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.

General Conference Book Club Week 10: Elder Bednar

05_02_bednaFirst of all, thank you for your kind and very supportive comments on my last post.  I want to address that some more, but I’ll save it for tomorrow I think.

Welcome back to General Conference Book Club, Week TEN!  I’m not sure I’ve stuck with many goals for ten weeks before, so congratulations to all of you who are still with me on this little study journey.  Even if you’re not participating in the actual club readings, go back and read people’s great comments on the GCBC posts because they really do have some amazing insights and testimonies.

This week’s talk is “Honorably Hold a Name and Standing” by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  To be honest, I don’t remember much about this talk, but I do remember how he powerfully expressed his testimony at the end.  I look forward to going back and studying it more carefully.

If this is your first visit to the General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it. You’re welcome to join us at any point along the way.

>>Click here to read the talk “Honorably Hold a Name and Standing” by Elder David A. Bednar <<

I’ve included this video produced by the Church as a reminder of how our lives are blessed by the temple.

Have a great week.  God Bless.

General Conference Book Club Week 2: Elder Christofferson

01_06_chrisWelcome back to the General Conference Book Club.   If you’re new to the book club, you can find details by clicking here. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see so many people excited to participate last week.  Your insights were phenomenal.  For those who read and did not comment, we would love to hear from you too.  Your comments can be as simple or as elaborate as you feel compelled to share.  I felt strengthened just knowing that I was part of a “team” of individuals who were sincerely studying and trying to find personal application from the words of the living prophets and apostles.  Loved it.

The comments will remain open on the Week 1 talk by Elder Holland, so if you 1) are just joining us, 2) want to catch up, or 3) haven’t had a chance to read everyone’s insights, feel free to go back there.

So for week 2, we’ll turn our attention to a talk given during the Saturday morning session of General Conference, by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  He spoke about the blessings, promises, and protection assured to us through covenant keeping.  It’s a great talk.  I’m excited to study it this week, think about it, tie it into my scripture study, and then hear what you have to say about it.

>>Click here to find the talk entitled “The Power of Covenants” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson<<

His talk addresses covenants ranging from baptism to the temple, and the important role of the Holy Spirit in keeping those covenants.  The video below is a clip from (I believe) the PBS special done about Mormons, and experts both from within and outside of the Mormon faith define covenants and what role they play in temple worship.  I thought I’d throw it in as an additional resource as we study Elder Christofferson’s talk.

A few basic details (where there’s been a little confusion):

1.    Just a reminder that if you would like to get an update when others make comments on this talk/post, you have three choices:  A.) Under the Actions list below, click on “Comments RSS”  to subscribe to comments, or B.) When you leave a comment, before you click the “Submit comment” button, click the little box below it that says “Notify me…”.  If you don’t see either of those options, click on the title of this post; that will put it in a page by itself and you should find everything I referred to toward the bottom of the page.  Or C.) Come back to the post as often as you’d like and just read the latest comments.

2.  Leave your comments about this talk here on this post.

If you are looking at my main blog page where this post is followed by several other posts below it, you simply click the number next to the word “Comments:” directly beneath it,  or if you’re looking at this post in its own page, you can just type in the empty box entitled “Leave a comment.”

Pondering the Passover

passoverToday marks the celebration of the Passover.  In the Christian faith, this tradition draws upon two significant events:  The protection of the Israelites from the final Egyptian plague, and the last supper that Christ held with his disciples before he surrendered to Gethsemane and Calvary.

I remember reading someone’s story recently where they defended their faith in prophets to a skeptic listener.  The friend asked, “So if your prophet told everybody they should wear blue shirts, would you do it?”  The woman thought for a moment and then responded.  “Yes, I probably would.”  The friend sneered, “Don’t you think it would be a little strange?,” to which she replied, “The Israelites probably thought it was a little strange when Moses told them to put blood on their doors, but I bet they were glad they did.”  I loved that, and I’ve thought of it many times since.

And then a couple weeks ago, I studied this story with my own children in scripture study.  And it struck me how such a simple act, when followed, literally saved the lives of God’s people.  Similar, too was the story of the fiery serpents killing off folks in the wilderness, and when they just looked at the brazen serpent up on a rod, they would be healed.  Life literally preserved because of one simple act of faith.  So then I began to think about how many “passover commandments” exist that hold that same kind of power and promise of protection.  A couple came instantly to mind and I’ve tried to research out a few more.

Now, at my house, there are definitely some passover commandments– simple rules to live by that will save your life.  Here are a few no-brainers:

  • Thou shalt not wake up thy mother by opening her eyelids with thy fingers and shining a flashlight directly into her cornea.
  • Thou shalt not leave gross, sticky or wet things on the floor and forget to warn daddy when he walks through the room in his socks.
  • Thou shalt not lift up the covers and let thy children crawl into bed next to thy wife in the middle of the night; She careth not how “asleep” thou claimest to be when it happeneth.
  • If thou art above the age of three and still weareth night-time diapers, thou shalt diligently throw them away in the garage, and hide them not where thou thinkest thy mother will find them not.  For behold she shall, and great shall be her wrath.
  • Thou shalt not make vain repetitions to thy mother of the same pathetic request over and over, especially if thy voice is a whining siren.

Those are just some examples of life-preserving counsel in our home that I can think of off the top of my head.  But seriously, I’ve been very impressed at the many times and ways that our Heavenly Father offers all of us full protection for simple obedience, even against great adversity.  Take for example this scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 10:5-6:

Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.    Behold, they have sought to destroy you…

How about tithing?  Check out Malachi 3: 10-11:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy

The Armor of God scriptures in Ephesians 6 remind us to arm ourselves with faith, the word of God and other Christlike attributes, and then makes a promise that seems to follow this same passover pattern:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

One of the more obvious ones, because of its particular phrasing, is the Word of Wisdom found in Doctrine and Covenants 89.  Here is what Elder Russell M. Nelson said about it:

“The final verse of that revelation forges another link back to ancient Israel: “And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them” (D&C 89:21). This reference to the Passover shows that the Lord wanted obedient Saints of modern Israel to receive physical and spiritual protection just as He had provided for His faithful followers centuries before.”

del_parson_last_supper_400Anyway, I could go on and on because there are probably many more examples of passover commandments, but I don’t want to bore you (more).  I just think it’s fascinating that a historical event we see as such a poignant miracle is still in effect today as we keep God’s commandments.  Our lives and souls are protected.  Even at Jesus Christ’s last supper, as He and his dear friends celebrated Passover together, He reminded them of the power of the destroyer: “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. (Luke 22:31)”  He taught them that He had power over Satan.  This power is accessible to us when coupled with our faith in Christ.  I doubt it’s a coincidence that he made this statement immediately after introducing the ordinance of the Sacrament.  The power comes from keeping covenants.  As we take the sacrament each week, we renew a passover covenant so to speak.  And essentially, this is exactly what the children of Israel did on that first Passover long ago.  God asked them to do something.  They obeyed.  And they were preserved.

sacrament

I think these verses in Isaiah wrap it up so nicely:

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.  . . . No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

I just really love the messages of Easter time, don’t you?

(Sorry this is so long.  I just told Matt that this was more of an Ensign article than a post, and he assured me that no one will read it.  If you made it this far, you deserve a treat.  You have my blessing.)