BYU Women’s Conference Presentation: Come Unto Christ and Be Perfected in Him

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I am posting a link to listen to my presentation from BYU Women’s Conference 2014. I tried to put it on my Facebook Author page, but the .mp3 file wouldn’t upload, so I decided to stick it up here on my blog graveyard instead. :)

The title of the presentation is “Come Unto Christ and Be Perfected in Him” and is based on Moroni 10:32 from the Book of Mormon.

>>> Click here to download the .mp3 audio file<<<

(When I tested it, it worked, but it showed a warning script that the file was too large to virus scan on Google Drive, so you download at your own risk. I don’t forsee any risk since it’s just an .mp3 file, but now you know.)

BYU Women’s conference gave me permission to share the presentation, but if you do quote it, please give the proper credit to the conference and the speakers, and if you wish to use it in any other way, please ask. Thanks.

What do the prophets say about [insert your hot-button issue of choice here]?

Listen to the prophet[image credit: jordanandemily.com]

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that every once in a while I get fire in my bones about something and I have to let it out. I have to write my thoughts “out loud” and I have to bear my testimony about it and promise the things that I know to be true. Usually it’s about one issue in particular (for example, see the previous catharses about pornography, the power of women , and the sanctity of family). Today it’s about all of those issues and many more. I don’t know about you, but lately my Internet content has been flooded, and I mean overwhelmingly filled, with discussions and commentary and articles and studies and arguments and status updates and diatribes about these issues and many more like them– gay marriage, abortion, vaccination, alcohol laws, government corruption… fill in the blank. The list goes on (painfully so).

If you feel confused and overwhelmed by some of these issues, I just want to tell you that this is the very reason that God gave us prophets. We have a living prophet and apostles, called to the whole world, to speak on behalf of the Lord and make His will known to us. The words of living prophets, like the iron rod in the vision of the Tree of Life, help us have a safe and clear pathway of truth even when surrounded by dark mists and pointing, mocking fingers. Lately, I have felt sadness when I see people I love and admire post things online that are contrary to what the prophets have taught us. I know these people love the Lord, and I think they love and try to sustain the prophet, but I fear they may not be paying attention to him.

This morning my family read from 2 Nephi 32. Verse 7 jumped out at me.  I’ve never marked it or paid attention to it before, but today, Nephi’s words captured the way I feel and reaffirmed to me the importance of practicing due diligence in our study of these issues.

I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

This is what I know to be true: Many people have many different opinions on many different issues, but so does God, and He “revealeth his secret unto to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7) Do you want to know what God thinks about marriage or abortion or pornography? Find out. Take the challenge from Nephi: search knowledge. Sure there are plenty of “experts” and websites out there who are happy to tell you more than you want to know. The answers–the true answers, the right answers–are there for the taking if we do the asking.

Type the “issue” into the search engine at gc.lds.org (collection of general conference talks) and see what the prophets and apostles–whom we’ve sustained as prophets, seers and revelators–have said. A lot of talks and resources will pop up. You may be surprised how much is available. Read all of them. Study them. Ponder them. Invite the Spirit to help you see the issue through spiritual eyes. Like Nephi said, the knowledge is given “in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” Trust that God is using his prophets to help you know the truth. Then cling to those truths. Let them be an anchor to you in a constantly shifting and angry world.

Please. Pretty please. Even the not pretty, begging kind of please. Before you speak out on a major social or political or societal issue, study what the prophets have said about it. The knowledge you find will give you confidence to speak out in truth, and the people in your circle of influence will be pointed in the right direction by your words.

I testify that peace is found and sustained by hearing and studying and following the words of the prophets. I know that living prophets are completely in touch with the issues of our day and that the Lord is not silent on these matters. I cannot articulate how much comfort it gives me to understand how the Lord feels about things that the world is constantly fighting about. I promise that the prophets and apostles are teaching the same things Jesus would teach if He were here, so until He comes again, He has promised that “whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

I know it and believe it so much it puts fire in my bones.

The Moral Force of Women: Some connections

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I’m supposed to be working on my class for tomorrow. I actually am, but I made a cool research discovery, so I wanted to share. For the last couple of days, I’ve been studying Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s most recent conference talk, “The Moral Force of Women.” I’ve long felt that women have a certain power (beyond childbearing) that cannot be duplicated or replaced. It’s not just nurturing (especially in the too-narrow ways we often define it), but it’s more like a binding power. I recently listened to a radio interview with M. Russell Ballard where he claimed that women have a special gift with one-on-one relationships. I’d never thought of that before but I think it’s true, and he said that men can learn a lot from women about that subject if they will watch and listen. Anyway, back to Elder Christofferson’s talk. He said,

“As grandmothers, mothers, and role models, women have been the guardians of the wellspring of life, teaching each generation the importance of sexual purity—of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. In this way, they have been a civilizing influence in society; they have brought out the best in men; they have perpetuated wholesome environments in which to raise secure and healthy children.”*

Something about that quote rang really familiar to me, mostly the phrase “civilizing influence.” Little by little, my old and tired brain started putting pieces together and I remembered it had something to do with Australia. I know. Weird.

So I’ve been trying to research it out and track it down, and–tonight–I found the connection. The whole thing is pretty amazing, but just read this one very cool account as told by Elder Bruce R. Hafen at the World Congress of Families in 1999. By no small coincidence, the title of his speech was “Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women.”

Consider now, in summary, a true story from Australian history that illustrates the power of women’s moral influence as mothers of hope, women of fidelity, wives of commitment, and nurturers of human ties. In its early decades as a British colony, Australia was a vast wilderness designated as a jail for exiled convicts. Until 1850, six of every seven people who went “down under” from Britain were men. And the few women who went were often convicts or social outcasts themselves. The men ruthlessly exploited them, sexually and in other ways. With few exceptions, these women without hope were powerless to change their conditions.

In about 1840, a reformer named Caroline Chisholm urged that more women would stabilize the culture. She told the British government the best way to establish a community of “great and good people” in Australia: “For all the clergy you can dispatch, all the schoolmasters you can appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books you can export, will never do much good without . . . ‘God’s police’– wives and little children–good and virtuous women.”

Chisholm searched for women who would raise “the moral standard of the people.” She spent twenty years traveling to England, recruiting young women and young couples who believed in the common sense principles of family life. Over time, these women tamed the men who were taming the wild land; and civil society in Australia gradually emerged. Also, the colonial governments enacted policies that elevated women’s status and reinforced family life.[23] As one historian said, “the initial reluctance of the wild colonial boys to marry was eroded fairly quickly.” Eventually, thousands of new immigrants who shared the vision of these “good and virtuous women” established stable families as the basic unit of Australian society more quickly than had occurred “anywhere else in the Western world.”[24]

This striking story of women’s moral influence grew from a conscious design to replace “the penal colony’s rough and wild ways” with “a more moral civilization.” The reformers intentionally capitalized on women’s innate “civilizing” capacity. [25] These women made Australia a promised land that flowed with a healthy ecosystem of milk and honey. And the milk, literally and figuratively, was mother’s milk–the milk of human kindness. That milk nurtures those habits of the heart without which no civil society can sustain itself.”

I. LOVE. THAT. Innate civilizing capacity. The milk of human kindness. Power. Force. Influence. Elder Christofferson quoted Elder Maxwell (he and this quote are both long-time favorites for me).

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?”

Sigh. I love being a woman. God has made His sons and His daughters powerful. He needs us both, and we can both do more with His help.

*Lest anyone get all worked up into a tizzy about women not being responsible for the morality of men, let’s agree to agree. Later on in his talk, Elder Christofferson acknowledges, “In these exhortations to women, let no one willfully misunderstand. By praising and encouraging the moral force in women, I am not saying that men and boys are somehow excused from their own duty to stand for truth and righteousness, that their responsibility to serve, sacrifice, and minister is somehow less than that of women or can be left to women. Brethren, let us stand with women, share their burdens, and cultivate our own companion moral authority. Dear sisters, we rely on the moral force you bring to the world, to marriage, to family, to the Church.”

Busy brain, idle hands?

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Do you ever have a mind full of ideas and wishes and goals and projects, but get hung up in the execution?

It’s so easy to get distracted. In some ways, I guess I’m like my own kids, and when there’s too much to do, I shut down a little bit and do … too little. That’s what I’ve been struggling with lately. I am getting things done, but we know ourselves and know when we can and should do more. Then we get frustrated.

I think it’s important to forgive ourselves in these situations and pat ourselves on the back just for being aware and being willing. I loved Elder Scott’s recent general conference talk when he said that the Lord sees weakness differently than he sees sin. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. When we sin, He wants us to remove it from our lives. Get rid of it. Go clean. With weakness, though, we have to stare it in the face and work on it. Like repentance, work is hard, and in both cases, we need the help of the Atonement.

I recently found this talk by Elder Maxwell (love him!) about weaknesses. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Now may I speak, not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. … Even prophets notice their weaknesses. Nephi persisted in a major task “notwithstanding my weakness.” (2 Ne. 33:11.) … Thus the feelings of inadequacy are common. So are the feelings of fatigue; hence, the needed warning about our becoming weary of well-doing. (See D&C 64:33.)

And then, he said some of the coolest things ever about how to deal with those common feelings and yearnings to do and be better. So the rest of the credit for this post goes completely to Elder Neal A. Maxwell whose inspiration helped me out again today.

What can we do to manage these vexing feelings of inadequacy? Here are but a few suggestions:

1. We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon.
2. We can contemplate how far we have already come in the climb along the pathway to perfection; it is usually much farther than we acknowledge. True, we are “unprofitable servants,” but partly because when “we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10), with every ounce of such obedience comes a bushel of blessings.
3. We can accept help as well as gladly give it. Happily, General Naaman received honest but helpful feedback, not from fellow generals, but from his orderlies. (See 2 Kgs. 5:1–14.) In the economy of heaven, God does not send thunder if a still, small voice is enough, or a prophet if a priest can do the job.
4. We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst.
5. We can write down, and act upon, more of those accumulating resolutions for self-improvement that we so often leave, unrecovered, at the edge of sleep.
6. We can admit that if we were to die today, we would be genuinely and deeply missed. Perhaps parliaments would not praise us, but no human circle is so small that it does not touch another, and another.
7. We can put our hand to the plow, looking neither back nor around, comparatively. Our gifts and opportunities differ; some are more visible and impactful. The historian Moroni felt inadequate as a writer beside the mighty Mahonri Moriancumer, who wrote overpoweringly. We all have at least one gift and an open invitation to seek “earnestly the best gifts.” (D&C 46:8.)
8. We can make quiet but more honest inventories of our strengths, since, in this connection, most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming “outside auditors.” He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven. We should, of course, learn from our mistakes, but without forever studying the instant replays as if these were the game of life itself.
9. We can add to each other’s storehouse of self-esteem by giving deserved, specific commendation more often, remembering, too, that those who are breathless from going the second mile need deserved praise just as the fallen need to be lifted up.
10. We can also keep moving. Only the Lord can compare crosses, but all crosses are easier to carry when we keep moving. Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another. Feet are made to move forward—not backward!
11. We can know that when we have truly given what we have, it is like paying a full tithe; it is, in that respect, all that was asked. The widow who cast in her two mites was neither self-conscious nor searching for mortal approval.
12. We can allow for the reality that God is more concerned with growth than with geography. Thus, those who marched in Zion’s Camp were not exploring the Missouri countryside but their own possibilities.
13. We can learn that at the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in! Those, for instance, who stretch themselves in service—though laced with limiting diseases—are often the healthiest among us! The Spirit can drive the flesh beyond where the body first agrees to go!
14. Finally, we can accept this stunning, irrevocable truth: Our Lord can lift us from deep despair and cradle us midst any care. We cannot tell Him anything about aloneness or nearness!

And that is why we should read something from the scriptures or words of the prophets every day. My busy brain feels so much better.

I hope it makes you feel better, too.

General Conference Scripture Mastery, October 2013

GCSM

Well, we have some new scriptures to study.

Really. Remember general conference? (Wasn’t it so great???) The talks are all available for study now. You can find them here. President Howard W. Hunter said this about general conference:

“Much inspired counsel by prophets, seers, revelators, and other General Authorities of the Church is given during general conference. Our modern-day prophets have encouraged us to make the reading of the conference editions of our Church magazines an important and regular part of our personal study. Thus, general conference becomes, in a sense, a supplement to or an extension of the Doctrine and Covenants. In addition to the conference issues of the Church magazines, the First Presidency writes monthly articles that contain inspired counsel for our welfare” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1997], 212; emphasis added).

Oh, and President Joseph Fielding Smith said this:

When one of the brethren stands before a congregation of the people today, and the inspiration of the Lord is upon him, he speaks that which the Lord would have him speak. It is just as much scripture as anything you will find written in any of these records, and yet we call these the standard works of the Church. We depend, of course, upon the guidance of the brethren who are entitled to inspiration.

Elder Richard G. Scott has talked a lot about the importance of memorizing scriptures. Here’s one of my recent favorites:

If you young people would review a verse of scripture as often as some of you send text messages, you could soon have hundreds of passages of scripture memorized. Those passages would prove to be a powerful source of inspiration and guidance by the Holy Ghost in times of need.

So in light of all this new scripture a.k.a. general conference and “let’s memorize more scriptures” business, I put together some scripture mastery of simple and powerful statements that we’re going to try and study in my family over the next six months. Did you ever notice before that there are always just about the exact number of talks from the four general sessions of general conference that if you study one talk a week, you’ll finish up right in time for the next general conference?  I love that. So here are some quotes from each talk. I chose one to memorize with my kids each week. (Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I think the effort is worthy.)

Elder Robert D. Hales If you will listen [to general conference,] you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life.
Elder Ulisses Soares Meekness is vital for us to become more Christlike… Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness
Sister Carole M. Stephens We all need each other. Sons of God need daughters of God, and daughters of God need sons of God.
Elder Edward Dube In the sight of the Lord, it is not so much what we have done or where we have been but much more where we are willing to go.
Elder David A. Bednar Spiritual and temporal blessings come into our lives as we live the law of tithing.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the …gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
President Boyd K. Packer The scriptures hold the keys to spiritual protection. They contain the doctrine and laws and ordinances that will bring each child of God to a testimony of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson It is your relationship with God, your Heavenly Father, who is the source of your moral power, that you must always put first in your life.
Elder S. Gifford Nielsen We each must develop and carry out our own personal game plan to serve with enthusiasm alongside the full-time missionaries.
Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela Let us reach out to others with faith and with love.
Elder Timothy J. Dyches As we repent and become converted to the Lord, we become whole, and our guilt is swept away.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend.
Elder M. Russell Ballard It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand.
President Henry B. Eyring The miracle of becoming one requires the help of heaven, and it takes time.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks We must not set our hearts so much on the things of the world and aspire to the honors of men that we stop trying to achieve our eternal destiny.
Sister Bonnie Oscarson True conversion occurs as you continue to act upon the doctrines you know are true and keep the commandments, day after day, month after month.
Elder Richard J. Maynes We need to study and learn the fundamental principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then we must do our very best to live them.
Elder Richard G. Scott Remember, repentance is not punishment. It is the hope-filled path to a more glorious future.
President Thomas S. Monson We learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass.
Elder Quentin L. Cook We must always remember that we do not save ourselves. We are liberated by the love, grace, and atoning sacrifice of the Savior.
Elder Neil L. Andersen The priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of all—men, women, and children.
Brother David M. McConkie Our first and foremost responsibility is to live so that we can have the Holy Ghost as our guide and companion.
Elder Kevin S. Hamilton As we continually hold fast to the rod by keeping our covenants, we will be strengthened to resist the temptations and perils of the world.
Elder Adrian Ochoa If you ever come across anything that causes you to question your testimony of the gospel, I plead with you to look up. … Let us cherish and strengthen our testimonies every day.
Elder Terence Vinson The Lord wants us to develop the faith that will help us rely upon Him in solving our problems and trust Him.
Elder Russell M. Nelson True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Here is a link to download the document if you want to print it out or tweak it: General Conference Scripture Mastery Oct13

I focused on quotes with principles that I thought were meaningful and age-appropriate for my children.

And here is a .pdf you can print out with each quote on one page that you can hang up by your dinner table or in your kids’ rooms or wherever:  Quotes from conference  We like to practice repeating ours at morning and dinner prayers.

So if you’re like me, and are already feeling a little bit of general conference withdrawal, this is one way to keep the messages alive in your heart and home until the next conference rolls around. Enjoy.