GCBC Week 24: “Blessings of the Sacrament” by Elder Don R. Clarke

It’s the next-to-last week of GCBC, and then we get to hear another round of general conference (yay!).  Here is a video you can use to invite friends, family, strangers, and foes (no, really) to join us in hearing a living prophet and apostles speak. It is one of the coolest things on God’s green earth.

I believe that this will be my last round of GCBC. I have done it for every general conference since 2009, and I’m feeling like it’s time to “retire,” but I’ll do a post-conference post about how to start up or do-it-yourself host a similar club because I still love the concept and hope to keep up with the reading schedule on my own.

Okay, this week’s talk was one I really liked, and you can find it here:

Blessings of the Sacrament by Elder Don R. Clarke

This quote in particular was my favorite:

don-clarke

I’ve thought about that concept a lot, and even thought about it today while I took the sacrament. (And also this talk by Elder Perry.) I thought how every week I should walk away from sacrament meeting a better person than I have been before. My life should be in closer harmony with the gospel. My offering should be my heart and my will and all my sins as a sacrifice before God, with the desire to cling to my covenants and lay claim on their promises through my obedience. That’s pretty powerful stuff to happen in a 10-15 minute period of time, but isn’t it merciful of God to make that possible? And every week?

What stood out to you as you studied this talk? How can you make the sacrament more meaningful and transformative?

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

GCBC Week 20: “Covenants” by Elder Russell M. Nelson

I’ve been thinking a lot about covenants lately, and how they are like buoys in a storm.  Only by clinging to them can we be safe.  When the waters get rough and we get scared or tired or lazy, we may be tempted to just let go, but it will only be at our peril.  When we loose the covenant, we lose the blessings.  Covenants are the surest way to keep our families safe and bind our children to us throughout eternity.  I love Elder Nelson’s thoughts about the power of our covenants.

 

Covenants by Elder Russell M. Nelson

” Children of the covenant have the right to receive His doctrine and to know the plan of salvation. They claim it by making covenants of sacred significance. …

When we realize that we are children of the covenant, we know who we are and what God expects of us. His law is written in our hearts. He is our God and we are His people. Committed children of the covenant remain steadfast, even in the midst of adversity.”

What are some of your thoughts and testimony after reading this talk?  Share your thoughts or insights in the comments below.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion here each week.

Marriage and the Atonement

If you are a perfect spouse, and if you have a perfect spouse, feel free to disregard this post.

Marriage seems to be the best opportunity we have to practice forgiveness and repentance.  It’s like a crash course in why we need the Savior.  Is anyone else as surprised as I am how easy it is to hurt or be hurt by the person you love the most?  Sometimes our list of demands is great, and we pay more attention to it than we do our list of goals and self-improvement or our list of blessings.

I have a husband who is very patient with my frequent bouts of grievances.  He rarely returns the “favor.”  He far surpasses me in patience and long-suffering.

I’ve seen a lot of marital discord among family, friends and neighbors.  Every time it pops up, I feel so sad and I realize that none of us is immune to Satan’s attacks on marriage and family.  I hold on to my own marriage a little tighter and open my eyes a little wider.

And, surprise, surprise, I start studying what the prophets and apostles have said because I’m a firm believer that whatever seems to be plaguing society at the time has probably been addressed very carefully recently by living prophets.  So far, that’s always been true for me; I find answers for whatever is heavy on my heart and mind.  Anyway, here are few great talks and thoughts I came across after I did a search for “marriage and the atonement” . . . .

From Celestial Marriage by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Meanwhile, mortal misunderstandings can make mischief in a marriage. In fact, each marriage starts with two built-in handicaps. It involves two imperfect people. Happiness can come to them only through their earnest effort. Just as harmony comes from an orchestra only when its members make a concerted effort, so harmony in marriage also requires a concerted effort. That effort will succeed if each partner will minimize personal demands and maximize actions of loving selflessness.

President Thomas S. Monson has said: “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty—the fulfillment of which brings true joy.” 34

Harmony in marriage comes only when one esteems the welfare of his or her spouse among the highest of priorities. When that really happens, a celestial marriage becomes a reality, bringing great joy in this life and in the life to come.

From Divorce by Elder Dallin H. Oaks Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

I strongly urge you and those who advise you to face up to the reality that for most marriage problems, the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness. The first step is not separation but reformation. Divorce is not an all-purpose solution, and it often creates long-term heartache. A broad-based international study of the levels of happiness before and after “major life events” found that, on average, persons are far more successful in recovering their level of happiness after the death of a spouse than after a divorce. 3 Spouses who hope that divorce will resolve conflicts often find that it aggravates them, since the complexities that follow divorce—especially where there are children—generate new conflicts. . . .

Of course, there can be times when one spouse falls short and the other is wounded and feels pain. When that happens, the one who is wronged should balance current disappointments against the good of the past and the brighter prospects of the future.

Don’t treasure up past wrongs, reprocessing them again and again. In a marriage relationship, festering is destructive; forgiving is divine (see D&C 64:9–10). Plead for the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord to forgive wrongs (as President Faust has just taught us so beautifully –see that talk here), to overcome faults, and to strengthen relationships.

If you are already descending into the low state of marriage-in-name-only, please join hands, kneel together, and prayerfully plead for help and the healing power of the Atonement. Your humble and united pleadings will bring you closer to the Lord and to each other and will help you in the hard climb back to marital harmony.

From Covenant Marriage by Elder Bruce C. Hafen Of the First Quorum of the Seventy:

Our deepest God-given instinct is to run to the arms of those who need us and sustain us. But [Satan] drives us away from each other today with wedges of distrust and suspicion. He exaggerates the need for having space, getting out, and being left alone. Some people believe him—and then they wonder why they feel left alone. . . . .

May we restore the concept of marriage as a covenant, even the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. 14 And when the wolf comes, may we be as shepherds, not hirelings, willing to lay down our lives, a day at a time, for the sheep of our covenant. Then, like Adam and Eve, we will have joy.

I need to do a better job of expressing appreciation and love.

What do you do to protect yourself against the “wolves” that attack marriage?  How do your covenants bless your marriage?

GCBC Week 19: “Hope” by Elder Steven E. Snow

Welcome back to another week of General Conference Book Club.  Our comments were a little sparse last week, so I’d love to have more of you tune in on this talk and share some of your favorite parts or best insights.

“Hope”
by Elder Steven E. Snow
of the Presidency of the Seventy

This was my favorite quote from the talk because I thought it was a great reminder about acting on our hope and desires:

As parents, we find our fondest hopes center around our children. We hope they will grow up to lead responsible and righteous lives. Such hopes can be easily dashed if we do not act as good examples. Hope alone does not mean our children will grow in righteousness. We must spend time with them in family home evening and worthwhile family activities. We must teach them to pray. We must read with them in the scriptures and teach them important gospel principles. Only then is it possible our fondest hopes will be realized.

What stood out for you?  What does the talk make you want to do or change?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

If you’re new to GCBC, go here to learn more about it, then join us!

GCBC Week 18: “Followers of Christ” and “The Essence of Discipleship”

I’m back, so we might even have actual links this week.  :)  I picked two talks this time because they seemed a good fit to study together.

“Followers of Christ”
by Elder Walter F. González
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

and

“The Essence of Discipleship”
by Sister Silvia H. Allred
First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency

I thought it was really interesting to read each talk’s emphasis on different characteristics of discipleship.  The two things that stood out to me (and were consistent in both talks) were covenant keeping and charitable kindness.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as you study these talks.  What were the highlights for you?  What are some practical ways you feel like you can apply these principles in your life?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

If you’re new to GCBC, go here to learn more about it, then join us!

General Conference Book Club Week 8: Elder Sitati

I know this will be a busy week, so I picked a short talk, but I wanted one that would help me focus on the things I should be most thankful for (in the spirit of Thanksgiving).  Elder Joseph W. Sitati gave his talk, “Blessings of the Gospel Available to All,” during the Sunday afternoon session of conference.  Did anyone else think it was as cool as I did to hear a General Authority from Africa speaking at General Conference?  My parents recently served a mission in South Africa, so I felt a connection to what he was referring to as the outpouring of the Lord upon the African nations.

His talk increases my testimony of the Lord’s hand spreading his church throughout the world, and it’s also a great historical/doctrinal summary of the building of the Lord’s kingdom.

God’s children on the earth today have the opportunity to understand His plan of happiness for them more fully than at any other time.”

You can read the talk here, watch it here, or listen to it here.  It’s also on page 103 of the November Ensign.  (Go here for GCBC information.)

As you read this talk, what blessings do you feel grateful for?  What blessings from the gospel have you seen in your family, or maybe even throughout the world?

The fruits of a name: glory or shame?

imgShakerFruitTreeIn the local news, there has been a story this week of a man who has been accused of some horrible stuff.  I went to bed uneasy last night after reading the article, but I didn’t pay close attention to the details.  Today I got a phone call from a well-meaning neighbor letting me know that the accused person lives right by me.  After an initial shock and some back-and-forth detective work, we both determined that it couldn’t possibly be my neighbor, but it is his adult son who lives elsewhere in town.  They have the same name.

I’ve felt a little heavy-hearted today, as I always am when I read or hear stories of abuse or crime, especially when children are involved, but this time there’s a more personal sadness to the story.  I like my neighbors.  They are kind and thoughtful and have done nice things for my family.  They are an older couple and they have shown faith and determination while she has undergone cancer treatments on and off over the last year or more.  I can’t imagine the turmoil they must be experiencing knowing that their son is accused of a shameful act.  And I especially feel bad for the father who is known by the same name.  His son has dragged his name through the mud.  His parents will no doubt now feel deeply embarrassed, perhaps ostracized by many.  And that goes without mentioning the pain and turmoil it will surely wreak within their own family dynamics.  I am sad for them.

And yet I realize how often we are careless with our own names.  We perhaps do or say things that, though not criminal, smack of selfishness or reckless abandon.  We fool ourselves into thinking that our choices are ours alone and don’t affect others.  This news story has reminded me that this is not so; Whatever I do with my family name reflects upon my whole family, for better or for worse.

And any of us who considers ourselves Christian does so with a direct connection to the name of Christ.  I have entered into a covenant to take His name upon me, and therefore, He graciously (and obviously at certain personal risk) allows my life to be connected to and associated with His.  When anyone who knows me to be Christian sees me serve and love and show kindness, I glorify His name and honor Him.  When I choose to be selfish or undisciplined or quick to judge, I tarnish that name.  And though He himself cannot be diminished by my poor choices, I blatantly misrepresent Him and I hinder the expression of glory that could and should be for Him.

I remember as a missionary in Argentina, I wore a small black badge every day, pinned directly above my heart.  There were two names on it:  My family (maiden) name and the name of the Savior.  I can recall the tangible responsibility it symbolized.  My identity was wrapped up in theirs, and I knew that whatever I said or did would represent them in some way.  We all wear one of those, you know— at least figuratively.  I make mistakes all the time, but I do better if I remember who I stand for.  I’m certainly not implying that our imperfections mean complete, overwhelming failure or cause for shame.  The Savior does not expect us to be perfect, but his mercy is perfect and his atonement can make us perfect if we repent and submit to Him.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said:

“One day you will be asked if you took upon yourself the name of Christ and if you were faithful to that covenant. . . . We are all allowed—even encouraged—to achieve the fulness of the stature of Christ (see Eph. 4:13).”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson pointed out how, with each obedient act, there is an increase in our blessings and in our ability to honor His name:

“Our willingness to take upon us the name of Christ and keep His commandments requires a degree of faith, but as we honor our covenants, that faith expands. In the first place, the promised fruits of obedience become evident, which confirms our faith. Secondly, the Spirit communicates God’s pleasure, and we feel secure in His continued blessing and help. Thirdly, come what may, we can face life with hope and equanimity, knowing that we will succeed in the end because we have God’s promise to us individually, by name, and we know He cannot lie.”

I’m amazed how generous He is with His name.  I hope I make Him proud of how I use it.