Monday, April 22, 2013

Strengthening Families

We need to make our homes a place of refuge from the storm...  ~ Elder L. Tom Perry

I have been thinking a lot about the talk Elder Boyd K. Packer gave this past April General Conference on what we can do to strengthen our families against the adversary. Elder Packer said: 
"We will not always be safe from the adversary’s influence, even within our own homes. We need to protect our nestlings.

We live in a very dangerous world that threatens those things that are most spiritual. The family, the fundamental organization in time and eternity, is under attack from forces seen and unseen. The adversary is about. His objective is to cause injury. If he can weaken and destroy the family, he will have succeeded.

Latter-day Saints recognize the transcendent importance of the family and strive to live in such a way that the adversary cannot steal into our homes. We find safety and security for ourselves and our children in honoring the covenants we have made and living up to the ordinary acts of obedience required of the followers of Christ."
I have kept returning to his talk, especially after learning that my husband's home country of New Zealand lost their fight and legalized same sex marriage this week. This battle is not just happening in New Zealand or California. The world is trying to destroy the sanctity of the home, redefine what  marriage and family should consist of. In 1995, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the proclamation on the family. They testified then, and do so now, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and is ordained of God; and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.  

Elder Robert D. Hales said: "Because of the importance of the family to the eternal plan of happiness, Satan makes a major effort to destroy the sanctity of the family, demean the importance of the role of men and women, encourage moral uncleanliness and violations of the sacred law of chastity, and discourage parents from placing the bearing and rearing of children as one of their highest priorities."
Sister Mary N. Cook from the General Young Women Presidency said: "All families need strengthening, from the ideal to the most troubled. That strengthening can come from you. In fact, in some families you may be the only source of spiritual strength. The Lord is depending on you to bring the blessings of the gospel to your family.

It is important to establish patterns of righteousness in your own life, which will enable you to set a good example for your family, whatever form your family may take.

Ask yourself: “Who in my family could benefit from my personal prayers?” “What could I do to support and encourage family prayer?”

As you personally study the scriptures, you will come to know the Savior and His teachings. From His example you will know how to love, serve, and forgive members of your family.

Regularly partaking of the sacrament will help you keep your baptismal covenant. As you live worthily and renew this covenant weekly, you will qualify for the guidance of the Spirit. The Holy Ghost will guide you and will teach you what you should do to bless your family.

As you commit to these patterns of righteousness, you will be blessed throughout your life and will develop the spiritual foundation from which you can strengthen your family by example."

Elder M. Russell Ballard in this past April Conference spoke about the training the church has put on their website to help families. You can find more information here:  Strengthening the Family and the Church through the Priesthood

 I think one of the greatest resources we have today to help us strengthen our families is the proclamation on families given by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles. I end this blog with their words:
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
This proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Message of the Restoration

 The message of the Restoration is [an] invitation to know why the gospel of Jesus Christ and His true Church have been restored by a prophet in modern times. ~Elder Charles Didier

I remember receiving my first witness that Joseph Smith saw God the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, in Seminary as a young girl. We had been talking about Joseph Smith, and watching the video on the first vision. The Holy Ghost spoke to my spirit in that Seminary class, and bore witness that these things are true: Joseph Smith did see God the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ. God does answer prayers. Through this experience, Joseph Smith was called by God to be his prophet - to bring forth a marvelous work and a wonder- The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; and to restore the gospel to the earth in its fullness in these the latter days.

Joseph Smith was a young boy of 14, close to my own age. He was confused about the different religions that were on the earth. Which church was the true church? Which one should he join? Why were there so many differences? Elder Robert D. Hales helps us understand why there was so much confusion about religion during this time:
"After the Savior’s Resurrection, He commissioned His Apostles to lead the Church and administer gospel ordinances. Faithful to this charge, they were persecuted, and some were eventually martyred. As a result, the Lord’s priesthood authority was no longer on earth, and the world fell into spiritual darkness. In the centuries that followed, God’s children had the Light of Christ, could pray, and could feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. But the fulness of the gospel had been lost. There was no one left on earth with the power and authority to lead the Church or perform sacred ordinances such as baptism, conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the saving ordinances of the temple."
Elder Charles Didier explains the Apostacy as such:
"Persecution, denial of divine identity, and rejection of Christ’s gospel and His authorized priesthood servants characterized the post-Resurrection era. And religious history shows us evidence of how rapidly the priesthood authority was superseded by the secular authority; how the divine doctrine was traded for shifting, distorted human philosophies; how the ordinances of salvation were altered or purchased for money; how revelation was replaced by a veil of obscurity leading into the ages of spiritual darkness.

However, there came a time during this great Apostasy, which had been prophesied before, when the religious quest surfaced again—the “Why is it so?” Men of great faith emerged to try to reform false doctrines and false spiritual authority. Their honest and sincere efforts only resulted in the creation of more churches carrying their names and their protest and adding more confusion and more divisions. In reality, two major elements were missing in the reform: revelation and authority, the Lord’s only way to communicate divine truth to mankind."
With revelation and priesthood authority taken from the Earth, a restoration of truth needed to be done. Young Joseph Smith, was not looking to be a prophet. He was not looking at changing anything. He just wanted to know which of the many churches on the Earth was the true church, and the one that he should join. Elder Hales continues:
"As a young man, Joseph “was called up to serious reflection” on the subject of religion. Because he was born in a land of religious freedom, he could question which of all the churches was right. And because the Bible had been translated into English, he could seek an answer from the word of God. He read in the book of James, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” and he did as directed. In answer to Joseph’s prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him. This humble farm boy was the prophet chosen by God to restore the ancient Church of Jesus Christ and His priesthood in these latter days. This restoration was to be the last, the dispensation of the fulness of times, restoring all the priesthood blessings which man could possess on earth. With this divine commission, his work was not to reform nor was it to protest what was already on the earth. It was to restore what had been on earth and had been lost".
Joseph Smith was the instrument God used to restore the gospel in it's fullness in these the last days. From Joseph's experience we learn: God is our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is his Son. Heavenly Father knows each one  of us, for we are his sons and daughters created after his own image. God answered Joseph Smith's prayers, and revelation was once again established on the Earth. God called Joseph Smith to be his prophet and gave him His priesthood authority; the power and authority necessary to lead the Church and perform sacred ordinances such as baptism, conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the saving ordinances of the temple.

My life has been so blessed because young Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees seeking answers to prayers!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

 In the Book of Mormon, I love reading the words of the prophet Mormon to his son Moroni as he counsels him on how to be spiritually strong during wicked times on the earthMormon is a regular father, praying for the welfare of his son. The love he has for the welfare of his son is immense. He doesn't know if he will ever see his son again in this life, but he is comforted because he knows his son is a faithful disciple of Christ.  I think sometimes we forget that prophets are normal people, who have been given the special office of prophet. These verses that Mormon speaks to his son, helps me to relate to him better, and understand his concern and compassion as a parent. 

I have been blessed with four boys, and I kind of like to think that I am praying for the same things for my sons that Mormon prayed for Moroni:  "But behold, my son[s], I recommend thee unto God, and I trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved; and I pray unto God that he will spare thy [lives]." (Moroni 9:22) 

I really appreciate the advice Mormon offered his son in Moroni 9: 25. "My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever."  

There is a lot of wickedness out in the world, but we must not dwell on the wickedness; instead we must fill our minds with thoughts of how merciful and kind our Savior is.  Elder Gene R. Cook said:
“What usually happens when we begin to ponder how merciful the Lord has been to mankind? To us personally? What happens when we count our blessings, or perhaps our sins for which we must ask his forgiveness, and recognize his hand in our individual lives? Is it not true that our hearts turn to the Lord in love and gratitude? Do our faith and humility increase? Yes, and that, in my judgment, is the impact of following the counsel therein. [It] helps us to become more humble, more willing and ready to receive new information and knowledge with an open mind” (Moroni’s Promise,” Ensign, Apr. 1994, 12).
The Book of Mormon student manual refers us to  President Gordon B. Hinckley's closing remarks at general conference
“I pray that what you have heard and seen may make a difference in your lives. I pray that each of us will be a little more kind, a little more thoughtful, a little more courteous. I pray that we will keep our tongues in check and not let anger prompt words which we would later regret. I pray that we may have the strength and the will to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile in lifting up the feeble knees of those in distress” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 109; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 103). 
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) explained how the counsel Mormon gave  to his son Moroni applies to our day. "Both father and son were seeing a whole Christian civilization fall because its people would not serve the God of the land, even Jesus Christ. Mormon wrote, ‘And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God’ (Moroni 9:6). You and I have a similar labor to perform now—to conquer the enemy and rest our souls in the kingdom” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 104; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 85)." No matter how difficult the world we live in becomes, we have reason to rejoice. We are followers of Christ; and as such boldly proclaim his gospel "at all times and in all things, and in all places that [w]e may be in, even until death, that [w]e may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that [w]e may have eternal life. (Mosiah 18: 9)
In close, I would like to reference Mormon's words to his son found in Moroni 8: 2-3: 
 I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice

“Because Heavenly Father loves His children, He has not left them to walk through this mortal life without direction and guidance,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said. “That is why He pleads so earnestly with us through His prophets. Just as we want what is best for our loved ones, Heavenly Father wants what is best for us. Prophets and apostles who speak today represent and carry out the Lord’s will as they lead His children in this dispensation." President Uchtdorf continues, "Our fate and the fate of our world hinge on our hearing and heeding the revealed word of God to His children.”

 What is it that qualifies a man to be a prophet? President A. Theodore Tuttle off the First Council of the Seventy answers this question:

"Foremost, God must choose him as his prophet! This is entirely different than for man to choose God.

The Savior, speaking to his apostles, said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit. …” (John 15:16.)

“We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” (A of F 1:5.)

A prophet, then, is the authorized representative of the Lord. While the world may not recognize him, the important requirement is that God speaks through him. A prophet is a teacher. He receives revelations from the Lord. These may be new truths or explanations of truths already received."

Why does the Lord call prophets, seers, and revelators? Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Presidency of the Seventy teaches:
"The fundamental responsibility of prophets, seers, and revelators, all of whom bear apostolic authority, is to bear certain testimony of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. This basic call to be a special witness of His name has remained constant whenever Apostles have been on the earth. This testimony, borne of the Holy Ghost through revelation, was the heart of the New Testament Church and is the heart of the Church today."

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said:

“Looking for the path to safety in the counsel of prophets makes sense to those with strong faith. When a prophet speaks, those with little faith may think that they hear only a wise man giving good advice. Then if his counsel seems comfortable and reasonable, squaring with what they want to do, they take it. If it does not, they consider it either faulty advice or they see their circumstances as justifying their being an exception to the counsel. Those without faith may think that they hear only men seeking to exert influence for some selfish motive. …

“Every time in my life when I have chosen to
delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm’s way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 32–33; or Ensign, May 1997, 25). 

Listen to the remarks of President Thomas S. Monson from last General Conference.

 I testify to each of you that I know that Thomas S. Monson has been called by God to be His authorized representative on the earth today. He is our prophet! I hope that you will all join with me this weekend to listen to our Prophet and other church leaders speak at general conference. If you are not able to watch conference on tv, you can watch online here.

Our Beloved Prophet!

This weekend, we have the exciting opportunity to hear our church leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak at the 183rd Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The great highlight of the conference is to hear our beloved Prophet, Thomas S. Monson address the congregation and instruct the members of the church on how to become more like our Savior Jesus Christ.

Read on to learn more about  President Monson and his life:
Twenty-three-year-old Tom Monson, relatively new bishop of the Sixth-Seventh Ward in the Temple View Stake, was uncharacteristically restless as the stake priesthood leadership meeting progressed. He had the distinct impression that he should leave the meeting immediately and drive to the Veterans’ Hospital high up on the Avenues of Salt Lake City. Before leaving home that night he had received a telephone call informing him that an older member of his ward was ill and had been admitted to the hospital for care. Could the bishop, the caller wondered, find a moment to go by the hospital sometime and give a blessing? The busy young leader explained that he was just on his way to a stake meeting but that he certainly would be pleased to go by the hospital as soon as the meeting was concluded.

Now the prompting was stronger than ever: “Leave the meeting and proceed to the hospital at once.” But the stake president himself was speaking at the pulpit! It would be most discourteous to stand in the middle of the presiding officer’s message, make one’s way over an entire row of brethren, and then exit the building altogether. Painfully he waited out the final moments of the stake president’s message, then bolted for the door even before the benediction had been pronounced.

Running the full length of the corridor on the fourth floor of the hospital, the young bishop saw a flurry of activity outside the designated room. A nurse stopped him and said, “Are you Bishop Monson?”

“Yes,” was the anxious reply.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “The patient was calling your name just before he passed away.”

Fighting back the tears, Thomas S. Monson turned and walked back into the night. He vowed then and there that he would never again fail to act upon a prompting from the Lord. He would acknowledge the impressions of the Spirit when they came, and he would follow wherever they led him, ever to be “on the Lord’s errand.”
Many may know that young Bishop Monson took a week of his personal vacation time every Christmas season to visit all of those eighty-five widows in his ward. Many may not know that for the first several years the gift he would take them was one of the Barred Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island Red hens raised and dressed out by him in his own poultry coops. And although it has been more than thirty years since he was released as their bishop, President Monson has taken a gift and visited every one of those widows every Christmas for as long as each has lived. Some in their final moments have spoken to family members of where he stood in the room and what he said and how very much they loved him.

“Few people know it, but Brother Monson is the self-appointed chaplain at a number of nursing homes around town,” notes Elder Boyd K. Packer, who sat next to Elder Monson in the Quorum of the Twelve for fifteen years. “He visits them anytime his busy schedule will permit, and sometimes even when it doesn’t permit.”
(A well-meaning person once told President Monson that it was useless for him to visit these elderly people, talking at length with them when they seldom answered a word. “You might as well save your time and breath, Elder Monson. They don’t know who you are.”

One weekend in August 1974 an unexpected change of conference assignment came, sending Elder Monson to the Shreveport Louisiana Stake. The Saturday afternoon schedule was filled with a busy slate of meetings. Rather apologetically, the stake president asked Brother Monson if time would permit him to provide a blessing to ten-year-oldChristal Methvin, who was afflicted with cancer. Brother Monson said he would be pleased to do so and then asked if she would be coming to the conference meetings or if she were confined to a Shreveport hospital. Almost reluctantly, the stake president said Christal was unable to leave her home many miles from Shreveport.
Elder Monson examined the meeting schedule and found that there simply was no available time. As an alternative, he suggested that she be remembered in the public prayers which would be offered throughout the conference. Surely, he consoled, the Lord would understand and bless the Methvin family accordingly.
Prior to the stake conference, and unbeknown to Brother Monson, Christal had lost her leg to surgery, only to discover later that the cancer had spread to her tiny lungs. A trip had been planned to Salt Lake City, where she might receive a blessing from one of the General Authorities. The Methvins knew none of the Brethren personally, so they placed before Christal a picture of all the Church leaders. She pointed to the photograph of Elder Thomas S. Monson and said, “I would like him to give me a blessing.”
But Christal’s condition had deteriorated so rapidly that the flight to Salt Lake City had to be cancelled. She was growing weaker in body but not in faith. She said, “Since a General Authority is coming to our stake conference, why not Brother Monson? If I can’t go to him, the Lord can send him to me.” At about the same time, Brother Monson received the unexpected change in his stake conference assignment which sent him to Shreveport.

As one final favor to Christal, the family agreed to kneel by her bedside and ask for just one more blessing; the chance to enjoy Brother Monson’s personal visit.
After receiving word from the stake president that Brother Monson would be unable to visit Christal because of the extremely tight meeting schedule, the Methvins were understandably very disappointed. They knelt again around Christal’s bedside, pleading for a final favor on her behalf: that somehow her desire for a blessing at the hands of Brother Monson would be realized.
At the very moment the Methvin family knelt around Christal’s bed, Elder Monson was shuffling his notes, preparing to speak at the concluding portion of the Saturday evening session. However, as he began his move to the pulpit, a voice whispered in near-audible tones a brief but very familiar message: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”
His notes became a blur. He attempted to pursue the theme of the meeting as outlined, but the name and image of Christal Methvin would not leave his mind. Then, ever faithful to the precious gift so demonstrably his, he responded to the spiritual message. He instructed that changes in the next day’s conference schedule be made, whatever the cost in confusion and disruption. Then the meeting continued.
After a very early Sunday drive over many miles, Elder Monson gazed down upon a child too ill to rise, too weak to speak. Her illness had now rendered her sightless. Deeply touched by the scene and the Spirit of the Lord which was so prevalent, Brother Monson dropped to his knees and took the child’s frail hand in his own. “Christal,” he whispered, “I am here.”
With great effort she whispered back, “Brother Monson, I just knew you would come.”
A blessing was pronounced commending a sweet child’s body and spirit to the loving watchcare of her Heavenly Father, who surely must have been observing that tender scene. Her barely audible “Thank you” gave eloquent benediction to the blessing and to the sweet life of faith she had lived. The next Thursday, as she was being remembered in the prayer circle of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve where Elder Monson had placed her name, Christal Methvin’s pure spirit left its disease-ravaged body and entered the paradise of God.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Partakers of the Heavenly Gift

I have been contemplating these past few days on a phrase taken from Ether 12:8 :

8 But because of the faith of men he (Jesus Christ)has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen. 

This phrase "partakers of the heavenly gift" is only referenced a few times in the standard works. 

JST, Hebrews 6:3–10. 
 3 And we will go on unto perfection if God permit. 
 4 For he (Jesus Christ) hath made it impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 
 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 
 6 If they shall fall away, to be renewed again unto repentance; seeing they crucify unto themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 

3 And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. 

I am trying to understand what this heavenly gift is, and how can we partake of this heavenly gift? Moroni says in Ether 12:9 that if we want to be partakers of the gift, we must have faith. "Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith." Since it is the Easter season, I have been contemplating a lot on the Atonement of Jesus. I am wondering if this is what the heavenly gift is. In the New Testament we read: 

16 ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

Moroni continues in the Book of Mormon: 

11 Wherefore, by faith was the law of Moses given. But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled. 

In order to be partakers of this heavenly gift, we must have hope for a better world, and exercise Faith in Jesus Christ unto repentance that we might not perish, but have everlasting life. What a wonderful gift in the Atonement our Savior has given us!