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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Fun Family Road Trip or Self-Induced Torture?

“Stop talking! Just be quiet for a minute!” I yelled from the front seat of the car. “The next one to talk gets to walk the rest of the way.” This empty threat came from pure desperation. I just couldn’t handle another moment of bickering, whining and fault-finding from my children. Our family trip was suppose to bring us together, not tear us apart. Yet there we were, living in our own version of self-induced torture because my children couldn’t stop arguing!

Weeks before, as our family prepared for our trip, my husband and I painted our children a picture of all the wonderful things they would see, learn and experience. We took special care to pack treats, games, books and movies to keep them entertained and peaceful while traveling. We wanted them to have a unique experience that bonded our family and created treasured memories for the years ahead. But in spite of the many plans and preparations, we found ourselves battling over issues such as… “Her knees keep touching mine!” “She won’t stop humming.” And… my favorite… “I can’t stand listening to her breathe.” They had obviously forgotten the bigger picture.

Why do my kids do this? Why are they so quick to find fault with each other at one moment and then be best friends at another? Why can’t they perceive the bigger picture that I can see? Why is it so hard to use their family journey to strengthen and serve each other?

Will they ever grow out of it?

The answer is, yes! They will grow out of it as they mature enough to put those little things like knees touching, humming and breathing in perspective.

Perspective. Isn’t that what love and understanding are all about? When we see our world as our Savior sees it, we can take hold of a deeper truth that allows us to better assess, or judge what we are experiencing in ourselves and others. The old idiom, “the devil is in the details” is quite true. When we focus on the small details instead of perceiving the big picture, we become like siblings on a road trip… finding faults and taking offense… just for the fun of it.

How do we learn to perceive the Savior’s perspective in order to judge ourselves and others in a righteous manner? Elder Ronald A. Rasband taught:

Remember the Lord’s promise: “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” I love that assurance. Joy that fills our souls brings with it an eternal perspective in contrast to day-to-day living. That joy comes as peace amidst hardship or heartache. It provides comfort and courage, unfolds the truths of the gospel, and expands our love for the Lord and all God’s children. Although the need for such blessings is so great, in many ways the world has forgotten and forsaken them.

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3 Things to Remember About the Declaration of Independence

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.

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When Questions Arise ‘Will Ye Also Go Away’?

the 5000It 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.” [1]

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.”[2] Continue reading

What Is Self-Reliance, and How Do We Embrace It?

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

(April 1976 Welfare Session.)

 

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.

The Church is coming out with an updated program on self-reliance. But reading Sis. Barbara B. Smith’s talk reminded me of the evolution of Relief Society meetings where self-reliance has always been the main focus.

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. Do our homemaking mini class plans respond to the various needs of the women in our ward?
  4. 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

Homemaking

Self-reliance and provident living

Compassionate service

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.”

Spencer W. Kimball said in the same session:

“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.”

What are we waiting for?

Additional General Conference Odyssey posts:

Zion, when we have built it  Marilyn Nielson

Family Preparedness G

Gifts of Fatherhood

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!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

*Names have been changed

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We Will Raise a Sin-Resistant Generation

Illustration by Annie Henrie

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.”

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