Count It All Joy

Count it all joy – what a great scriptural reminder we find in James 1:2! President Russell M. Nelson has taught that joy is “a principle that will only become more important as the tragedies and travesties around us increase.”1 Does that sound a little like this year? Interestingly, the entire scripture reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”2 In the Joseph Smith Translation, the last few words are “when ye fall into many afflictions.”3 Many afflictions? Absolutely! What about different temptations? I’m sure there have been at least a few times this year when we’ve been tempted to complain, to get upset, to give up, to be unkind. And yet, we are to count it all joy.

President Nelson reminded us that “joy … as little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.”1

When everything started shutting down, I found myself focusing on what I couldn’t do. I could no longer go to the temple or to church, go on vacation or out to dinner. I was allowing restrictions—circumstances—to blur my focus. Places, as wonderful as they may be, are not the source of my joy.

Luckily it didn’t take me too long to get my focus where it belonged. Never before have I  felt such a longing to be in the temple, been more anxious to hear from the prophet, so excited for general conference, and more eager to go to church. The sacrament has become more sacred, the temple more cherished, family more valued, and the living prophet more important.

Through this year of tragedies and travesties, temptations and afflictions, I am more profoundly grateful for my family, my faith, and my friends. Yes, I can count it all joy.

References:

1.  Joy and Spiritual Survival – Russell M. Nelson

2.  James 1:2

3.  James 1:2 – Joseph Smith Translation

Always Remember Him

After all these years, I finally convinced my husband to take me back to see his mission. Since he served in the United States, it probably shouldn’t have taken us so long. But it was definitely worth the wait! Although we weren’t there long enough to see everyone and everything, it was fun to see several of the places where he lived and served. We were able to share all our time with a couple he had the privilege of teaching and seeing join the Church. On Sunday, we had church at one of their sons’ homes. Their youngest daughter and her family also joined us, so there were fifteen of us there for church. That was the most people I have been able to attend church with for almost six months! It was such a special experience. My husband was asked to help with the sacrament. As he knelt down to offer the prayer on the bread, I was overcome with emotion. I was sharing this sacred ordinance with some of the people Dave had taught the gospel to almost forty years ago! I remember feeling something very similar several years ago when we were at Martin’s Cove and my husband and son were asked to help bless the sacrament. On that special occasion, I could not hold back the tears of gratitude and love. Just like my thoughts then, on this special Sunday I thought of the sacrifices that had been made so many years earlier that made it possible for me to be having such a sweet experience now. Dave had sacrificed to serve a mission. Ron and Susie had made incredible sacrifices to join the Church. They and their children have continued to make sacrifices to serve in the Church. Their three sons all served missions. All five of their children married in the temple. They have all remained strong and faithful.

As I have thought about these two occasions and the profoundly spiritual experiences they were, I realized that I should be having that kind of an experience every time I have the privilege of taking the sacrament. The sacrament is symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice made by our Savior Jesus Christ. Because of His sacrifice, it is possible for me to enjoy blessings beyond my comprehension!

President Russell M. Nelson reminded us, “Partaking of the sacrament is a sacred and sanctifying privilege.”1 He said this just a few months ago, during the time when we are only able to partake of the sacrament in our homes. That seems significant to me. We don’t always have to be in a chapel. Sometimes out of necessity church is at home or in a barn in the mountains. It is the ordinance not the place that makes the sacrament sacred and sanctifying. To always remember the Savior is a covenant commitment that comes with powerful promises.

Oh, how important it is to recognize and remember the sacrifices others have made to get us where we are today! Equally important is our need to make the daily sacrifices, ones that keep our testimonies strong and vibrant. That is how we always remember Him. And when we always remember Him, the sacrament truly becomes sacred and sanctifying in our lives.

Reference:

1.  May 28, 2020 Instagram Post – Russell M. Nelson

A Much-Needed Reminder

Anyone who knows me very well knows I love the temple! I have missed being able to go to the temple so much! I found great comfort in something Elder Dale G. Renlund said in a video he posted on his social media a couple of weeks ago, “The fact that we can’t go to the temple doesn’t change the impact that the temple can have on us in our lives. … Keeping covenants will bring the power of godliness in our lives whether we’re able to physically go to the temple or not.”1 I loved this tender reminder!

In his closing remarks in general conference in April, President Russell M. Nelson said something much the same, “During times of our distress when temples are closed, you can still draw upon the power of your temple covenants and endowment as you honor your covenants.”2 I remember hearing the prophet say this (and I loved it because it he said it just after he shared a part of President Wilford Woodruff’s dedicatory prayer of the Salt Lake Temple asking for Heavenly Father to bless us if a time should come when we were unable to attend the temple), but those encouraging words didn’t have quite the same impact on me when I heard them in April as it did when I read them the other day. In April, the temples had only been closed for a couple of weeks. Now we are getting close to six months!

It’s amazing what time and perspective do for us!

I remember when I heard D. Todd Christofferson say, “In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact.”3 He said that only three months after Adrianne had passed away. Never before had I felt the power of godliness flow into my life with such power as I did during that time in my life! It wasn’t necessary for me to be in the temple to be able to draw upon the power of my temple covenants. Oh, how I needed and cherished that power!

Drawing upon the power of godliness is imperative in times of distress, but we need to be able to access that power every day. A definition I recently read that I especially like said that “the power of godliness is the power of righteousness, by which we come to know God and become like Him.”4 Elder Christofferson describes the power of godliness as Heavenly Father’s divine influence. He said that by keeping our covenants, that divine influence will “flow into our lives.”3

President Nelson once said, “Obedience allows God’s blessings to flow without constraint.”5 Remember what Elder Christofferson said about our covenants being paramount and our obedience being exact. I believe the two go hand in hand. When our covenants mean everything to us, being obedient will be an active part of our daily striving. Obedience is keeping covenants and keeping covenants is being obedient.  

Imagine God’s influence and His blessings flowing into our lives! When I think about flowing without constraint, I visualize a mighty and powerful river. During the winters here in Utah, we usually get quite a lot of snow. As winter turns to spring, all that snow melts. The reservoirs fill up and the rivers and streams begin to flow. Some years we get so much snow that the runoff fills our rivers and streams to overflowing. (That’s as close to a mighty and powerful river as it gets here in the desert!) These last several months of being unable to go to the temple have felt a bit like the cold winter months to me. But spring will come! I’m not suggesting that while the temples are closed I cannot feel God’s influence or blessings in my life. Quite the contrary. I have felt inspired to research my family history. I have had new and exciting opportunities to study the gospel with some very dear friends. Those are just two things I would not otherwise have done during these past several months. And my life has been so blessed because of them! Most likely we are all being blessed more than we realize. But I do think that when the temples reopen, it will be like a beautiful warm spring after an unusually snowy winter. We will feel an undeniable outpouring of His influence and His blessings.

I absolutely miss attending the temple! But gratefully, as Elder Renlund reminded us, “keeping covenants will bring the power of godliness in our lives whether we’re able to physically go to the temple or not.” 1 May we always be obedient and keep our covenants so God’s influence and blessings can flow into our lives without constraint.

References:

1.  August 3, 2020 Instagram Post – Dale G. Renlund

2.  Go Forward in Faith – Russell M. Nelson

3.  The Power of Covenants – D. Todd Christofferson

4.  Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual – Chapter 31

5.  Face the Future With Faith – Russell M. Nelson