The small bus that served as both hearse and family transport vehicle slowed to a stop in the middle of the cemetery. My first observation was how lovely it was, in a wild unkept sort of way. We stood on the road as the small wooden casket was pulled from the bus floor and lowered onto a cart. We walked behind the caretakers as the cart was pushed away from the bus and into the plots.
As we walked we passed several small picnic type tables along the road. Chad and I wondered to each other what the purpose of those might be. Continue reading →
This post covers the April 1977 General Conference.
I have always struggled to focus while taking the Sacrament on Sundays. When the kids were small, pondering was an impossibility, but now that they’re grown, I still find my mind occasionally wandering at lightening speed. It’s simply too easy to be distracted. At the recent passing of my daughter, I have a renewed incentive to change my life. There is always room for improvement and I’ve decided pondering the Sacrament is a necessary place to start.
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.
“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.
“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.
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…
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.”
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.
Having grown up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have believed in agency my whole life. While our Heavenly Father has given us commandments to follow, He has also given us the ability to choose to follow those commandments or not. For some reason, it never occurred to me that choosing to repent has always been a part of our agency. In the October 2016 General Conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us.” He then shared some verses from the Book of Mormon that explain how we have the ability to choose repentance.
“And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.”
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” ( 2 Nephi 2:5-6, 27)
Growing up, one of my favorite Christmas stories was commonly titled, “Teach the Children.” * In the story, the narrator comes across Santa Claus in their house. Santa requests that the narrator teaches their children the true meaning of Christmas. In this story Santa teaches that the popular symbols of Christmas like candy canes, Christmas trees, and stars all center around Jesus Christ, his love, and his sacrifice. I believe that these spiritual meanings for our Christmas symbols are vital for our children to know and pass along. We must teach our children about Jesus Christ and how he is not only the center of Christmas, but the center of our lives.
The Star – Stars are commonly placed on top of Christmas trees. Heavenly Father placed a bright star in the sky when Jesus was born. It was so bright that when the sun set, there was no darkness. In the New Testament (Matthew 2), the star led the wise men to Jesus; and in the Book of Mormon it was a sign to the world that Jesus Christ, our Savior, had been born (Helaman 14:1-2,5 and 3 Nephi 1:21). In the story, the star represents God’s promise being fulfilled that he would send us a Savior. We can also teach our children that because the star was recorded in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, we know that Jesus Christ truly was born. Continue reading →
When the topics of sin, repentance, and judgment are discussed, the story of Christ’s encounter with the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11) is a common example. Many times, however, this example is misused to advocate for sin. Those who preach the truth and defend Christ’s doctrine are often accused of being judgmental and are told, “Jesus said, ‘those who are without sin cast the first stone,’ and “Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery.”
While these statements are true to an extent, they have been taken out of context. When talking about casting stones, Jesus wasn’t telling people to stop preaching about sin and repentance. He was telling people to stop judging that woman. The second statement, however, has been misunderstood. Jesus did not forgive her right away because she hadn’t repented yet. Rather, He was stating that He didn’t condemn her, and He was offering her an invitation to repent. These two statements are often used to spread the message that if we want to be like Christ, we will keep our mouths shut and tell everyone they are doing good no matter what they do, but if we preach about sin and repentance we are being like the Pharisees. The story of the woman caught in adultery goes so much deeper than that. It is a beautiful story that teaches many wonderful lessons. Here are six lessons we can learn from this story:Continue reading →
I told a miracle story, several years ago, thinking it “was the rest of the story,” but eternity is funny that way. Life continues and will continue forever. Ron’s and John’s story is an example of just how eternal eternity really is.
The original story can be read here, but I’d like to tell you more of this story, and what it really means to me, even though I now believe it is far from over. The rest of the story will surely continue, as all of our own personal stories will.
UPDATE: I wrote this as we were anticipating the death of our Senior Editor, Terrie Lynn Bittner. As we mourn her passing, we also celebrate her life. Terrie is home now, with Eternal Parents who love her. My sincere, heartfelt condolences go out to her entire family. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Once upon a time I wrote an article about grief in another venue. In order to make the article real and give it credibility, I shared examples of my own personal grief. That article came back to bite me, so it is with great ambivalence and trepidation that I write again on the same topic. I’m doing this because grief is something that we all experience in this mortal existence, and it is not just a one-time occurrence. Grief can be experienced many times in the course of a lifetime. It is an important topic to explore and to understand.
Grief, the sense of suffering that accompanies loss, is a common part of mortality as we lose loved ones or experience other tragedies. Because Jesus Christ has suffered the pains and afflictions of all mankind, we can be comforted and healed as we pray to the Father in His name and rely upon His Atonement (lds.org, Gospel Topics, “Grief”).
There you have it—grief is suffering. It is painful. It can be devastating and excruciating—but it can also be healed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
That scripture tells us that what we do, not just what we believe, has an effect on the outcome of our salvation.
Trying to Understand Grace
I have heard a couple of interpretations of this scripture commonly espoused in Church classes and among Church members. Sometimes I have been told that if I do my best, then Jesus will take care of the rest and nothing more will be required. Other times I have been told that it really does not matter how good I am or what I do, that Jesus has already paid the price. So I get baptized, attend Church, and try not to commit any major sins—beyond that I simply need to believe and not fret about my salvation. Worrying about salvation, I have been taught, is not having faith in the atonement of Christ.
These interpretations, while they seem nice and frankly easy, do not fit in with the scriptures nor with everyone’s personal experiences. Then what is the truth? Continue reading →
Aged and breathless, President Boyd K Packer sat and spoke with the heart, knowledge, and experience from a life well lived. Spoken with power from the Holy Ghost, he taught us about the “Plan of Happiness”. This plan, he explained, includes romance leading to marriage, physical intimacy leading to children, and repentance leading to a soul unspotted before God.
President Packer taught about how the laws governing the powers of procreation were established before the earth began. He said:
There are eternal laws, including laws relating to this power to give life, “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated” (D&C 130:20). These are spiritual laws which define the moral standard for mankind (see Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 7:14–15 [in the Bible appendix]; 2 Nephi 2:5;D&C 29:34; 134:6). There are covenants which bind, seal, and safeguard and give promise of eternal blessings” (Boyd K. Packer, The Plan of Happiness, Apr. 2015 General Conference).