Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reflections on a Consecrated Life

(find the talk here)

I have actually listened to this particular talk maybe three or four times in the last several days. I listened to it really for the first time on Sunday, and listened to it twice on the way to pick up a friend from the airport.

One of the principles of the gospel that has always been concerning to me is that of the law of consecration. It seems like a simple thing, but in reality, I find it very complex and at times confusing.

I imagine that part of the confusion comes from not really knowing God’s will. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (here)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson says “True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives – that is, our time and choices – to God’s purposes.” So, first we have to actually understand God’s purposes, or His will, and then we have to do His will – dedicating our time and choices to His will.

“Consecration therefore means repentance. Stubbornness, rebellion, and rationalization must be abandoned, and their place submission, a desire for correction, and acceptance of all that the Lord may require.” It is hard for me to realize when I am being stubborn, rebellious, and rationalizing. Sometimes I just feel like I am being stalwart and firm in the faith. The only thing that can help me know the difference is the Holy Ghost – but sometimes when I am being stubborn, it’s hard for me to admit that the Holy Ghost might be telling me I am wrong.

The other appealing part of this talk for me was how Elder Christofferson spoke about work. “God has designed this mortal existence to require nearly constant exertion.” I have been struggling to understand the meaning of constant work in my life –especially with two small children at home. “A  consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires.” It’s good to know that the menial tasks of changing diapers and cleaning up mess after mess after mess are still parts of a consecrated life – sometimes I feel like I can’t consecrate my life to the Lord, because I’m too busy doing the menial things that “sustain” us. But doing those things right now is what a consecrated life means for me.

“Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work.” To be honest, I am a harder worker than I am a “leisurer” – if that makes any sense. It is hard for me to relax and enjoy “wholesome recreation.”  Probably because “much of what passes for entertainment today is coarse, degrading, violent, mind-numbing, and time wasting.” I think I am so afraid of choosing wrong forms of recreation that I just keep “working.” I do enjoy working, and some of it doubles as recreation for me, but there are times, I think, when we need to just sit down, put up our feet, and enjoy something that is pure entertainment – something made mostly to make us laugh or smile.

The last thought I want to share from Elder Christofferson’s talk is this: “Those who quietly and thoughtfully go about doing good offer a model of consecration.” Then he speaks of President Monson, “He has cultivated a listening ear that can discern even the faintest whisper of the Spirit signaling the need of someone he can reach and help.”

How do you consecrate your life to the Lord? How do you understand and come to know the will of the Lord? How do you make sure that you are making wholesome choices in your recreation? Are you cultivating a listening ear for the Spirit’s whisper?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gospel Learning and Teaching

(find the talk here)

When I read Elder David M. McConkie’s talk about gospel learning and teaching, I first wanted to apply it to my calling as a Primary pianist. Although I know it is also applicable to that calling, as I read further, I was inspired to feel that he was speaking to me as a mother.

He mentioned four things that we should do to be effective teachers:

1. Immerse yourself in the scriptures.

2. Apply in your life the things that you learn.

3. Seek heaven’s help.

4. Exercise your agency and act, without delay, in accordance with the spiritual promptings you receive.

As a mother, I am a teacher. I have a strong testimony of that. Mothers are their children’s first and most important teachers. We tend to outsource our children’s education – the secular education we outsource to public or private educations, the spiritual education we outsource to our Sunday School teachers and other Church teachers. But “mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” To me, education falls neatly in the category of “nurture.”

In being my children’s primary gospel teacher, I know that those four steps apply to me.

Elder McConkie says “The role of the teacher is ‘to help individuals take responsibility for learning the gospel -  to awaken in them the desire to study, understand, and live the gospel.’ This means that as teachers we should not focus so much on our performance as on how we help others learn and live the gospel.”

As a mother, this means to me that I should not focus on my performance as a mother as on how strong my children’s desire is to study, understand, and live the gospel. That is my goal as a mother – to teach them to study, understand, and live the gospel, and I can do that more effectively if I immerse myself in the scriptures, live what I learn, pray for help, and follow the promptings of the spirit.

I got married when I was nineteen. I was young, but not foolish. I was pure, but not naïve. I knew that what I wanted was to be sealed to a worthy man in the temple for time and all eternity, and after getting to know the man who would become my husband, I decided that he would be a fit companion, if he felt the same way about me. He did, and we were married. A little over a year later, we brought our first child into the world – a son. I was a young mother, only twenty, and due to my stature, people often think I am even younger than I am.

When I was first a mother, I felt quite confident in my mothering abilities – I knew that I had prepared for motherhood my entire life. I had studied the scriptures and the words of the prophets, I had prayed mightily with God, asking him to prepare me to be a mother. Being a young mother is not easy, but I was prepared, and I felt that I would be a great mother. However, there were always people around me who thought I was too young to be an effective mother. My own husband sometimes had his doubts, knowing that I was young and didn’t have much experience.

I struggled for a few years after being around all the doubt and judgment, but in the past few months, my courage has been coming back – probably because I am doing the things Elder McConkie spoke about.

One thing he said comforted me:

“Note that what matters most in learning is not the number of years a teacher has been a member of the Church or how much teaching experience a person has or even the teacher’s knowledge of the gospel or teaching techniques. What matters most is the attitude or spirit by which the teacher teaches.”

I will restate that quote, changing it a little to apply to mothers: “Note that what matters most in learning is not the number of years a [mother has been a mother] or how much [mothering] experience a persona has or even the [mother’s] knowledge of the gospel or [mothering] techniques. What matters most is the attitude or spirit by which the [mother mothers].”

I testify that as we study the scriptures, live the gospel, pray for help, and follow the promptings of the spirit, we will become better mothers for our children, even if we don’t have much experience or knowledge – the Lord will guide us, and will bless our efforts.

Do you sometimes feel “inexperienced” as a mother (or a father)? What things do you do to be a great mother with the right attitude? How to you teach your children to study, understand, and live the gospel?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Have You Been Reading, Too?

I put up a poll at the bottom of my blog (it didn’t fit very well on the side bar...) so you can tell me if you’ve been listening to and/or reading the conference talks.

You can change your vote, too, so you can keep it updated – that is, if you having read/listened to a talk, but do later, you can come back and update your vote.

The poll is open until next General Conference starts on April 2, 2011. I will be posting a new poll them.

Please feel free to leave comments about your experiences reading or listening to the General Conference talks. I love to hear the testimonies, thoughts, and experiences of others, and would love to hear from you on my blog.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Obedience to the Prophets

(find the talk here)

I have such a testimony of obeying the prophets. I know that the prophets of God are called by God to testify of the Savior, and to receive revelation for the church and all mankind.

It would be unjust for God to give revelation only for members of His Church – for all mankind are children of Him. Every man, woman, and child born on this earth chose to follow Christ in the preexistence, and Heavenly Father will lead and guide all of them who hearken unto His voice.

Because I so strongly agree with the 14 points about prophets that Elder Claudio R. M. Costa talked about in his talk (and which several other general authorities mentioned in their talk as well) I will simply list them here. These 14 points were originally given by President Ezra Taft Benson.

1. “The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything...”

2. “The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.”

3. “The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.”

4. “The prophet will never lead the Church astray.”

5. “The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.”

6. “The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture...”

7. “The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.”

8. “The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning, ...”

9. “The prophet can receive revelation on any matter – temporal or spiritual.”

10. “The prophet may be involved in civic matters.”

11. “The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.”

12. “The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.”

13. “The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency – the highest quorum in the Church.”

14. “The prophet and the presidency – the living prophet and the first presidency – follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”

To me, this talk (and the others which mentioned these same 14 principles) were inspired, especially in light of the current political climate, and the uncertainty of many members of the Church over the prophets’ involvement in fighting for the sanctity of marriage.

In this same General Conference, but the next day in another session, President Boyd K. Packer spoke out about same-gender attraction, voiced a strong testimony of the reality of the temptation, and gave what I perceive to be encouraging words for those who struggle with same-gender attraction. His words were rejected by the world, with a petition being delivered to the Church headquarters petitioning him to retract his words.

Ask a prophet of God to take back his words? The Lord will NEVER take back His words, spoken through the mouth of His holy servants.

“...follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken,
and I excuse not myself...”
(Doctrine & Covenants 1:38)

I know that the Lord’s servants speak to us in these latter days, that they give us scripture, that their word is more significant and important to us than dead prophets, and that they receive revelation on any matter and that we should listen and follow them. They are true messengers of our Father in Heaven, and if we follow them, we will be blessed.

What is your testimony of the prophets? Do you listen to their words and follow them? What blessings have you received in your life by following the prophet?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stay on the Path

(find the talk here)

Sister Wixom, the Primary General President, gave a talk that hits close to home for me, with young children of my own. I am always concerned with how I am going to teach my children about the gospel. How will I teach them of Heavenly Father’s love for them? How can I teach them about the plan of Salvation? How can I help them learn about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His love for us?

How will they know,
the ones for whom we care,
That God is Love,
and with us everywhere.
That life is good,
with blessings all can share?
How will they know
unless we teach them so?

How will they learn
that, though they go astray,
God will forgive
and help them find the way?
How will they feel
the Spirit day by day?
How will they know
unless we teach them so?

How will they grow
in wisdom and delight?
How will they choose
to follow what is right?
How can they trust
the future will be bright?
How will they know
unless we show them?

How will they live
when they at last are gown?
What will they give
to children of their own?
Will they reflect
the values we have shown?
How will they know
as on through life they go?
How will they know
unless we strive to teach them so?

That song has always been very poignant for me. I cry every time I hear it – if not the whole way through, then especially when I hear the words “How will they live when they at last are grown? What will they give to children of their own?” More than anything, I want to my children to be able to give their children a testimony of the gospel and a safe and happy home. It is so much harder for them to give those things to their children if I have not given it to them.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons I am so devoted to being a foster parent. I hope that maybe by caring for those children, I can teach them that “God is Love” and that “life is good” and that “God will forgive.”

A few quotes from Sister Wixom’s talk that stuck out to me:

“For children all over the world, we say, ‘Take my hand. Hold on tight. we will stay on the path together back to our Heavenly Father.’”

I add my voice to Sister Wixom’s and have made it my goal to say to every child I know who may need a hand to hold, “Take my hand, hold on tight, I will help you.” As members of Christ’s church, we have a responsibility to take care of all of God’s children. We can’t raise other people’s children, but we can be a good example. We can show other people’s children what a good family looks like, what standards look like, what faith in God looks like. We can open our home to our children’s friends, we can invite other families over, we can spend time with other families with children and set an example. We have a sacred responsibility to do so.

“We can stop, kneel down, and look into their eyes and feel of their innate desire to follow the Savior. Take hold of their hands. Walk with them. It is our chance to anchor them on the path of faith.”

I feel this way every time I see a child, and especially when I see adults “judging” children or assigning ulterior motives to their young children’s actions. I want to scream, “Those children want to follow the Savior!” and then kneel down next to those sweet, innocent children, take their face in my hands and tell them of their Heavenly Father’s plan for them.

“No child needs to walk the path alone so long as we speak freely to our children of the plan of salvation.”

This reminds me of Elder Bednar’s talk in April General Conference where he spoke about sharing “testimony spontaneously with their children...” I have tried to increase this in my own life with my own children, and it seems to have amazing results. Just last night, after we sang Jesus Num Presépio (Away in a Manger), our three year old, V, hopped down to the floor and said “We’ve got to say a prayer now!” He knew that it was time for family prayer, and he is so excited to pray and talk to Heavenly Father, and be a good example to his little sister. We talk about prayer all the time, and I try to bear testimony spontaneously of being kind to his sister, being a good example, being obedient, and choosing the right. It is working.

“We begin to make the plan known to our children when we hold tight to the iron rod ourselves.”

Obviously we cannot lift others any higher than we are ourselves. And we cannot lead our children along a path that we ourselves do not follow.

“They will follow our cadence when they feel secure in our actions. We do not need to be perfect – just honest and sincere.”

That could not be more true. Children can feel our sincerity. They know if we believe what we are saying. I also love that she reminds us that we do not need to be perfect. Sometimes we feel like we cannot teach our children the gospel effectively because we are not perfect – but isn’t that such a great thing to teach our children? That we can be imperfect, but God loves us anyway? I think the same logic holds true with any parenting issues – we don’t always have to be perfect, but if we let our children know that we care about them and that we are trying to learn how to be the best parents we can be, the response will be wonderful.

And I’ll just leave you with this quote and my testimony:

“The world will teach our children if we do not, and children are capable of learning all the world will teach them at a very young age. What we want them to know five years from now needs to be part of our conversation with them today. Teach them in every circumstance; let every dilemma, every consequence, every trial that they may face provide an opportunity to teach them how to hold on to gospel truths.”

I know that as we try to be sincere we can raise our children to stay on the path. As we try to live the gospel and show our children the way to walk – as we testify to them of their divinity and of the Savior’s love for them, they will walk with us.

Do you take hold of your children’s hands daily and walk with them on the path of righteousness? What things do you do with your children to keep them on the straight and narrow path?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Because of Your Faith

(Find the talk here)

Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s talk in the Saturday morning session of General Conference was quite different than most talks I have heard him give. Usually Elder Holland talks about spiritual purity, or about the Priesthood. He always speaks with boldness and clarity – and that was no different his October. But instead of giving his usual admonitions and direction, instead his talk was one of gratitude to those who do good things.

My thanks to all you wonderful members of the Church – and legions of good people not of our faith – for proving every day of your life that the pure love of Christ “never faileth.”

And then he closed his talk with a statement I don’t think I have ever heard from the pulpit at General Conference:

Brothers and sisters, seeing your example, I pledge anew my determination to be better, to be more faithful – more kind and devoted, more charitable and true as our Father in Heaven is and as so many of you already are.

It was fascinating to see an apostle of God get up and say that he was impressed by our example as doers of good. That shows humility and meekness, in my opinion. Elder Holland is a great man – I feel he is very much a doer of good, and I’m sure that he demonstrates charity daily. But he took his opportunity to speak in Conference to tell us that we are doing a great job and that he admires us for our sacrifice and hard work.

One of his statements that really hooked me was that “the personal value, the sacred splendor of every one of you, is the very reason there is a plan of salvation and exaltation.” He made me feel like he was talking about all the good things I do, even though I definitely don’t do that many good things. And to be reminded about the personal nature of the atonement of our Savior and the plan of salvation is something I can always hear again and again.

Elder Holland spoke a lot about all the various things members of the Church do to serve, and then he said

Smile, if you will, about our traditions, but somehow the too-often unheralded women in this church are always there when hands hand down and knees are feeble. They seem to grasp instinctively the divinity in Christ’s declaration: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the lease of these ..., ye have done it unto me.”

I want to be more like Elder Holland seems to think I am – charitable and sacrificing. And I especially want to be more grateful for the unselfish, sacrificing, charitable people in my own life. So many people have done so much for me, without expecting anything in return – simply because they live by the pure love of Christ.

More thank you cards need to be sent, more prayers of gratitude, and more “paying it forward.”

How does it make you feel to be publicly, individually appreciated on the pulpit by a prophet of God? How have you been blessed by the charity of others? How have you shown your appreciate for the charity others have shown you? Do you understand the personal significance of the plan of salvation?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

As We Meet Together Again

(find the talk here)


Twice a year, on the first weekend in April and then again the first weekend of October, the prophets of God speak to us in a worldwide General Conference. The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints speaks, as do his counselors, and all the members of the quorum of the twelve apostles.

I love General Conference. I look forward every six months to the time when I get to soak in the words of the prophets. Rarely do they say anything new – it’s all been said before by the prophets since Adam. But there is always a new way to apply it to my life, or a new way to talk about it that strikes me in a certain way. And always I am left with a renewed sense of desire to follow the prophet, keep the commandments, and believe in Christ.

I make it a goal to read and re-read and listen and re-listen to the General Conference talks each year. So far I’ve listened to all of General Conference twice. You can download MP3’s of the General Conference addresses here.

I put the MP3’s on my iPhone and listen to them on long car rides, when I go for a run, or any other time I have more than 15 minutes of relative silence (the long car rides are anything but silent with two small children...).

Reading and listening to the most recent General Conference talks is as important (to me) as reading the canonized scripture (the Standard Works – the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price). The words of the living prophets are more applicable to us than the words of dead prophets. The testimony of dead prophets is equally as significant as the testimonies of our living prophets, for all prophets testify of Christ and of his divine mission. But as far as what we should be doing right now – those words are found in the General Conference talks.

So I think for the next little while, I will focus my morning scripture study on the General Conference talks. We didn’t receive the General Conference issue of the Ensign due to our move and our subscription being on hold, but I will probably end up buying one at the Church distribution center, and I can always read them online, as well.

I read the Book of Mormon at night before bed – as many verses as I feel able to stay awake, or digest effectively. In the morning is when I do some more in depth scripture study. So for my morning scripture study for the next several weeks, I will be studying the talks from General Conference. I haven’t read any of them yet (except President Monson’s opening address, which I linked to at the top of this post – and titled this post after).

President Monson’s opening remarks were exciting, as always – he announced five new temples in Lisbon, Portugal; Indianapolis, Indiana; Urdaneta, Philippines; Hartford, Connecticut; and Tijuana, Mexico.

He also spoke about preparing for missionary service. What especially stuck out to me was that he encouraged young men not only to prepare spiritually, but also to “maintain [their] health and strength.” It makes sense, as young men with health problems are generally not able to serve as full time missionaries. We should be maintaining our health and strength whether or not we are preparing to serve a full time mission, because we are always preparing to serve the Lord in some capacity. Even those with physical disabilities and other limitations can maintain what physical strength they have, and possibly even increase their health and strength. Too often we become discouraged because we have some “health problem” and we think that is the end – we have a health problem and will never be fully functioning/healthy like “normal” people. I know lots of “normal” people and all of them have to do something unique to keep themselves “normal” and healthy. My mother in law has a gluten intolerance, but she runs half marathons, marathons, and relay races. And makes good time, at that. She teaches pump classes and aerobics glasses at a gym, and is the epitome of health and strength – even though she suffers from a gluten intolerance (which has actually led to other allergies and intolerances as well – there are more things she can’t eat than that she can).

The Lord needs us to serve. If we struggle with our health, our emotional or mental capacity, or with our physical strength, we can overcome it. I know that we can. Our Father in Heaven provided a Savior for us to overcome all of our infirmities – not just our sins. If we will do our part and maintain our health and strength, the Lord will make up for our gluten intolerances, for our iron deficiencies, for our ADD, for our physical infirmities, for whatever ails us – if we do our part and try our best, we will find ourselves able to “run and not be weary” and “walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:20)

Have you found yourself able to overcome physical, mental, or emotional infirmities through maintaining your health and strength and relying on the Savior’s atonement? What do you do to maintain your health and strength so that you will be able to serve the Lord when the calls come?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...