Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunday School Saturday: Lesson 32: “They Did Obey … Every Word of Command with Exactness” (Alma 53-63)

The last two years, I've spent my summers working as an EFY counselor. I have been known as a stickler for the rules, but I have also had very obedient groups. I think the two go hand in hand.

“You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities.

“You are to be the royal army of the Lord in the last days. …

“In the spiritual battles you are waging, I see you as today’s sons of Helaman. Remember well the Book of Mormon account of Helaman’s two thousand stripling warriors” -Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1986, 43

“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 361)

“The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. …

“Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6.)” -Harold B Lee, Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126

We all know the story of the stripling warriors. Their parents had been converts to the Gospel, and as part of their conversion had agreed to no longer take up weapons. When their people came under attack, these young men knew it was up to them to fight. Because of their exceeding faith and obedience, not one of them died.

Keep in mind that they were not only obedient to the words of the Prophet, but also the words of their commanders, and the words of their parents.

President Spencer W Kimball noted the importance of mothers to teach their sons and daughters in the home:

“To be a righteous woman during the winding-up scenes on this earth, before the Second Coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help to enrich, to protect, and to guard the home—which is society’s basic and most noble institution. Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help to save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 326–27)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

For The Strength of You Thursday: Gratitude

“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” -Doctrine and Covenants 59:21

We are eternally indebted to our Father in Heaven for all things. Nothing offend Him more than someone who does not acknowledge His hand in everything.

“We can lift ourselves and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues” (Thomas S. Monson, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, Feb.
2000, 2)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Web Site Wednesday: LDS Gems

Before I left on my mission (which was 10 years ago), there was a web site out there where you could sign up for a daily inspirational message to be sent to you via email. They included a quote from a church leader and a scripture or two.

Now, the Church offers the same service, either by email or an RSS feed. They also offer multiple categories:

Church History Gems
Daily Gems
Family Gems
Young Single Adult Gems
Youth Gems

Sign up here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Temple Tuesday: Panama City

President Thomas S Monson dedicated the Panama City Panama Temple this past Sunday, August 10.

Panama has 41,640 members of the Church, in 93 wards and branches.

In 1941, the first congregation was organized for military personnel stationed in the Panama Canal area. Church membership at that time was 100.

In 1961, Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave Church literature to the president of Panama, Roberto F. Chiari. When the Church was officially recognized by the government in 1965, missionary efforts began.

The first meetinghouse was completed in April 1970 on the Ustopo island. In 1989, when the Panama City Mission was created, there were 10,400 members in Panama.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Encyclopedic Monday: Law of Adoption

The house of Israel in a spiritual and eternal perspective will finally include all who are the true followers of Jesus Christ. Although those of the direct blood lineage of the house of Israel are genealogically the sheep of God's fold, they must fulfill all the spiritual conditions of discipleship. Those not of the blood of Israel can become Israel through adoption (cf. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:7, 29;4:5-7; Matt. 3:9; JST Luke 3:8; Abr. 2:10), through the principles and the ordinances of the gospel: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance of sins; baptism by water and reception of the Holy Ghost; and enduring to the end.

In a larger sense, everyone must be adopted into the family of God in order to enjoy the fulness of his blessings in the world to come. As the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, Jesus is the only natural heir and therefore the only one whose birthright is the kingdom of his Father. If others are to qualify as joint-heirs with Christ in his Father's kingdom, they must be fully adopted by God.

The adoption process is, in the Prophet Joseph Smith's words, "a new creation by the Holy Ghost" (TPJS, p. 150). As summarized in the Doctrine and Covenants, individuals who enter into the covenant and "magnify their calling" are "sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God" (D&C 84:33-34).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Conference Sunday: Three Presiding High Priests

April 2008 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon Session:

Elder William R. Walker
Of the Seventy

Wisdom and strength will come to us as we look to the First Presidency as our ideal and our pattern of leadership.

Elder William R. WalkerWhat a blessing and privilege it is for us to sustain President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as the new First Presidency of the Lord’s Church.

I first learned the importance of the First Presidency as a boy growing up in Western Canada. When I would go to Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s home, I was greeted in the entry by a framed photo of the First Presidency of the Church. I remember it well. It seemed that they stood as sentinels, greeting all who entered.

The beautiful color photo was of President George Albert Smith with his counselors J. Reuben Clark Jr. and David O. McKay. The photo showed them standing together by a large world globe. I loved the picture. They were such handsome and dignified men; I knew them as the prophet of God and his counselors.

That picture hanging in the front foyer of my grandparents’ home had a powerful influence on me. I lived in the small prairie town of Raymond, where my grandparents lived. I could walk to their home, so I visited often. I remember frequently standing quietly alone in the foyer, reverently looking at that picture of the First Presidency. I remember thinking about why my grandparents thought it was so important to honor the First Presidency and have that picture prominently displayed in their home. All who entered would see it. Perhaps most importantly, for their children and grandchildren it was a constant reminder of what was deeply important in the hearts and lives of Grandma and Grandpa.

Years later I concluded that displaying the picture of the First Presidency was equivalent to Joshua’s beautiful expression: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

All who entered the home of James and Fannye Walker knew that written upon their hearts were the words “As for us and our house, we will serve the Lord.” As their grandson, I knew it, and I have never forgotten it.

As a boy I didn’t understand so well the significance of there being three in the First Presidency rather than having one President. I knew, of course, that Jesus had selected Peter, James, and John, not just Peter. I knew that my father was one of three men in the bishopric, serving as a counselor to Bishop J. O. Hicken. I knew my grandfather was the stake president and that he had two counselors who stood beside him (President John Allen and President Leslie Palmer).

In every case—a presidency— not just consisting of one man as the leader but as three who led together. In Primary I had learned the Articles of Faith and grew to love them. The Articles of Faith give our youth comfort and confidence as they learn the fundamental doctrines of the Church. I then knew 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” (Articles of Faith 1:5).

In 1835 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith the proper order of presidencies in the Church:

“Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers. . . .

“Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church” (D&C 107:21–22).

“A quorum of three presidents” (D&C 107:29)—not a president and two vice presidents but three presiding high priests. A quorum of three presidents—the First Presidency of the Lord’s Church.

The world does not organize itself this way, but this is how the Lord organized and structured His Church.

It brings to mind the scripture:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

At about the time of my seventh birthday, I learned a little about succession in the Presidency when President George Albert Smith passed away. Sometime later the picture in Grandma and Grandpa’s foyer was replaced by a beautiful picture of President David O. McKay and his counselors Stephen L Richards and J. Reuben Clark Jr.

As a boy I certainly didn’t understand the deep significance or the process of succession in the Presidency—but I knew that the prophet had died and that we were led by a new prophet of God, with two counselors at his side.

At age 13 I was called into Bishop Murray Holt’s office, and he extended a call to me to serve as the president of the deacons quorum. He told me I needed to go home and pray about who my counselors should be. He taught me that the Lord would help me decide. He did. I then learned about counselors, and I began to see why the Lord has His Church directed by presidencies, not just presidents. I loved my counselors in the deacons quorum, and we prayed and worked hard to help the boys in our quorum. Bishop Holt taught me the pattern of presidencies and taught me how a presidency should operate and function in the Lord’s Church.

When I later served as president of other quorums, I already knew the importance of counselors, and I knew that the Lord would help me choose them—just as my bishop had taught me.

As a deacons quorum president and later as a bishop and stake president, I knew that whatever wisdom, understanding, or capacity I had, it would be magnified considerably when I included my counselors in any decision that needed to be made. I learned that the benefits of serving together as a presidency were magnificent and magnifying.

I came to understand why the Lord appointed that His Church should be led by three presiding high priests and why that form of leadership would be prescribed throughout most of the Church.

The Lord said, “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived” (D&C 52:14). He has given us the pattern of leadership. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Every organization in the Church is presided over by a presidency of three, except the Seventies [and the Twelve]” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 94). Additionally, the auxiliaries at all levels are led by a president and two counselors. All the blessings and benefits of serving together as a presidency apply to auxiliaries as well as to the priesthood quorums.

Every one of us who serve in presidencies anywhere in the Church should look to the First Presidency as our pattern and the example that we seek to follow as we carry out our stewardships. We should strive to be like them and to work together in love and harmony as they do.

President Gordon B. Hinckley often spoke of the importance of counselors. He said, “The Lord put [counselors] there for a purpose” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 94).

President Hinckley further instructed us: “Every morning except Monday, the First Presidency meets, when we are in town. I call on President Faust to present his business and we discuss it and make a decision. Then I call on President Monson to present his business and we discuss it and make a decision. Then I present the items which I wish to present and we discuss them and make a decision. We work together. . . . You can’t be a one-man operation in a presidency. Counselors—what a wonderful thing are counselors. They save you from doing the wrong things, they help you to do the right things” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 95; see also “In . . . Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 48–51).

A counselor to President Joseph F. Smith once described how the First Presidency deliberated: “When a case came before [the President of the Church] to judge, he and his counselors would talk it over and give it their careful consideration until they came to the same conclusion” (Anthon H. Lund, in Conference Report, June 1919, 19; emphasis added).

That should be our pattern in presidencies.

The revelations teach us to make our decisions in quorums and presidencies “in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity” (D&C 107:30).

The Lord has given us the pattern.

We have sustained today the new First Presidency of the Church. They will teach us and show us the pattern that we should follow. Wisdom and strength will come to us as we look to the First Presidency as our ideal and our pattern of leadership.

Great blessings will come to our families as we teach our children and grandchildren to love and sustain the leaders of the Church. As a young boy standing in my grandparents’ home, I knew that we were led by men of God, whom the Lord had placed there to guide us.

And I know it now. I bear witness that this is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and that we are led by His apostles and prophets. I bear witness that the senior apostle, President Thomas S. Monson, has been called of God and that with his two noble counselors at his side, they will lead us in accordance with the mind and will of the Lord, whose Church this is. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sunday School Saturday: Lesson 30: Plan of Happiness (Alma 40-42)

This lesson is about Alma's teaching of the Plan of Happiness to his wayward son Corianton. He knew his son well enough that he could perceive that Coranton did not have a testimony of the afterlife, and that was the reason for his rebelliousness. (Alma 40:1, 41:1, 42:1)

In chapter 40, verses 11-15 and 21, Alma teaches the differences between paradise and spirit prison. Essentially, Paradise is a state of happiness, versus a state of misery with weeping and wailing.

In chapter 42, Alma teaches why we must have both justice and mercy:

14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.
15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

And that's what you need to know for tomorrow's Sunday School Lesson.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Principled Friday: Hope

Romans 8:24-25

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Often in the scriptures, hope is coupled with faith and charity. What is hope?

Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.