Sunday, April 8, 2012

Last Year's Easter Talk

Last year, I was invited to speak on Easter Sunday about the Atonement and overcoming trials. This also happened to be my last Sunday in that singles' ward, a ward I had been in for nearly 11 years. Here is that talk, as I wrote it:

Sometimes, life doesn’t turn out quite how we want it to. Nearly 4000 days ago, I was sitting on the balcony of the Bishop of the Prior Lake Ward in Minnesota. It was my next-to-the-last night in the mission field. Someone in the Bishop’s family asked me about my future plans when it came to dating and marriage. I declared that I would 1) be married by the time I was 25, and 2) I was NEVER going to go to a Single’s Ward.

About 40 hours later, I found myself back here in Utah sitting in my Stake President’s office. He strongly encouraged me to try the Holladay 29th Ward for three months. I told him I’d pray about it. The answer to those prayers came in the form of an attempted call to teach the 9-year-old Primary class in the 11th Ward. So, here we are, the three-month experiment has lasted 44 times as long and has come to an end.

Over these many years, I have seen many of my fellow ward members have times when life hasn’t gone quite how they wanted it to. From being confined to a wheelchair due to Lupus to fighting breast cancer. From crashing a car to crashing a plane into the top of a mountain. Death has claimed parents, grandparents, siblings, best friends and roommates. Over the years, three of our own members have died.

Not all trials and tribulations have been as extreme. Whether it’s losing a job or losing out on a promotion; losing funding for school or graduating but not finding a job; having yet another birthday go by or getting dumped by someone you thought was “the one.”

Sometimes, fear is life’s biggest trial and tribulation. I’m not necessarily talking about phobias like fear of clowns, roller coasters, or public speaking. I’m talking about fear of the unknown. Maybe you are 32, going to a new ward for the first time in 11 years where you hardly know anybody, you happen to not be the most outgoing, and the ward isn’t the most friendly and outgoing. Maybe you are starting a new job or a new calling that seems a little over your head. Maybe you are scared to ask that cute guy to sit next to you in Sunday School. Maybe you are scared to ask that cute girl that invited you to sit next to you for her phone number. Maybe getting the phone number isn’t the problem, but making the phone call is something you can’t muster up the courage to do.

Whatever our current problems in life, we are not alone. In speaking of Joseph Smith’s stay in Liberty Jail, Elder Jeffrey R Holland Said:
In our moments of pain and trial, I guess we would shudder to think it could be worse, but the answer to that is clearly that it could be worse and it would be worse. Only through our faith and repentance and obedience to the gospel that provided the sacred Atonement is it kept from being worse.
Furthermore, we note that not only has the Savior suffered, in His case entirely innocently, but so have most of the prophets and other great men and women recorded in the scriptures. Name an Old Testament or Book of Mormon prophet, name a New Testament Apostle, name virtually any of the leaders in any dispensation, including our own, and you name someone who has had trouble.
My point? If you are having a bad day, you’ve got a lot of company—very, very good company. The best company that has ever lived.
[a few paragraphs earlier]
In fact, it ought to be a matter of great doctrinal consolation to us that Jesus, in the course of the Atonement, experienced all of the heartache and sorrow, all of the disappointments and injustices that the entire family of man had experienced and would experience from Adam and Eve to the end of the world in order that we would not have to face them so severely or so deeply.

end quote

IN the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 19, verse 16, we read “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they [and that means you and I and everyone] might not suffer if they would repent.”

You think you’ve had a bad day? imagine the last day of the Savior’s life. On that day, He was:
betrayed (Matthew 26:14–16)
Denied (Luke 22:54–62)
Accused (Mark 15:3)
Rejected (Luke 9:22)
Bound (Mark 15:1)
Scourged (John 19:1)
Mocked (Matthew 27:29)
Reviled (Matthew 27:39)
Spit on (Mark 15:19)
Forsaken (Matt 27:46)
Crucified (John 19:17–19)

In the October 2006 General Conference, Elder Joseph B Wirthlin said:

I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.
On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth.
Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant.
On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.
Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross.
On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.
On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.
It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.
I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.
But the doom of that day did not endure.
The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.
And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.
Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.

close quote

Elder Holland, in a talk given in the April 2008 General Conference, said

“Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, ‘I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].’ ”

close quote

1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.
2. He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.
3. He lives, my kind, wise heav’nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.
4. He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”

And now, my brothers and sisters of the Holladay 29th Ward, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, and his thunder and lightning, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 22, 2011

“In these perilous times it is not enough for our youth to merely know. They must do. Wholehearted participation in ordinances, quorums and auxiliaries, inspired programs, and fortifying activities helps youth put on the whole armor of God.”

-Robert D. Hales “Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation,” Ensign, May 2010, 97

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 21, 2011

"Coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him is, I believe, the ultimate purpose of all remembering (see Moroni 10:32 33). Therefore, I pray that God will bless us always to remember, especially His perfect Son, and perish not."

-Marlin K. Jensen "Remember and Perish Not," Ensign, May 2007, 38

Friday, May 20, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 20, 2011

"Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering, and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others."

-Joseph B. Wirthlin "Come What May, and Love It, Ensign", Nov. 2008, 27

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 19, 2011

"President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: 'I have not spoken face to face with all of the prophets of this dispensation. I was not acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith, nor did I ever hear him speak. [However,] my grandfather, who as a young man lived in Nauvoo, did hear him and testified of his divine calling as a great prophet of this dispensation' ("Believe His Prophets," Ensign, May 1992, 50).

"President Hinckley bore witness of the First Vision, when young Joseph Smith went to pray in a grove and received his answer through divine revelation from both the Father and the Son.

"President Hinckley's passion with the building of temples and the sacred work performed therein will be a polar star for each of us to follow."

-F. Michael Watson "His Servants, the Prophets," Ensign, May 2009, 108

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 18, 2011

"The crowning temple ordinance is available only to a man and a woman when they are sealed together, forming an eternal family unit. It is by virtue of this and all other priesthood ordinances that the families of the earth shall be blessed (see Abraham 2:11). This sealing ordinance is so central to the Lord's purposes that He has promised to the faithful who are not sealed in this life through no fault of their own this blessing in the life to come. No other doctrine in all of religion better confirms God's commensurate love for both His sons and His daughters."

-Craig A. Cardon "Moving Closer to Him," Ensign, Nov. 2006, 94-95

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 17, 2011

There are several things we can do to develop a deep conversion and learn how to receive divine inspiration. First, we must have a desire. Alma said, ‘For I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life . . . according to their wills’ (Alma 29:4).”

-Allan F. Packer “Finding Strength in Challenging Times!” Ensign, May 2009, 17

Monday, May 16, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 16, 2011

"In 1936, at the height of the Great Depression in the United States, when people were struggling to make ends meet, Elder John A. Widtsoe admonished the Saints to pay their tithing because of the spiritual blessings they would receive. He said: 'Obedience to the law of tithing . . . brings a deep, inward joy . . . that can be won in no other way. . . . The principles of truth become clearer. . . . Prayer becomes easier. . . . The spiritual sense is sharpened [and] . . . man becomes more like his Father in Heaven' ("Tithing Testimonies of Our Leaders," Deseret News, May 16, 1936, Church Section, 5)."

-Sheldon F. Child "The Best Investment," Ensign, May 2008, 80-81

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 15, 2011

"I express special gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for His loving-kindness and for His open invitation to come unto Him (see Matthew 11:28-30). I marvel at His matchless power to heal. I testify of Jesus Christ as the Master Healer. It is but one of many attributes that characterize His incomparable life."

-Russell M. Nelson "Jesus Christ—the Master Healer," Ensign, Nov. 2005,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daily Thought -- May 14, 2011

"First-generation members occupy a special and important place in the Church and their families. Did you know that first-generation members constitute more than half of the membership of the Church? Perhaps not since the early days of the Church has the first generation constituted such a large percentage of total Church membership as it does today. Your faith and testimonies are a great strength and blessing to others. Through you, we gain a deeper understanding of gospel principles and our testimonies are strengthened.

"You add great strength to the Church when you use your testimony, talents, abilities, and energy to build the kingdom in your wards and branches. You are great examples of sharing the gospel, serving missions, sending children on missions, and welcoming new members. You reach out in kindness to those around you, lifting and blessing them through inspired service. So much of what is done in the Church today could not be done without your efforts."

-Paul B. Pieper "The First Generation," Ensign, Nov. 2006, 11-12