What examples come to mind when you hear the word miracle? I think of the ancient miracles found in the scriptures: the parting of the Red Sea, the birth of Christ, Christ healing people and raising some from the dead, and Christ’s resurrection, to name a few. What about modern-day miracles? I think of beating cancer, surviving what should have been a fatal accident, or other incredible healing or protection stories.
But what if those kinds of stories don’t apply to you? What if someone you know and love doesn’t survive a terminal illness or survive a devastating accident? Can miracles still be found in your life? According to Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, of the Seventy, the answer is yes. Elder Hallstrom suggested that perhaps we need to look at a deeper understanding of what a miracle is in order to see more miracles around us. He said:
“My limited knowledge cannot explain why sometimes there is divine intervention and other times there is not. But perhaps we lack an understanding of what constitutes a miracle.
Often we describe a miracle as being healed without a full explanation by medical science or as avoiding catastrophic danger by heeding a clear prompting. However, defining a miracle as “a beneficial event brought about through divine power that mortals do not understand” gives an expanded perspective into matters more eternal in nature.”
“A beneficial event brought about through divine power that mortals do not understand.” That sounds a lot like a blessing. Can some of our blessings also be considered miracles? I believe so.Continue reading →
In the most recent general women’s session of conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared a parable about three sisters. One was always sad, one was always mad, and one was always glad. Their circumstances were very similar, and yet their personal view affected how they felt about life and themselves. It’s pretty obvious that the sister who is glad is the sister that all of us should aspire to be. President Uchtdorf said that all of us share traits with each sister at different times in our lives. The week leading up to the women’s session I was most definitely like the sad sister, and during his entire talk I felt like President Uchtdorf was speaking directly to me.Continue reading →
Recognizing my own worth has never been easy for me, and I guarantee I’m not alone in the struggle. Why is this such a difficult battle for women? We learn in our homes and at Church from a very young age that we are children of God. We are taught the Plan of Salvation. Our Young Women study Divine Nature and Individual Worth. And, yet, strong self-esteem eludes many women and girls. Why? Continue reading →
Week after week, I sit at my computer reading and thinking about these General Conference addresses spoken long ago. I have loved reading through their messages, paying particular attention to the prophet’s words. After forty or so years, it’s easy to see prophecies fulfilled. In fact, that has become a personal joyful journey for me. So far, the prophets have always been right.
But I don’t need that kind of proof to know if what the prophet says is true. Whether it was forty years ago, or today, the spirit bears testimony to me instantly, and I am ready to respond. I feel motivated to implement and apply the principles that will lead toward assured happiness.
“All Church members, from kindergarten to high priests groups and all Relief Society sisters should be so plainly, accurately, and inspirationally taught that they will be motivated to implement applicable welfare principles and procedures in their personal lives and in their family and Church responsibilities.”
Having grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the basic truths of the Godhead have been common knowledge to me. The Godhead consists of three personages: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. They are three separate beings. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have a body, the Holy Ghost is a spirit. I have always accepted those truths without question, and because of that I have never personally dived deeper into understanding the role that the Godhead has in Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation. Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ April 2017 conference address “The Godhead and the Plan of Salvation” taught me how important a deeper understanding of the Godhead is for our mortal journey and our eternal salvation.
Elder Oaks’ talk was a deep doctrine talk for me. He taught a lot of things that I did not know, or hadn’t really thought about. It wasn’t like, “How could I have never been taught this before?” It was very spiritual and powerful, and one of my favorite talks from that conference.
In introducing the Godhead, Elder Oaks quoted Joseph Smith:
“Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all …
…These personages … are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.
[It is] the province of the Father to preside as the Chief or President, Jesus as the Mediator, and the Holy Ghost as the Testator or Witness.”
In this teaching by Joseph Smith, I really like that the labels or positions for the individual members of the Godhead are action nouns. God created us, he is the Creator. Jesus’ mission was to redeem mankind, so he is the Redeemer. Jesus Christ’s suffering, Atonement, and resurrection makes him a mediator between us and God. The Holy Ghost witnesses to us the reality of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of His gospel, he testifies of the truth of all things, so he is the Witness or Testator.Continue reading →
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.
“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.
“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.“
As we head into General Conference weekend, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will publicly sustain prophets and apostles. We’ll hear the names of each member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve apostles read. We’ll then have the sacred opportunity to both publicly raise our hand to show a sign of support and privately sustain them in our hearts. It’s one of my favorite moments of General Conference.
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)
Several years ago during a visiting teaching appointment, my companion said something that really changed how I pray. She said (paraphrasing), “I was taught that when we pray, we don’t have to fill the entire prayer up with talking. We should pause in between phrases so that we can feel the Holy Ghost and be guided on what to say next. We get more out of prayer, and we truly say what we need to say.”
I felt strongly impressed to follow that advice. As I started to pray that way, I noticed my attitude about prayer changed, my relationship with Heavenly Father strengthened, and my ability to receive personal revelation increased.
I’ve always known that prayer is important, and I believe in the power of prayer, but I really struggled to make my prayers personal. Once during a youth activity, we learned different examples of people in the scriptures praying all day to Heavenly Father (see Luke 6:12, Enos 1:4, Mosiah 21:14). I remember our leader telling us that we should be able to pray like that some day. She said that our relationship with Heavenly Father and our ability to pray should get to that point. I remember thinking, “I’ll never be able to pray like that. I’m a failure at prayer.” For most of my life, I generally prayed using memorized and repeated phrases. I believed in prayer, I knew it was important, but I didn’t feel that I was “good” at praying. Continue reading →