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 →
A couple of years ago, the priesthood session of LDS general conference started being broadcast on BYUtv. Now, during each priesthood session I turn on the TV so my husband can watch it, and I get to listen as well. In order for my husband to fully pay attention, I tend to our home and kids by myself. (He hasn’t asked me to do this, I choose to because I want him to enjoy the session the way I enjoy the women’s session.) During the most recent Priesthood Session, Elder Jeffrey R Holland gave his talk, “Emissaries to the Church”. As he began talking, I immediately felt a strong impression to really listen and pay attention. Elder Holland spoke about home teaching, and much of what he said can be applied to visiting teaching as well.
Visiting teaching is a topic near and dear to my heart because I love it! I truly do. I love visiting with my sisters, I love my companion, and I love being visited by my visiting teachers. I wasn’t always that way, though. When I first turned 18, I rarely went and my companion always set up the appointments and gave the message. When I moved into a single’s ward, I never went visiting teaching. I always felt a little guilty because my home teachers came monthly without fail. When I got married and returned to a family ward setting, I tried to do better. My success, however, depended on my companions and their investment into visiting teaching.Continue reading →
Have you ever had a really important question, or struggled with some piece of information? You are having a hard time finding an answer or coming to terms with that information, and the person(s) you reach out to say something to the effect of “Just have faith?” You know that’s the right answer, and of course you want to have faith; you want that desperately! But the answers to your questions or the need to receive clarity are so important that you struggle, and having faith – as important as it is – seems so far away and so difficult. I have felt those feelings before. If you haven’t had such an experience, let me create a scenario that will hopefully help you understand.
We’ll use a universal question: Is there life after death? As Latter-day Saints we know the answer is, yes. We have mountains of evidence to that yes: the accounts in the Bible and Book of Mormon from those whom Christ visited after He was resurrected, the visions of the Spirit World and the three kingdoms that many prophets have had, and the dreams that thousands of individuals have had of their loved ones and ancestors visiting them are a few examples. But what if there appeared to be zero evidence that life after death existed? What if the only answer to that question was, “Just have faith?” Wouldn’t that be so hard to hear? That is an extremely important question. Our entire earthly lives and the decisions we make are based on the answer to that question. That’s what it feels like with other important questions when the only answer is “Just have faith.”Continue reading →
We are all anxiously awaiting what the Brethren will tell us this weekend, but I have the great fortune of filling my heart and mind already with their words. We should always be most concerned with the latest messages our leaders give us, but we cannot forget the great messages we have heard over the years. They are still of great value and most definitely filled with the spirit of edification, warning, and love. I have taken on the challenge to read and write about General Conferences of the past. As a writer for the General Conference Odyssey, I am overwhelmed with what the Brethren have been telling us–for years.
The General Conference Odyssey is a group of writers who write, each week, on a past session of conference, starting with April 1971. At this point, we have reached the Friday morning session of April 1974. And I repeat, I am overwhelmed with the doctrine, advice, warnings, love, and spirit of those early talks.Continue reading →
In the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference (April 2016), Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson shared the story of a young mother who, while her son was being sent via Life Flight to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, she could see the Draper, Jordan River, Oquirrh Mountain, and Salt Lake City Temples all at once. As she was looking at those four Houses of the Lord the thought came to her, “Do you believe it or not?” This woman thought about all she had learned about temples, and knew that yes, she did believe it. At the end of the story, Sister Oscarson said, “This defining moment for Michele confirmed to her that what she had been taught all of her life was more than just words; it is true.”
That sentence caused me to ask myself, “What is your defining moment?” I immediately thought of a youth conference I attended when I was 16 years old. I got sick during the conference and missed almost an entire day of activities. We were camping, and the only access to medical help was a simple first-aid trailer. After taking care of everything physically, I was offered a priesthood blessing, which I accepted. That blessing went beyond a healing blessing and I heard some very special things. Continue reading →
I love light. But let’s talk about darkness. I don’t ever remember being afraid of the dark as a child. I mean, no more than usual. Were you? Admittedly, it’s uncomfortable to be in the dark. Even in our own homes, a familiar place. When it’s dark, we feel uneasy. We bump into objects that we know are there but we now can’t see. They become obstacles to us. We have a difficult time recognizing our surroundings and we wonder if there are things hiding there that might GET US!
In the dark our imaginations shift into high gear. Reality becomes distorted to us, and we can begin to see in our minds things that aren’t really there. We can be easily fooled in the dark. We might be presented one thing but told it is something entirely different. Who can forget sticking a hand into that bowl of peeled grapes and being told they were eyeballs, or the wet pasta that was brains at the elementary school spook alley as a child? That about scarred me for life! Continue reading →
The purposes of LDS General Conference are numerous, the greatest of which are to hear the timely words the Lord would have us hear as spoken and declared by those He has placed in His stead. The messages delivered by His chosen mouthpieces and servants can motivate us to alter our course and/or adjust our attitudes as needed. They can also help us strengthen our resolve to be “fixed in our purpose” in living the commandments and aligning ourselves with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Continue reading →
Why do we love Elder Jeffrey R. Holland so much? Of course, we love the other apostles too. Each and every one of them has such spiritual strength and love to offer us, and we love them all for it.
But there is something special about Elder Holland. He exposes himself to us in a way that makes him vulnerable, yet he shows us how to turn to Jesus Christ in our own dark hour. He makes us feel like we’re not alone as we climb to the summit to catch our breath before moving farther along the path toward that precious tree.
For many conferences now, we have listened to his encouraging words. He seems to say, life is hard, it’s easy to get tripped up, I’ve done it myself, but let’s pick ourselves back up and keep going. I’ll help you, and you help me. It will be worth it!
His passion for the gospel comes through in the honesty of his caring words. What mother doesn’t cheer when he speaks to our missionary age sons with passion that breathes such love? Continue reading →
As mothers in Zion, we shoulder a great deal of responsibility. It is sometimes daunting to keep up with everything the world shoves in front of our children and grandchildren. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like an octopus with many arms reaching out to hold my loved ones close while doing battle with those who would do them harm. Elder M. Russell Ballard loves our youth, and he has always been there with a calm voice and a steady hand to help them. As parents, it would be wise to study the words of Elder Ballard as we counsel with our young people. In the April 2015 General Conference, Elder Ballard spoke directly to the youth of the Church.
If I may paraphrase what I said to missionaries 13 years ago, what we need now is the greatest generation of young adults in the history of the Church. We need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate young adults who know how to listen and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as you make your way through the daily trials and temptations of being a young, contemporary Latter-day Saint.
In other words, it’s time to raise the bar not only for missionaries but also for returned missionaries and for your entire generation (Russell M. Ballard, “The Greatest Generation of Young Adults”, Apr. 2015 General Conference).
Elder Ballard understands that the young people of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. We live in difficult times, and these precious sons and daughters of God will face trials that we never imagined possible. They will need to be much stronger than their parents. The adversary has become much more blatant, and the world seems to be following him at an alarming pace. Continue reading →