer W. Kimball’s talk was entitled “Loving One Another,” but you know what that talk was really about? Teaching others how to work. This is the message I get from reading it:

Welfare Square
Salt Lake City

Teaching others how to work is how we love one another best. There is nothing wild or crazy about that statement. For me, it really is about love.

 

He started his talk with these words:

“I know that we did not come here to be entertained, we came here to be instructed.”

He shared how he grew up on a ten-acre farm. When they first moved there, the entire ward came to help them prepare it for cultivation. While his father was the stake president, it was known that the former stake president had an orchard he could no longer take care of. Pres. Kimball (the father) gathered his children up and took care of the harvest. Welfare service is just that, service to others.

 

Caring for elderly parents was mentioned next. Because the parents have spent years working and saving, they often have something left. A story was shared that the children of one family came along and took that money leaving their mother, destitute and on federal aid, in a rest home without a visit from any one of them.

 

Another story told was of a father complaining about all the work he had to do on the farm growing up. “Then he concluded with this statement: ‘My boys are never going to have to do that.’ And we saw his boys grow up and you couldn’t get them to do anything.”

 

The lesson:

“Idleness is of the devil, and we are not kind to our children when we become affluent and take from them their labors, their opportunities to serve and to be trained and to do things for themselves and for other.”

What would he think of our obsession with electronics today? Or our Relief Society meeting activities? Or not magnifying our callings? Or our debt? Or anything that takes us away from the work of the Lord and the building of His kingdom and His people?

 

I found this session to be extremely direct, yet loving (in spite of perhaps some guilty feelings), in its pure desire to help us fit our own desires with the Lord’s, which ultimately always comes back to blessing us ten-fold.

 

Courage and Commitment in the Latter Days

Handcart pioneer familyLast month we celebrated Pioneer Day. The monumental courage and commitment of those early Saints has always impressed me, and I have been trying diligently to channel my inner pioneer spirit. I want to take the legacy of faith they passed down and carry it forward because we have a work to do in our time just as they did in theirs.

The world we live in is a mess. Many people want to turn off the news for good, and who can blame them? Our society is turning away from God and insisting that absolute truth does not exist. We are changing the definition of the sacred institutions of marriage and family. We see terrorism, political corruption, human trafficking, creeping socialism, threats to religious freedom, nations on the verge of war – and the list goes on. Paul warned that “in the last days, perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1). Times are now perilous, indeed! How do we keep from being overwhelmed with all the evil that we face?

One of the first answers that comes to mind is to live our lives according to the commandments so that we can qualify for the guidance of the Holy Ghost in all that we do. That is definitely necessary, but we need to take it a step further. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world” (BYU Devotional, 9/17/96, emphasis added).

How do we contribute good to the world? Certainly, we start in our own homes. We MUST teach our children the principles of the gospel and give them a firm foundation centered in Jesus Christ. We cannot rely on others to do the teaching for us. Sheri Dew said, “We no longer have the luxury of spending our energy on anything that does not lead us and our families to Christ. . . In the days ahead, a casual commitment to Christ will not carry us through” (October 1999 General Conference). What strong counsel!

Another way to contribute good to the world is to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). In the legal world, a trial witness does not sit quietly on the sidelines watching the proceedings without speaking up. On the contrary, a witness makes their position known. They face the opposition and testify of truth under oath. They take a firm stand. As witnesses of God, we need to make our position known, albeit in a kind and compassionate way. The pioneers were this kind of witness for God and had this kind of courage. They were driven from their homes, but they were committed to the gospel and gave everything they had. They walked across a continent because the Lord asked them to. Through it all, their faith stood as a witness at all times and in all things and in all places even until death.

Living in the last days gives us a marvelous opportunity to continue the legacy of faith that has been handed down to us by early members of the restored Church. Yes, the world is in turmoil. Yes, there is much to worry about to the point of being easily overwhelmed. However, changing our perspective on these troubled days can be a source of incredible strength. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave an address at BYU entitled “Terror, Triumph, and the Wedding Feast.” The perspective he puts on our dispensation turns apprehension into peace and turns fear into courage:

Elder Jeffrey R. HollandOne way or another, I think virtually all of the prophets and early apostles had their visionary moments of our time—a view that gave them courage in their own less-successful eras. Those early brethren knew an amazing amount about us. Prophets such as Moses, Nephi, and the brother of Jared saw the latter days in tremendously detailed vision. Some of what they saw wasn’t pleasing, but surely all those earlier generations took heart from knowing that there would finally be one dispensation that would not fail.

Ours, not theirs, was the day that gave them ‘heavenly and joyful anticipations’ and caused them to sing and prophesy of victory. Ours is the day, collectively speaking, toward which the prophets have been looking from the beginning of time, and those earlier brethren are over there still cheering us on! In a very real way, their chance to consider themselves fully successful depends on our faithfulness and our victory. I love the idea of going into the battle of the last days representing Alma and Abinadi and what they pled for and representing Peter and Paul and the sacrifices they made. If you can’t get excited about that kind of assignment in the drama of history, you can’t get excited!

I feel like leaping from my chair when I read this. Imagine being cheered on from beyond the veil by Moses, Nephi, and all of the prophets, ancient and modern. Picture yourself representing Alma and Abinadi as you stand for truth and righteousness in this wicked world! Realize what it means that their success depends on our faithfulness in these last days. This perspective makes it clear that it is an honor and a blessing to be chosen to be on earth at this time. God will not forsake us just as he never forsook the righteous in any other dispensation. The gospel will never again be removed from the earth. We will carry it forward until the Savior returns again. In fact, Elder Holland makes this other glorious point:

Because ours is the last and greatest of all dispensations, because all things will eventually culminate and be fulfilled in our era, there is, therefore, one particular, very specific responsibility that falls to those of us in the Church now that did not rest quite the same way on the shoulders of Church members in any earlier time. Unlike the Church in the days of Abraham or Moses, Isaiah or Ezekiel, or even in the New Testament days of James and John, we have a responsibility to prepare the Church of the Lamb of God to receive the Lamb of God—in person, in triumphant glory, in His millennial role as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. No other dispensation ever had that duty.

Savior's Second ComingThe Savior may not come in our lifetime, but he may! Think of that. We are the only dispensation in history that needs to be ready each day to welcome the Savior. We must live worthily so that “when he shall appear we shall be like him” (Moroni 7:48) and shall be counted among his followers. As we apply the faithful spirit of the pioneers to help us through our assignment in these last days, may this hymn inspire us as it inspired them:

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right.

Why should we think to earn a great reward if we now shun the fight?

Gird up your loins, fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake;

And soon we’ll have this tale to tell – All is well! All is well!

(Come, Come Ye Saints – Hymn #30)

To prepare for the coming of the Savior is our duty in the last days. This is the assignment we received in the premortal world. We are here to build the Kingdom of God for the final time and we cannot shrink. Our Father trusts us, so take courage, find the role you have to play, and be valiant in the cause. Only then will we earn the great reward of eternal life in the Kingdom of our Father.

The Miracle of the Flood

It was a Tuesday morning in January 2005 and although we had experienced rain for a few days. It wasn’t coming down hard enough to cause too much concern. The rivers were rising, and my husband, along with other men in our ward, were busy placing sandbags around the homes closest to the rivers. We were taking precautions, not getting too overly anxious over a little rain… UNTIL…..  I received a call from my husband; “Creekside #58 is going into the river, get men down here NOW!” Immediately, I ran down the street to give this news to the bishop in our ward. He was with other members of the priesthood, sandbagging by the river. Within seconds, these men were piled in trucks, heading for the neighborhood down the street.

#58 fell into the river, followed by houses on either side. The stream that we graciously call the Santa Clara “River” now resembled the roaring Colorado. It commenced in taking chunks of land out from under the homes as it cut a new path, far from it’s original course. Other neighborhoods were now being evacuated as more homes were being undercut by the torrential flood of water and debris. The Stake President was alerted to what was happening and soon, men from all over the valley were arriving to help.

Work continued after the sun went down. With the power out, car lights were focused on each house as workers made their way through darkened homes in order to save family pictures, grandma’s china and other precious odds and ends. Shortly after the fire department deemed the house unstable and the workers evacuated, a loud crack would echo through the air and the house would completely disappear into the dark mouth of the mighty Santa Clara. No one could believe their eyes. So much loss in so little time just didn’t make sense.

Continue reading

We Thank Thee, O God, For Good Teachers

General Conference Odyssey post for Oct. 1976, Sunday afternoon.

 

This session of conference has more than one talk on the role of teachers. We thank thee, O God, for good teachers who are willing to teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ by what they say, what they do, and what they themselves believe.

 

Elder Featherstone mentioned a talk given by Spencer W. Kimball, back in 1966. It was entitled “What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren.” (CES Addresses to Religious Educators, July 11, 1966.) It is not available online.

 

In fact, I figured BYU must have it, so I journeyed innocently down to the library not realizing the many hurdles I would have to experience just to get what turned out to be a mere glimpse of the talk.

 

Going down there on a Saturday is not the best of ideas because there is no librarian available. The talk was in Special Collections and I needed a librarian’s signature to allow me to make a copy of the talk. Of course, by the time I got down there, it was ten minutes to 6:00 pm, which left me 10 minutes to glance at their copy. I quickly jotted down some notes. There was certainly no time to ponder and soak in his message.

 

There were other hurdles that seemed quite unnecessary. I had a passing thought that somehow Satan was barring my way. It was exasperating and frustrating and a complete waste of time and effort. Almost.

 

I persevered because I was determined to share the truth our prophet prophesied of so long ago. It made me wonder what other golden nugget speeches have been given by our leaders that are now buried and forgotten in some library.

 

Much of what I read in Pres. Kimball’s talk is not knew. We are well aware of our responsibilities to teach our children truth. Yet, it’s his eloquence and style of saying important things in a special way that comes across as strong, fearless, faithful and ever loving.

 

He mentioned preparing our missionaries well. In fact, he said if missionaries are well prepared for their missions–with strong testimonies of the gospel–any marriage problems they later encounter will “largely be solved.” That is an idea worth pondering more deeply.

 

He also said, “Teach them all the graces which will take them to Godhood.” Our world will snuff any advances toward Godhood in a heartbeat, yet this sentence urges me forward, changing my attitude enough to keep teaching.

 

Another quote I captured: “We may be bucking a strong tide, but we must teach our children that sin is sin.” This is the so-called dilemma of our day, but shouldn’t be.

Something happened this week that has made me very thoughtful on this topic of teaching. My mother has almost religiously read Time magazine week after week, year after year. For the past year or so, while settling into a care facility, she hasn’t kept up with her reading, so just the other day she showed me an issue where the cover story was about gender. The article explains how boys want to be girls and girls want to be boys. She was appalled and said I have to go home and teach my grandchildren, warning them of this danger. She thought this was a new thing we were dealing with.

 

It made me realize that in the space of 1-2 years our world has quickly kowtowed to this “new” phenomenon and acceptance. We, who understand God’s plan must fear Him more than the mockers, and teach our children that the traditional family unit is eternal in nature.

And this is the essence of what Pres. Kimball was talking about, as well as many of the speakers of this particular session. Absolute truth must speak louder than acceptance of sin.

 

Going back to Pres. Kimball’s talk, he spent some time with Paul’s words, in Ephesians. It may be worth your while to read Chapter 6 if you haven’t recently.

 

Many artists have depicted Lehi’s dream. Who knew that those walking toward The Tree were actually dressed in full armour, grasping the iron rod with both hands while walking against a hurricane blast of wind, uphill?

 

It is a good teacher who inspires our youth to put on each vital part of that armor. It is a teacher who ignites our testimonies. It is a teacher who induces us to begin–and continue–that arduous climb to The Tree.

 

Elder Featherstone quotes from Pres. Kimball’s talk with these words filled with this prophet’s special combination of love and warning:

 

“What do I wish you to teach my grandchildren and all others? Above all, I hope you will teach them faith in the living God and in his Only Begotten Son–not a superficial, intellectual kind of acceptance, but a deep spiritual inner feeling of dependence and closeness; … I hope that you will teach righteousness, pure and undefiled. I hope that if any of God’s children are out in spiritual darkness, you will come to them with a lamp and light their way; if they are out in the cold of spiritual bleakness with its frigidity penetrating their bones, you will come to them holding their hands a little way, you will walk miles and miles with them lifting them, strengthening them, encouraging them and inspiring them.”

 

While this world preaches loudly about love and tolerance, these are only half of the equation. Obedience and perseverance are the other half. A teacher teaches the law and lovingly encourages all to obey the law.

 

We thank Thee, O God, for a prophet who sees beyond this world. We thank Thee, O God, for wise parents and teachers who teach truth and testify with love. We thank Thee, O God, for Thy Son, who waits patiently, yet anxiously, for our arrival into eternal life.

 

Additional posts:

To be home again  Marilyn Nielson