Sunday, May 20, 2012

GCBC Week 8: “Coming to Ourselves”

This was one of those talks for me where the principles are ones I don’t struggle with. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an important talk – after all, President Holland reminded last year that at General Conference,

“we understand not everyone is viewing pornography or shirking marriage or having illicit sexual relationships. We know not everyone is violating the Sabbath or bearing false witness or abusing a spouse. We know that most in our audience are not guilty of such things, but we are under a solemn charge to issue warning calls to those who are—wherever they may be in the world. So if you are trying to do the best you can—if, for example, you keep trying to hold family home evening in spite of the bedlam that sometimes reigns in a houseful of little bedlamites—then give yourself high marks and, when we come to that subject, listen for another which addresses a topic where you may be lacking. If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you.”

So this talk hasn’t had a big impact on me, but I am anxious to hear what impact is has had on your life and your spirituality.

“Coming to Ourselves: The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service”
by Elder Rober D. Hales

Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide.

We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants—through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others.

How did this talk touch your life?

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  1. Hey everyone!
    What really impacted me about this talk, was how much direction it gave me in my parenting. It kind of got sparked when Elder Hales talked about how "as our spiritual desire increase, we become spiritually self reliant..." I stopped and thought about how much I *want* that for my own children--for them to have really deep, living, growing testimonies. How I worry and pray over the best ways to teach them the gospel. So then Elder Hales gives us this great formula for becoming spiritually self reliant--and they are all things kids can do:
    1. Worthily partake of the sacrament.
    2. Be worthy of a temple recommend.
    3. Sacrifice to serve others.
    The rest of the talk just bulked out this framework for me of ways that I can help my children to do those things. Not that my children can GO to the temple right now, but they can strive to be worthy and practice being "obedient, making sacrifices to keep the commandments, loving one another, being chaste...and giving of themselves." I was inspired to thing about how these things will really prepare them to make and keep sacred covenants, i.e. Become spiritually self reliant. I guess it just made it feel do-able to me, when often it seems daunting. :)

    1. That was exactly where this talk hit me: my greatest desire is that my children be safe that they be able to make and keep covenants and have power from on high. I loved the idea that spiritual and temporal self-reliance are both needed to be able to render service. It is difficult to feel the Spirit when our temporal lives are out of balance (I think of the experience Pres. David O. McKay had as a missionary in Wales or Scotland where he knocked the door of an obviously poor woman who said, your message is nice but will it give me bread?)

      I am all about finding patterns and formulas to help teach my family and to progress spiritually. I agree that it makes the big picture seem do-able when we have succinct building blocks like these to work toward. I was struck by the line from Elder Hales that obedience intensifies as we get older. I think as a child, and definitely as a teen we often have the idea that when we are adults no one will boss us around, we will be free and easy and able to do anything we want, while the reverse is true. And it needs to be true; we need to learn to be obedient to small laws to receive the ordinance of baptism and as we progress and receive more ordinances, we make more covenants, we have more obedience opportunities and obligations to groom us for heaven. I'm still working out how best to teach my children this concept, because it is this profound obedience that makes us free, not from obligation, but for a sanctified life.

      I have 5 children, ranging in age from 4-13. We have been on our own to prepare for church since June 1, 2003, the day my husband was made EQ pres--four days before the birth of our 3rd child. He has never been home to help the family get ready for church since and since then, he has been a High Councilor and now bishop, so he hasn't even sat with us in Sacrament Mtg or meaningfully been home much at all on Sundays in 6 years. I don't say this as a sob story or as a 'look at my fabulous husband either'. I say this because Elder Hales' discussion of the importance of preparing for the sacrament has been a specific and important struggle for me for a long time. I struggle to 'let go of weekly labors and cares to make room for the Spirit.' (since my weekly labors and cares are all about these crazy squirmy children in the first place) I spend so much time shushing and wrangling and separating from before the sun comes up on the Sabbath that sometimes I miss the sacrament altogether (except as an exercise in NOT spilling the whole tray and keeping whichever son from eating all the bread). I hate this about myself and I know that things go best when I prepare far in advance. Clothes are ironed and laid out with scriptures on Saturday. When I had babies, bags were packed and placed in the car on Saturday too. I try to plan meals and even have them laid out in advance as much as possible. So much of the past 8+ years has been about the temporal preparation for being in Sacrament Mtg. I'm trying now to shift my focus and better prepare for the Sacrament. So far, this means making sure I have my personal scripture study before church (even during early schedule years), that we have our family scripture study too, that we are early to church so we can get settled and calm before the meeting begins. It also means that as my children grow, I encourage singing of the hymns, so that the Spirit can work through the music on them so that they can be prepared for more than a mid service snack. We listen carefully to the prayers, we talk about who is saying them (especially when it is someone's dad just returning to activity or a new member just exercising his squeeky new priesthood), we notice the reverence of those passing the sacrament--and I encourage hero worship here--(I want my boys to aspire more to be reverent priesthood holders than superheroes). My struggle in all of this though, is my own personal devotion and contemplation during the sacrament. But we are building patterns of faithfulness.

    2. Angie--I think ALL moms can probably really feel you on this one, although your situation is much harder than mine! Last year, I decided to make a really focused effort to pay more attention to the sacrament. To be better prepared, to come repenting and seeking forgiveness, and to feel the Spirit. It has seriously changed my life. And it's usually only for two minutes that I close my eyes and my kids leave me alone, but it's the most powerful time that I feel the Spirit every week and I'm a much better mom and wife because of it. (I can't even tell you how many Sundays I have left church in the past without feeling the Spirit even once. Depressing.) I love the ways that you're finding a way to make Sabbath worship mean MORE for you, and wanted to tell you that I loved your thoughts on this talk. Thanks! --Becca2

  2. I was struck by the correlation between keeping covenants and service. I liked the idea that we KEEP our covenants through serving others. In addition, he taught us how we can know we're being successful (something that is always helpful to me), when he said, "I challenge each of us to follow our spiritual desires and come to ourselves. Let’s have a talk with ourselves in the mirror and ask, “Where do I stand on living my covenants?” We are on the right path when we can say, “I worthily partake of the sacrament each week, I am worthy to hold a temple recommend and go to the temple, and I sacrifice to serve and bless others.”

    Also, this morning I read Mosiah 18 - including the verses typically quoted at baptisms on how we covenant to bear one another burdens. However, the verse that caught my attention today was verse 13, where it says we're making this covenant "until you are dead as to the mortal body." Not only is it important to keep our covenants now, we need to plan on keeping them forever!

    1. love that thought - that we keep our covenants through serving others. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Two things...

    1) I really liked that he not only instructed us, but then gave the blessings!! Isn't it nice for him to say, this is how to partake of the sacrament, and the blessing of doing so are; a mighty change of heart and companionship of the Holy Ghost. It really makes us understand the necessity of following his guidance! I totally relate to Angie- I feel more like I'm wrestling kids than really pondering the atonement. The "deliberately leaving behind...worldly thoughts and concerns" really stood out to me. I can do this by preparing throughout the week and then *hopefully* have a change of heart and can partake of the sacrament more fully.

    2) I really liked that Elder Hales said, "Worthiness to hold a temple recommend gives us STRENGTH to keep our temple covenants." You have to be worthy before you make a covenant, so that you can keep it. And because we are worthy, we are given a special strength to help us keep it. He goes on to say, "I testify that the sacrifices we make to receive temple ordinances are worth every effort we make." and "No Blessings will be withheld if we faithfully endure in walking the path back to our Heavenly Father." Aren't those amazing promises?

    My husband and I serve as Ward Missionary/Leader, and I can't begin to tell you how important these basic principles are! Especially the baptismal covenant! This is the foundation of all other covenants and yet it seems to be the one many people struggle the most with. I really liked the framework and the promises of blessings and strength. I hope this will encourage those struggling to try harder to follow these instructions.

    1. Ooooh--love this thought, that our WORTHINESS to have a recommend is in direct correlation to how well we're able to keep the covenants we've made. I'm going to have to read the whole talk again with this thought in mind.

  4. “Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide.”
    Haven’t we all had those times of darkness, challenge, sorrow or sin? I know I have. I’m reminded of a time, several years ago, as I was sitting outside my Bishop’s office knowing I needed to make changes in my life and knowing I couldn’t do it on my own. As I sat there, I was tempted to leave, but the Holy Ghost brought these words to my mind, “I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father who loves me and I love Him.” That statement gave me the strength and the courage to stay and make some needed changes in my life. My husband and I sing “I Am a Child of God.” to our children each night at the end of our bedtime routine because I want them to internalize that knowledge and because I know that someday if they are feeling alone, the Holy Ghost can bring the words of that song back to them.
    “Desiring these blessings, including a life of joy and happiness, is an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan for each one of us.”
    I have been studying the theme of joy and happiness as I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon this year and it has been an incredible experience. I know Heavenly Father wants each of us to experience joy and I know that the gospel is the way we find that joy.
    I am inspired to more deliberately take the sacrament each week. I love Elder Hales’ specific suggestions on how to do this:
    “we have the hope, opportunity, and strength to make real, heartfelt changes in our lives.” AND
    “We think about the promises we made and kept during the previous week and make specific personal commitments to follow the Savior during the coming week.” AND
    “I testify that the sacrament gives us an opportunity to come to ourselves and experience “a mighty change” of heart5—to remember who we are and what we most desire.”
    “Whether we are young or old, what we do today determines the service we will be able to render and enjoy tomorrow.”
    It’s a good thing to remember, whether I’m teaching my children and other youth or for my own life. I have an experience with this also… When I was single, I decided I wanted to go to law school. I studied for the LSAT, did well, and started applying to schools. As I was praying, I realized I would have to go into debt to go to law school and, although I wasn’t even dating anyone at the time, it could mean the difference between staying home with my children as a mother and needing to work to pay off student loans. I chose not to go to law school and started saving money. Three years later, I got married. I had no debt and $10,000 in savings. My husband had some debt we dealt with and I really believe that my financial situation when I got married did make the difference between me being able to quit my job when our first child was born. I’m grateful for personal revelation that helped me plan ahead for the future.

    1. I appreciate your testimony here, Megan, and your own experience. It brought to mind a couple impressions I've had lately and in the past that I think I need to follow through on more completely. Hm. Thanks!! -Becca2

  5. I try to pay attention to suggestions of what to think about during the sacrament. Elder Hales said, "Then we are prepared to ponder on the Atonement. More than just thinking about the facts of the Savior’s suffering and death, our pondering helps us to recognize that through the Savior’s sacrifice, we have the hope, opportunity, and strength to make real, heartfelt changes in our lives.

    As we sing the sacrament hymn, participate in the sacrament prayers, and partake of the emblems of His flesh and blood, we prayerfully seek forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. We think about the promises we made and kept during the previous week and make specific personal commitments to follow the Savior during the coming week."

    For anyone interested, one of my favorite places to find suggestions of things to think about during the sacrament is the last half of Elder Holland's talk "This Do in Remembrance of Me."

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