Continuous Revelation Through Living Prophets

We have the great blessing of living at a time of continuous information. It takes only seconds to find an answer to any question we might have. There is only one problem with that – we don’t always know if the information is correct. And sometimes it is very difficult to find the source of that information.  

We have the even greater blessing of living at a time where there is a prophet on the earth who receives continuous revelation. We can know for ourselves through personal revelation that what the prophet says is true and can know the Source from which that revelation comes!

In Chapter 7, Continuous Revelation Through Living Prophets, Howard W. Hunter says, “There is an unending stream of revelation flowing constantly from the headwaters of heaven to God’s anointed servants on earth.” He also reminds us that “it is continuous revelation that guides prophets and the Church in any age. Down through its history, including this very day, the Church has had a prophet, seer, and revelator. At the head of the Church is Jesus Christ, who directs his prophet. Members of the Church can believe the voice of their leaders, knowing they are guided by the Lord.” 

President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Of all things, that for which we should be most grateful today is that the heavens are indeed open and that the restored church of Jesus Christ is founded upon the rock of revelation. Continuous revelation is indeed the very lifeblood of the gospel of the living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” 1

James E. Faust taught: “This continuous revelation will not and cannot be forced by outside pressure from people and events. It is not the so-called ‘revelation of social progress.’ It does not originate with the prophets; it comes from God. The Church is governed by the prophet under the guidance and direction of God. We have been promised that the President of the Church will receive guidance for all of us as the revelator for the Church. Our safety lies in paying heed to that which he says and following his counsel.” 2

The expectation of some that the Church yield to social pressures has always existed. However, with social media, the voice of opposition speaks louder and more often. If we do not learn for ourselves that our safety truly lies in following the prophet, we may find ourselves being guided more by “social progress” than by the will of God. When some find themselves caught in that trap, they begin to critical of the Church and its leaders, looking for justification to stay in the mainstream. We have been warned time and again that this would be the case. It seems that criticism is also continuous. We would be wise not to get caught in that trap!


Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us that “this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith. So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.” 3

In a recent BYU devotional, Allan F. Packer said, “The role of the Brethren is to represent God to His people, as all prophets have done in the past. These men, past and present, are the first to say they are not perfect, but, like all members, they are striving to become as the Savior commanded. Some people will hold up a yardstick of perfection to them and find them wanting. That measure is just a distraction from the real question. Christ, after all, was the only perfect person who lived on the earth. The real question is, ‘Did these men have and fill a divine mission?’ The fact that these men are not perfect does not bother me. It actually gives me hope in my quest for exaltation to know that the Lord does bless, guide, and honor them.  Following the teachings of the prophets is our test, not theirs.” 4

From Neil L. Andersen we learn, “The words of the Lord’s prophet, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve are always available to lighten our path and help show us the way. Their united voice, if followed, will help set aside the enticing voices of the world. The men who occupy these positions would claim no personal perfection, but I witness to you that as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve prayerfully approach the Lord, He shapes our thinking and direction and reveals His will for His covenant people, and indeed for all the world.” 5

Howard W. Hunter declared, “There is a prophet on the earth today who speaks the mind and will of the Lord to those who will hear and have the faith to follow. If we follow the advice, counsel, and teachings of the leaders of the Church in their instruction to us, we will not go amiss in that which is important for our own personal salvation and exaltation.”  

In a CES fireside in January, Russell M. Nelson said, “Prophets see ahead.  They see the harrowing dangers the adversary has placed or will yet place in our path. Prophets also foresee the grand possibilities and privileges awaiting those who listen with the intent to obey.” 6

Much of the advice, counsel and teachings of the leaders of the Church comes to us in general conference. That is often when we are warned of dangers and told of the possibilities and privileges awaiting the faithful and obedient. Let us never forget, as President Hunter reminded us, that “we are guided by a living prophet of God—one who communicates with, is inspired by, and receives revelation from the Lord.” The choice is our if we will hear and have the faith to follow.

Speaking of general conference, President Hunter said, “Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful. It is a time when an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is burned into the hearts of those who have the determination to serve him and keep his commandments. Conference is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives—a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better.”

Recently M. Russell Ballard warned, “Some of you have become casual in listening to the Lord’s servants. Some choose to miss sessions of general conference because they see those special weekends as a time off from their Church assignments. It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the Internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles.” 7

We cannot afford to be casual in listening to the Lord’s servants! In our day of continuous information, I hope we will search more deeply the information found in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets and apostles. Continuous revelation indeed comes to living prophets.  Through the Holy Ghost, it is also available to each of us. Russell M. Nelson teaches us that “revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process, and so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.”

In the general conference Howard W. Hunter was sustained as the prophet, he said, “Like my Brethren before me, I receive with this calling the assurance that God will direct his prophet.” That assurance is one each of us can and should have.  

References:

1.  Revelation:  The Word of the Lord to His Prophets, Spencer W. Kimball

2.  Continuous Revelation, James E. Faust

3.  Lord, I Believe, Jeffrey R. Holland

4.  Finding Your Way, Allan F. Packer

5.  A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous, Neil L. Andersen

6.  Becoming True Millennials, Russell M. Nelson

7.  To the Saints in the Utah South Area, M. Russell Ballard

Adversity

“Life—every life—has a full share of ups and downs. Indeed, we see many joys and sorrows in the world, many changed plans and new directions, many blessings that do not always look or feel like blessings, and much that humbles us and improves our patience and our faith.” That quote is found in Chapter 3 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter. President Hunter taught often about adversity and the need for hope and encouragement as we journey through life. The lesson comes from four such talks – three from general conferences and one from a CES Fireside. Links to those talks are at the bottom of the page.

I remember well the first time I saw the Mormon Message entitled “The Refiner’s Fire.” (The link is below.) I don’t think any of us can truly anticipate how hard life can be at times. However, the strength this sweet sister finds through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is inspiring! It is the lesson we are all here to learn. That video epitomizes President Hunter’s reminder that in times of trouble, “Jesus Christ possesses the power to ease our burdens and lighten our loads.”

That quote also brought Elder David A. Bednar’s talk from April 2014 LDS General Conference to mind. He told the story of a friend who went into the mountains to cut and haul firewood. There was already some snow in the mountains. However, the farther up the mountain he got, the deeper the snow got. Having recently purchased his truck, this man was confident he could handle the snow and so he kept driving. Unfortunately he went too far and got stuck. The harder he tried to get out the more his wheels spun. He didn’t really know what to do or how he would get out. So he got out of his truck and went to cut the firewood he had come for. He completely filled the back of his truck with a heavy load of wood. He decided to try one more time to get out of the snow. Slowly the truck inched its way out and he was finally back on the road. Elder Bednar taught us this lesson about his friend, the truck and the load of firewood:

“For my friend, the load of wood provided life-saving traction. The empty truck could not move through the snow, even equipped with four-wheel drive. A heavy load was necessary to produce traction.

“It was the load. It was the load that provided the traction that enabled my friend to get unstuck, to get back on the road, to press forward, and to return to his family.

“The unique burdens in each of our lives help us to rely upon the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah (see 2 Nephi 2:8). I testify and promise the Savior will help us to bear up our burdens with ease (see Mosiah 24:15). As we are yoked with Him through sacred covenants and receive the enabling power of His Atonement in our lives, we increasingly will seek to understand and live according to His will. We also will pray for the strength to learn from, change, or accept our circumstances rather than praying relentlessly for God to change our circumstances according to our will. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14). We will be blessed with spiritual traction.”

By yoking ourselves to the Savior, President Hunter tells us we will have “the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and the strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality.” And Elder Bednar tells us “we are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior’s Atonement we can receive capacity and strength beyond our own.”

Helping us learn to keep perspective through our trials, President Hunter teaches us:

“When the difficulties of mortality humble us and refine us and teach us and bless us, they can be powerful instruments in the hands of God to make us better people, to make us more grateful, more loving, and more considerate of other people in their own times of difficulty.

“We all have difficult moments, but even in the most severe of times, those problems were never intended to do anything but bless the righteous and help those who are less righteous move toward repentance.”

He also reminds us that “God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.” Adversity is a necessary part of life. It is part of God’s plan. He knows what is best for us and what will help us become who He wants us to be. Trust in His plan will bring peace during times of trial. Brigham Young said, “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”

I really like how Orson F. Whitney said the same thing, with even greater depth:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

Perhaps the most beautiful talk I have read about trusting God and relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ while enduring adversity was the one given by Richard G. Scott the general conference following his wife’s death. He taught that adversity is evidence that the Lord feels we are prepared to grow and that those experiences stimulate growth, understanding and compassion which will benefit us eternally. He said, “To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.” I love his tender reminder:

“Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.”

The entire talk is definitely worth reading!

President Hunter encouraged us to “have faith and hope, two of the great fundamental virtues of any discipleship of Christ” and that “if our faith and hope are anchored in Christ, in his teachings, commandments, and promises, then we are able to count on something truly remarkable.” He then leaves us this powerful promise:

“I promise you in the name of the Lord whose servant I am that God will always protect and care for his people. We will have our difficulties the way every generation and people have had difficulties. But with the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have every hope and promise and reassurance. The Lord has power over his Saints and will always prepare places of peace, defense, and safety for his people. When we have faith in God we can hope for a better world—for us personally, and for all mankind.”

Evidence of the Lord’s tender care during our afflictions can be readily found in the scriptures. Here are just a few:

1 Nephi 20:10 – I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

1 Nephi 21:13 – The Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

2 Nephi 4: 20 – My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions.

Jacob 3:1 – He will console you in our afflictions, and he will plead your cause.

Alma 26:27 – Bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.

Alma 36:3 – I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.

D&C 24:1 – I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions, and have counseled thee.

D&C 24:8 – Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.

D&C 98:3 – All things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good.

D&C 121:7 & 8 – Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

As I look back on some of the hardest times in my life, I can see that was when my testimony grew the most. I could not have learned the things I have learned in any other way. Relying on the Savior, I had the strength to bear hard things. Holding fast to the covenants I have made, I found great hope. Faith to submit my will to the Father’s gave me peace. As I continue to align my will with His, I know I will be blessed with the strength, hope and peace I need to endure what is yet to come.

Additional Resources:

God Will Have a Tried People – Howard W. Hunter

The Opening and Closing of Doors – Howard W. Hunter

Come Unto Me – Howard W. Hunter

An Anchor to the Souls of Men – Howard W. Hunter

The Refiner’s Fire – Mormon Message

Finding a Safe Harbor – Joseph B. Wirthlin

Adversity – Henry B. Eyring

Bearing Our Burdens with Hope – Mormon Message

My Peace I Give Unto You

In Chapter 2 of Teachings of the President of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, President Hunter reminds us that “peace is a state of existence that comes to man only upon the terms and conditions set by God, and in no other way.”

One great example of this is found in Matthew 14 when the disciples are out at sea and a great storm arises. The Savior goes out to be with them.  Sensing their anxiousness, He tells them to “be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” Peter leaves the boat to join Jesus. While his sight is firmly fixed on the Savior, he finds peace amid the storm. With his firmly fixed focus, he finds his way toward the safety of the Savior. However with the winds and waves beating upon him, Peter’s focus turns from the Savior to the difficulties all around him. He begins to sink. His desperate plea to be saved is immediately answered by the loving, waiting, oustretched arm of the Savior.  

How often are we like Peter? We know that we must look to the Savior. But fear and doubt, even if only momentary, cause us to look down. How often does the Savior ask the same question of us, “Why do you doubt?”

Joseph B. Wirthlin, in his April 2000 LDS General Conference talk taught:

“You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you. Your Heavenly Father—who knows when even a sparrow falls—knows of your heartache and suffering. He loves you and wants the best for you. Never doubt this. While He allows all of us to make choices that may not always be for our own or even others’ well-being, and while He does not always intervene in the course of events, He has promised the faithful peace even in their trials and tribulations.

“Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bears a special love for those who suffer.

“Be of good cheer. The Man of Galilee, the Creator, the Son of the Living God will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him. I testify that the Man who suffered for mankind, who committed His life to healing the sick and comforting the disconsolate, is mindful of your sufferings, doubts, and heartaches.


“Even when we are called to sail through troubled waters, we need to know the place of adversity in shaping our divine potential.

“If only we would have the faith and trust in our Heavenly Father to see how, after a little season, then we can emerge from our trials more refined and glorious.

“At times we may be tempted to think the Savior is oblivious to our trials. In fact, the reverse is true; it is we who need to be awakened in our hearts to His teachings.

“Do all you can do and then leave the rest to the Lord.

“Living the gospel does not mean the storms of life will pass us by, but we will be better prepared to face them with serenity and peace.

“Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. Be of good cheer. Keep the faith. Doubt not. The storms will one day be stilled.

“In our own storms in life the Savior is our solace and our sanctuary. If we seek peace, we must come unto Him. He Himself spoke this eternal truth when He said, ‘My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’  When our souls are anchored in the safe harbor of the Savior, we can proclaim as did Paul: ‘We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.'”

I love this quote from James E. Faust! “The Savior doesn’t heal souls by simply restoring us to our former state of wellness. When He heals, He graciously overdoes it. He makes us healthier than we ever were before the onset of the affliction. His objective is our happiness and peace.”

In his April 2013 LDS General Conference talk, Quentin L. Cook said:

“Peace is not just safety or lack of war, violence, conflict, and contention. Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies.

The Savior is the source of true peace. Even with the trials of life, because of the Savior’s Atonement and His grace, righteous living will be rewarded with personal peace. In the intimate setting of the Passover chamber, the Savior promised His Apostles that they would be blessed with the ‘Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost’ and then uttered these important words: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.’  Then just before His Intercessory Prayer: ‘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.'”
 

We learn a very important lesson about peace from that scripture, which is found in John 16:33. The Savior tells us “in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Peace is only attainable because of the Savior. This scripture also teaches us a couple of very interesting things. There are two absolute statements and two variable ones. The two absolutes are that “in the world ye shall have tribulation” and “I have overcome the world.” Life will be hard! We will experience pain, heartache, sin and sorrow . . . in this world! But the Savior has overcome the world! And because He has, He has the power to help us through the two variable parts of this scripture. Though the phrase, “ye might have peace” is conditional, we are the only conditional part. We must choose to come to Him. When we do, that promised peace is assured. The admonition to “be of good cheer” is also our choice. And as we follow that admonition, we will find our walk along the path that leads to promised peace.

President Hunter taught, “Peace can come to an individual only by an unconditional surrender—surrender to him who is the Prince of peace, who has the power to confer peace.” He also reminds us to “seek for the peace that comes from living the simple principles of the gospel of Christ.”

In October 2004 LDS General Conference, Richard G. Scott taught that peace of conscience is “a condition of immense worth, yet there are few on earth that enjoy it.  Peace of conscience relates to your inner self and is controlled by what you personally do. Peace of conscience can come only from God through a righteous, obedient life. It cannot exist otherwise.” Again speaking on peace, in his April 2013 LDS General Conference talk he taught that our homes are the ideal place to establish peace.  He said:

“Deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures.

“The ideal place for that peace is within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord Jesus Christ the centerpiece.

“Center your home and your life on the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the source of true peace in this life.”

Elder Scott then taught us how we can best accomplish this.  He said:

“Daily personal and family prayer, daily personal and family scripture study, and weekly family home evening are the essential, weight-bearing beams in the construction of a Christ-centered home. Without these regular practices it will be difficult to find the desired and much-needed peace and refuge from the world.

“Simple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings.

“Remember that there are some things that must be left to the Lord. He invites us to set our burdens down at His feet.

“Living an obedient life, firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, provides the greatest assurance for peace and refuge in our homes. There will still be plenty of challenges or heartaches, but even in the midst of turmoil, we can enjoy inner peace and profound happiness.”

President Hunter reminds us, “There is but one guiding hand in the universe, only one truly infallible light, one unfailing beacon to the world. That light is Jesus Christ.”

May we each look to the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ as we navigate our way through the stormy seas of life.

A Christ-Centered Life

Imagine what the world would be like if we were all striving to be like Jesus Christ. I love the beautiful reminder in one of the Primary songs. It says, “I’m trying to be like Jesus. I’m following in His ways. I’m trying to love as He did, in all I do and say.” Ezra Taft Benson gave us this advice, “If we would truly seek to be more like our Savior and Master, then learning to love as He loves should be our highest goal.” That quote comes from Teachings of the Presidents of the Church – Ezra Taft Benson, Lesson 24. This lesson is the perfect way to finish our study of this extraordinary man! His life was one of love and devotion to the Savior. The lesson quotes from his April 1984 LDS General Conference, when he said:

“I testify to you that there is no greater, more thrilling, and more soul-ennobling challenge than to try to learn of Christ and walk in His steps. Our model, Jesus Christ, walked this earth as ‘the Exemplar.’  …

‘What would Jesus do?’ or ‘What would He have me do?’ are the paramount personal questions of this life. Walking in His way is the greatest achievement of life. That man or woman is most truly successful whose life most closely parallels that of the Master.”

Some of the most beautiful scriptures are found in Chapter 7 of Moroni in the Book of Mormon. They teach:

  45  And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

 46  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

 47  But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

 48  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”

Verses 45-47 plainly teach us how we should live. Verse 48 reminds us that we cannot do it alone.  We must pray to our Father and ask for His help. Charity is a gift of the Spirit. We must ask for His help in obtaining that gift.

I love the last part of verse 48. Two things strike me in that sentence – we shall be like Him and we shall see Him as He is. The only way to become like the Savior is to try every day to do the things He would do. And to see Him as He is will only be possible if we know Him.

President Benson reminds us that becoming Christlike is a lifelong pursuit. He said:

“To become as He is, we must have Him on our mind—constantly in our thoughts.  . . .  If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts.

Let our personal lives, our homes, and our work performance reflect our Christlike character. So live that others will say about you, ‘There is a true Christian!’

Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ, but more—we look to Him, we trust Him and strive to emulate His attributes.

Christ is our ideal. He is our exemplar. … The best measure of true greatness is how Christlike we are.

To be like the Savior—what a challenge for any person!”

In October 2015 LDS General Conference, Elder Richard J. Maynes compared centering our lives on Christ with a potter who must have the clay perfectly centered on the wheel.  He said:

“The world in which we live is similar to the potter’s spinning wheel, and the speed of that wheel is increasing. Like the clay on the potter’s wheel, we must be centered as well. Our core, the center of our lives, must be Jesus Christ and His gospel. Living a Christ-centered life means we learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel and then we follow His example and keep His commandments with exactness.

“If our lives are centered in Jesus Christ, He can successfully mold us into who we need to be in order to return to His and Heavenly Father’s presence in the celestial kingdom. The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

We were also reminded in general conference that we don’t have to be perfect but that we need to be good and getting better. 

Neal A. Maxwell said it like this, “Once our direction is correct, we can give attention to pace.” (The Christ-Centered Life.)

Elder Maxwell,  from that same article, said, “To speak of personal progress and drawing closer to the Savior requires our trusting not only in the Lord’s plan for all mankind but also trusting in his unfolding and particularized plan for each of us. Drawing ever closer to the Lord, therefore, means much more than merely acknowledging that He is in charge, though that is a beginning. Believers who remain underinvolved with Him are, in a sense, living without Him in the world.

“In spite of what the world declares, there is still only one way to find ourselves and that is by losing our lives for the sake of the Savior and the gospel.”

As we center our lives on the Savior and keep our focus firmly fixed on Him, we will see more clearly His hand in our lives.  He loves us and wants us to succeed.  If we pause from our busy lives, it is actually quite easy to see how much He loves us individually.

 I cannot think of a better way to show our love for the Savior, especially at this special time of year, than to accept this challenge from President Benson, “May we all have the moral courage from this moment forward to more fully strive each day to think on Christ, learn of Him, walk in His steps, and do what He would have us do.”

Filling Our Hearts & Homes

The Women’s Session of our last General Conference had such a powerful impact on me.  I was profoundly grateful for the incredible women who boldly declared and defended God’s truths.  I left that meeting with a greater desire to do my part, however small that might be.  Their words and their examples have made me want to be a more devoted disciple of Christ.  Here are just a few of the things that inspired me most.


From Cheryl A. Esplin’s talk “Filling Our Homes With Light and Truth”1


“When filled with the Spirit and with gospel truth, we have the power to withstand the outside forces of the world that surround and push against us.
Families are the Lord’s workshop on earth to help us learn and live the gospel. . . .  Strong eternal families and Spirit-filled homes do not just happen. They take great effort, they take time, and they take each member of the family doing his or her part. Every home is different, but every home where even one individual seeks for truth can make a difference.

As we fill our hearts and homes with the Savior’s light and truth, we will have the inner strength to withstand in every circumstance.”


From Carole M. Stephens’ talk “The Family is of God”2:

“The Savior knows the difficulties of the way and can guide us through whatever sorrows and disappointments may come.

As we use our time in mortality to study and apply the Savior’s teachings, we become more like Him. We come to understand that He is the way—the only way—we can overcome mortal challenges, be healed, and return back to our heavenly home.

If we are to be successful in our sacred responsibilities as daughters of God, we must understand the eternal significance of and our individual responsibility to teach truths about our Heavenly Father’s plan for His family.”


From Bonnie L. Oscarson’s talk “Defenders of the Family Proclamation”3:

“We need to boldly defend the Lord’s revealed doctrines describing marriage, families, the divine roles of men and women, and the importance of homes as sacred places—even when the world is shouting in our ears that these principles are outdated, limiting, or no longer relevant. Everyone, no matter what their marital circumstance or number of children, can be defenders of the Lord’s plan described in the family proclamation. If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!

There is no greater honor, no more elevated title, and no more important role in this life than that of mother or father.

Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived.”

I can’t think of a greater blessing for us or our families than to have a home where the Spirit of the Lord dwells.  As Sister Esplin said, that takes time and effort.  If we do nothing more than listen to the words of our leaders, then they are nothing more than beautiful words.  We must plant them in our hearts and then have the faith to live them, even when it seems hard.  It does take effort.  But the rewards are great!   Especially now, it is essential to have a testimony of our Savior and invite His Spirit into our lives and homes.  By relying on our Savior and living His gospel, we will have the strength needed to endure the trials we will face in this life.   Heber C. Kimball said, “To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light.”

I look forward with great anticipation to the next two weekends!  I love general conference!  For me, it is a time of rejuvenation, reflection and recommitment.  Robert D. Hales said, “Oh, how we need general conference! Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened. And when we are converted, we strengthen each other to stand strong amid the fiery darts of these last days.”

The only way our faith can be fortified and our testimonies deepened is if we act on the impressions we receive while listening to conference.  If we spiritually prepare ourselves, conference can be a very personal, even life changing, experience.  Just as Paul V. Johnson said, “In order for the messages of general conference to change our lives, we need to be willing to follow the counsel we hear.”

References:

1.  Filling Our Homes With Light and Truth – Cheryl A. Esplin

2.  The Family is of God – Carole M. Stephens

3.  Defenders of the Family Proclamation  –  Bonnie L. Oscarson

Sacrifice Brings Heaven’s Blessings

Two years ago, we had the opportunity to go to Martin’s Cove and the historical sites in Wyoming and Utah that were significant along the Mormon Pioneer Trail. It was a life changing experience for me! It was a long trip, even in an air-conditioned, comfortable car! We hiked through several of the areas, drove to others, ate at restaurants and slept in nice, comfortable hotel rooms. They were exhausting, adventure-filled days. They were also days filled with of feelings of overwhelming sacredness.  It was incredible to walk some of the places the pioneers had walked, to read their testimonies and to hear their stories, some even about my own ancestors. Without actually walking the trails and seeing the difficult conditions (and I saw it on a beautiful summer day), it is nearly impossible to even imagine what the early Mormon pioneers went through to get to the Salt Lake Valley. So even though I have gained an appreciation, it is nowhere near an understanding!  

A very sacred experience happened when we went to Church there on Sunday. My husband and son were asked to bless the sacrament. Words are inadequate to express my feelings. As I listened to the words of each prayer, tears rolled down my cheeks. I found a deeper meaning to those words as I listened to them that day and thought how the pioneers must have heard those same words on that same spot so many years ago. As we take the sacrament, we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and always remember Him, and keep His commandments so that we can have His Spirit to be with us. That day I thought of all that the pioneers had endured because they had truly taken His name upon them and remembered Him and kept His commandments. And it was because they had His Spirit with them that they had been able to endure all they had been through and could continue to endure all that was still ahead. I thought of their sacrifice and their devotion. I remember wondering if the way I was living my life was evidence that I truly appreciated that sacrifice and devotion. Would they be as proud to be my relative as I was to be theirs? Am I as willing to take the Savior’s name and always remember Him and keep His commandments as they were? Do I allow His Spirit to guide me and sustain me like they did?

There are so many lessons we can learn from the pioneers! They knew sacrifice! They also knew that they would be blessed for their sacrifice. There are incredible stories that tell of the miracles. I believe that, while they too experienced heaven’s blessings, their sacrifices have brought us heaven’s blessings! I have heard stories about the pioneers all my life. However, I didn’t understand or appreciate what they went through – for us – before I went to Martin’s Cove. The things I heard, saw and felt have deepened my faith and filled my heart with gratitude for the blessings I have because of the sacrifices of others. I am so grateful for that experience. I love the story below about Francis Webster.  It had such a profound impact on me when I first heard it! And it still does. It is a sweet reminder to me that those times which are the hardest to bear are never really borne alone! If we put our trust in our Heavenly Father, those will be the refining times when we are being molded into the person He wants us to become. 

In 1856, Francis and Betsy Webster had enough money to travel to Utah in a wagon, but they donated their money to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund. Their donation allowed an additional nine individuals to travel by handcart. Brother and Sister Webster, who were expecting a baby, traveled to Salt Lake City with the Martin handcart company and suffered along with the rest of the company.

Years later, as Brother Webster sat in a Sunday School class, he listened to some Church members criticize Church leaders for the handcart tragedy. Unable to constrain himself, he arose and testified of the blessings of being in the Martin handcart company:

“I ask you to stop this criticism for you are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the handcart company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it. … We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation. But did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? … Everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities [extreme needs].

“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull my load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor one moment of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come to Zion in the Martin Handcart Company” (in William R. Palmer, “Pioneers of Southern Utah,” The Instructor, May 1944, 217–18).

The second quote comes from Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s First Presidency message, All is Well, in this month’s Ensign. It is a great reminder of the optimism that the pioneers exhibited. The title of President Uchtdorf’s article comes from the song “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” I love the second verse.  It says:

“Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right. Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake; And soon we’ll have this tale to tell – All is well! All is well!” I’ve always told my kids that life is hard – and it’s supposed to be! That is exactly what I read in that second verse! Don’t whine and think life is hard. It is! But it is supposed to be! We will never earn “a great reward” if we aren’t willing to work hard and fight for it. Adjust your attitude! Be strong! Know that God will never leave you alone! And no matter what, because of our Savior, “All is well!”

Instead of just being a day filled with parades, parties and fireworks, Pioneer Day is now a holy day and not just a holiday. It is a day to express how truly proud I am of my heritage and how thankful I am for ancestors who gave so much so I can have so much!

Freedom Through Forgiveness

It is inspiring to see how some people handle adversity. A couple of weeks ago, there was a senseless act of violence that occurred in a church in South Carolina. Nine people who had come to worship God were murdered by a very disturbed young man. He calculatingly killed people who he considered beneath him. What a horrible act of racism and bigotry! As horrible and horrific as that day was, the days that followed were miraculously filled with faith and forgiveness. I was brought to tears as I heard the family members express their forgiveness to the very person who had killed their loved ones. What an incredible lesson they taught all of us! Their love of God allowed them to forgive. The young man was emotionless to the feelings and words of these forgiving followers of Christ. Of course he was emotionless! He was full of hate! That is precisely what drove him to do what he did.  While it may be true that their offering of forgiveness did nothing for him, it definitely did do something for them! What these God-fearing people understand is that forgiveness frees from hate. Hatred had destroyed this young man, but it would not destroy them!

The picture quote comes from a talk given by President James E. Faust in the April 2007 LDS General Conference. His talk has several inspirational stories of forgiveness and is definitely worth reading. Here is the link to that talk. The common thread in each of the stories (and also in the recent event in South Carolina) is they are all religious people, whose love of God taught them to forgive. There is such an important place in our society for religious freedom! It is one of the freedoms I cherish most! In the April 2015 LDS General Conference, Elder Robert D. Hales gave four cornerstones of religious freedom that we must rely upon and protect. They are:

    – Freedom to believe

    – Freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others

    – Freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others

    – Freedom to live our faith—free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places

Here is the link to his entire talk. 

July 4th is Saturday, a day we celebrate our nation’s freedom. We have seen far too much hatred in our society lately. While it is true we have different beliefs, backgrounds, hertiages and religions, we must be respectful of those differences if America is going to remain a truly free country. We must never forget this nation was founded “under God.” The tragedy in South Carolina reminds us that some people use their freedom for good and others use it for evil. Hopefully we all learned a lesson or two from those who used their freedom for good! As we will undoubtedly have many opportunities this weekend to see our beautiful flag, remember what it stands for! Let us have the courage to defend the freedoms that we hold so dear!

The Power & Blessing of Faith

Sometimes I wonder if we can comprehend the power of faith. I had a friend request that I do this quote for her. It is hard to explain the feelings I had while I was working on it. The first one I put a beautiful sunrise as the graphic. But I couldn’t deny the deeper feelings I was experiencing. I couldn’t help but think about what happened in the Sacred Grove. Joseph Smith, a young 14 year old boy went there to pray, having faith enough to know that if he asked his Heavenly Father a question, he would get an answer. And he did get an answer! Because of his faith and because he acted on the answer he received to his heartfelt inquiry, the world has been filled with the incredible light of the gospel!

I thought about my own faith and what it means to me. I thought of the times in my life when I have had to rely totally on faith—my faith! That faith is built on my Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Light of the world. It is our faith in Him that will give us the strength to emerge triumphant in times when we feel our world shattering around us. We all will experience feelings like that at least once in our life, perhaps even many times, because, honestly, that is part of life. Those are the refining moments in our lives. Those are the times we get to choose what becomes of us—whether we put our trust in Heavenly Father to shape and mold us into the person He wants us to be or whether we become bitter, angry or feel sorry for ourselves. While I can’t say that I have loved my trials, I can say I love what my trials have helped me become. I cannot say I have loved watching those I love go through their trials, but I love how they have come through them better and stronger than ever!

So I guess what this experience left me with was a bit of soul-searching. These are the questions I am pondering. Do I have the kind of faith that young Joseph had? Do I really know that Heavenly Father will answer my sincere prayers? Do I have enough faith in Him to trust how He answers my prayers? Alma 58:11 says: “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.” How grateful I am for the peace that comes from Him alone, for my faith and for my hope in Him!