Stress Relief Tips: Obedience to God, Courageous Living, Fear Not Let Us All Press On Evan Stephens Fear not, though the enemy deride, Courage, for the Lord is on our side.We will heed not what the wicked may say, but … Continue reading
Easter Story, Plan of Salvation, and 3 gardens
The Three Gardens of God
Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985)
Join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.
I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His Atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative. …
In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.
True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard His voice and know His word. …
May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.
We must cast aside the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.
We must search the scriptures, accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord and the very power of God unto salvation.
As we read, ponder, and pray, there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God—the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.
In Eden we will see all things created in a paradisiacal state—without death, without procreation, without probationary experiences.
We will come to know that such a creation, now unknown to man, was the only way to provide for the Fall.
We will then see Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, step down from their state of immortal and paradisiacal glory to become the first mortal flesh on earth.
Mortality, including as it does procreation and death, will enter the world. And because of transgression a probationary estate of trial and testing will begin.
Then in Gethsemane we will see the Son of God ransom man from the temporal and spiritual death that came to us because of the Fall.
And finally, before an empty tomb, we will come to know that Christ our Lord has burst the bands of death and stands forever triumphant over the grave.
Thus, Creation is father to the Fall; and by the Fall came mortality and death; and by Christ came immortality and eternal life.
If there had been no Fall of Adam, by which cometh death, there could have been no Atonement of Christ, by which cometh life.
And now, as pertaining to this perfect Atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that He is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
I am one of His witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears.
But I shall not know any better then than I know now that He is God’s Almighty Son, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and in no other way.
God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son will cleanse us from all sin.
Teaching Children about Easter with object lessons for Kids
Teach with an Easter Bag
Object lessons are the best, and this one is a great family home evening for the Monday before Easter. Start with the song “He Sent His Son.” Put the following items in a bag: (1) three coins, (2) small cup, (3) knotted string, (4) soap, (5) small piece of red fabric, (6) small toothpick cross, (7) white cloth, (8) cinnamon stick or other spice, (9) small stone, (10) folded white cloth, (11) picture of Jesus. As you read the scriptures below, have your kids take the matching items out of your Easter bag. It’s a different way to talk about the Resurrection, and it provides yet another opportunity to share your feelings of gratitude and gladness for a Savior.
- Matthew 26:14–15
- Matthew 26:36, 39
- Matthew 27:1–2
- Matthew 27:22, 24
- Matthew 27:28–29
- Matthew 27:31
- Matthew 27:59
- John 19:40
- John 20:1–4
- John 20:5–7
- John 20:10–20
Remember when “Spring Break” was called “Easter Vacation?”
Bible Facts and Biblical Symbols
The Threshing Floor
Find out what happens in this step in the harvesting process—and how it relates to the Lord’s harvest.
“I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit.” Doctrine and Covenants 35:13
Threshing is the process by which the grain husks, or chaff, are loosened. It is done after the fields have been harvested and usually involves crushing the grain stalks on a flat surface, or threshing floor. Threshing is necessary before the final process of winnowing, which separates the husks from the edible grain before the grain is ground and stored.
What We Can Learn
Just as threshing involves a strong physical act (crushing), the Lord sends forth His humble servants to “thresh the nations by the power of [His] Spirit” (D&C 35:13). Of course, the Spirit’s power isn’t violent in the same way threshing is, but its effects can be similarly impressive. Although it is still, small, and peaceful, the Spirit can penetrate to people’s hearts and help bring about great things, such as the conversion of souls and the breaking down of barriers to the Lord’s work.
Is a means of dividing.
The Spirit divides the righteous from the wicked, the Lord’s people from the world, and Satan’s lies from God’s truth. Those who hear the Lord’s voice through His servants, who have not hardened their hearts, and who choose to repent are counted among the righteous. The wicked experience the Lord’s judgments against them.
Precedes the final separation.
Threshing is a necessary step before the final winnowing. Throughout history, the Lord has at times sent His judgments against wicked people. At His Second Coming, He will separate the wicked from the righteous in preparation for His millennial reign. Before this separation, His servants and His people help prepare the world for the judgment to come by bearing witness through the power of the Spirit.
- The harvested and cut grain, such as wheat or barley, was spread to dry on flat, open surfaces, or threshing floors (see 1 Chronicles 21:20–23).
- The dried stalks were either beaten with flails or crushed by an ox or a donkey dragging a heavy board in which sharp stones were embedded (see Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9).
- The Lord often used the image of threshing as a metaphor for the judgments that He or His people would mete out on other nations or the world, either anciently or before His Second Coming (see Isaiah 28:27–28; Isaiah 41:15; Jeremiah 51:33; Micah 4:13; Habakkuk 3:12; Luke 3:17).
Parents as Teachers:
Christian Moral Standards and Biblical Values for Children and Youth
Written, Not with Ink
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26 )
Jochebed, mother of Moses, gently laid her infant son in a carefully crafted little ark, then watched over the short river journey of her precious cargo until he was safely in the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. Even then, in the king’s court, she was there, nursing him and vigilant in his care.
Despite the opposition of those who would have killed him, Moses grew to manhood, delivered his people from bondage, and left to the world the priceless moral code known as the Ten Commandments. Moses went on to his reward, but opposition to his work continues.
In the New World, about 148 B.C., the prophet Abinadi was put to death by a king, for defending the plan of salvation and the Ten Commandments.
This revered code has been preserved, found today inscribed in stone or metal. The Ten Commandments have been ridiculed, forbidden, removed from public display. Yet within the calm eye of stormy hostility, this code remains serene, steadfast, and immovable.
After the children of Israel broke the Ten Commandments and other higher laws, Moses was instructed to create a complex structure of rules and regulations.
Today, many try to replace the Ten Commandments with gargantuan legal documents of government regulation.
Laws of men come and go. People have been killed or thrown in jail defending the Ten Commandments. But this moral code persists as a foundation for all civilized societies. Why? Because its Author is absolute— the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The Ten Commandments are moral absolutes.
Those whose behavior is consistent with moral absolutes are guided by what is called “internal government.” These individuals can successfully govern themselves, but are accountable to a just God.
When internal government breaks down, external government takes over, with rules, regulation, and bureaucracy. Persons under external government are accountable to men, who may not be just.
In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, a timeless novel about justice and mercy, hero Jean Valjean served in prison for decades because he stole one loaf of bread. He learned about mercy when a compassionate priest bought his freedom with two valuable silver candle holders. Because of that gracious gift, Valjean lived out his life serving and bringing joy to others. But Javert, his jailer, refusing to accept the price paid for Jean’s deliverance, became obsessed with re-capturing him. Failing in his objective, Javert finally ended his own miserable life. Such is the state of man at the hands of human justice.
In a civilized society, however, justice must be served, or there would be nothing to deter evil and protect the innocent. But much as we may desire to be morally perfect, we all fall short. What is to be done?
Many today reject moral absolutes because, like Javert, they do not understand the plan of mercy. A loving Father in heaven knew that his children would fail to keep all the commandments that justice required. Only His perfect Son could meet the absolute demands of justice and pay the price for His children’s deliverance.
Parents need not be afraid of holding their children to high moral standards. The atonement of Christ is a safety net in the times of falling short, but it is fastened to repentance. Like Valjean, our children must forsake evil, or justice will have claims upon them.
If we as parents, like Jochebed, diligently train, nurture, and safeguard the internal government in our children, their souls will remain clean and whole when all around them are falling apart. Despite the fading ink of human doctrine, our children can remain true to eternal principles, written, not with ink, but in the fleshy tables of their hearts. (2Cor.3:3)
But remember, “It is easier to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent.” (Ezra Taft Benson)
Children prepared with strong internal government will always make honor and virtue their choice; they will triumph over evil, and rejoice.
Dinner Topics for Thursday
- Give examples in the world today of human injustice, in which the Ten Commandments have been perverted and the atonement of Christ is denied.
- If we do our very best to live high moral standards, but fall short, what must we do to receive the mercy of Christ?
Copyright © 2010 by Christine A. Davidson
True to the Faith
By Evan Stephens
Shall the youth of Zion falter in defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth, shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
While we know the powers of darkness seek to thwart the work of God,
Shall the children of the promise cease to grasp the iron rod? No!
We will work out our salvation; we will cleave unto the truth;
We will watch and pray and labor with the fervent zeal of youth. Yes!
We will strive to be found worthy of the kingdom of our Lord,
With the faithful ones redeemed who have loved and kept his word. Yes!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command, soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.
Christian Standards for Children and Youth
I will follow Heavenly Father’s plan for me.
I will listen to the Holy Spirit.
I will choose the right. I know I can repent when I make a mistake.
I will be honest with Heavenly Father, others, and myself.
I will use the names of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ reverently. I will not swear or use crude words.
I will do those things on the Sabbath that will help me feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
I will honor my parents and do my part to strengthen my family.
I will keep my mind and body sacred and pure, and I will not partake of things that are harmful to me.
I will dress modestly to show respect for Heavenly Father and myself.
I will only read and watch things that are pleasing to Heavenly Father.
I will only listen to music that is pleasing to Heavenly Father.
I will seek good friends and treat others kindly.
I will do my part to strengthen my family.
Sabbath Worship, Discipleship, and Small Acts of Faith
Sabbath Worship Drop by Drop
By Ariel Szuch
Sometimes when the topic “keeping the Sabbath day holy” comes up in church, I squirm in my chair a little. There has been a lot of emphasis placed on the Sabbath day lately, and I know it’s not meant to be guilt-inducing, but sometimes I can’t help but think, Here we go. Another way I’m not measuring up to expectations. After all, I don’t always make it to church on time. I don’t always feel like my focus is in the right place ALL DAY LONG. I don’t always feel the Spirit super strongly at church. And I may or may not doze off for a few minutes in sacrament meeting about every other Sunday.
It can be easy to feel like we’re falling short on keeping the Sabbath day holy when not all of our Sundays look like the picture-perfect, peaceful, restful, Spirit-filled day we have in our heads as the standard. I know I can get it in my head sometimes that truly keeping the Sabbath day holy requires colossal effort—everything has to be clean, I always have to be well-rested, I need to have “holy thoughts” the full 24 hours, I should read my scriptures for at least an hour, and so on.
But I don’t have to do that. And neither do you.
Heaping high (and honestly, often arbitrary) expectations on ourselves for keeping the Sabbath day holy—or keeping any other commandment—beyond what God and our leaders have counseled us to do weighs us down and robs us of the joy of obedience. The Lord’s pattern does not center on massive efforts powered only by our own sheer grit and determination. Rather, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise” (Alma 37:6). Just like it does to keeping every commandment, this principle applies to keeping the Sabbath day holy as well.
Drops of Holiness
Instead of these huge efforts, I have found it helpful to think of my Sabbath day worship as filling a lamp—one that needs oil to burn, like in the parable of the ten virgins. Drops of holiness, if you will, that accumulate week after week and year after year. Thinking about what I’m grateful for in the shower while getting ready? Drop. Taking three minutes to read over the sacrament prayers before church? Drop. Saying a prayer of gratitude for the Savior as I take the sacrament? Drop. Drops of holiness are small, simple things that fuel the flame of my faith in Jesus Christ and my desire to turn my heart toward Him on the Sabbath day, and every effort counts.
On a recent Sunday, I walked into church after missing sacrament meeting the Sunday before. As I came through the doors, I felt a little rush of anticipation, and it hit me—I’ve missed this. I had missed the opportunity to add oil to my lamp, to fill up my spiritual tank. Looking back over the previous week, I could tell that my spiritual reserves had been low. I hadn’t handled stress as well and had been quicker to get frustrated and take offense. Coming back to church was like getting a drink and realizing how thirsty I had been, and I could feel the warm welcome of the Spirit envelop me.
As I reflected, feeling a little guilty for missing the previous week, I thought about how the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy gives God an opportunity to bless us. He doesn’t give us commandments to set us up for failure, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to punish us if we fall short of perfection. Instead, the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy gives us an opportunity every week—drop by drop—for our entire lives to practice turning toward Him and becoming like Him. Each effort, regardless of perceived past failures, is rejoiced in by a loving Heavenly Father. With that realization, taking the sacrament was especially sweet that week.
The Sabbath is a day to listen to God’s voice, not the voices in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough and we’re not measuring up. We offer up our little part, our small drops of oil, each week, knowing that God accepts even the smallest effort to turn toward Him. The sacrament cup is a beautiful reminder of that. Jesus drank the entire bitter cup, paying the price for our sins, pains, and sorrows so we can return to God’s presence. He didn’t do it to shame us into obedience (“Look how much I did for you! Quit whining and shape up!”). Instead, all He desires is for us to drink our little cup—to do our small, day-to-day and week-to-week efforts to keep the commandments and keep the Sabbath day holy—with gratitude, knowing that in the end, it is His efforts that make everything possible.
Building Foundation of Faith through Obedience to God in Small Daily Life Activities
Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It
By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. ~Alma 37:6-7
Bible Story of Naaman
Small acts of faith, even when they seem insignificant or entirely disconnected from the specific problems that vex us, bless us in all we do.
Consider Naaman, a “captain of the host of … Syria, … a mighty man in valour,” and a leper. A servant girl told of a prophet in Israel who could heal Naaman, and so he traveled with an escort of servants, soldiers, and gifts to Israel, eventually arriving at Elisha’s house. Elisha’s servant, not Elisha himself, informed Naaman that the Lord’s command was to “go and wash in [the river] Jordan seven times.” A simple thing. Perhaps this simple prescription struck the mighty warrior as so illogical, simplistic, or beneath his dignity that he found the mere suggestion offensive. At the very least, Elisha’s instruction didn’t make sense to Naaman, “so he turned and went away in a rage.”
But Naaman’s servants gently approached him and observed that he would have done “some great thing” if Elisha had asked it of him. They noted that since he was asked to do only a small task, shouldn’t he do it, even if he didn’t understand why? Naaman reconsidered his reaction and perhaps skeptically, but obediently, “went … down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan” and was miraculously healed.8
Small Daily Life Activities
When we decide to do “whatsoever [God] saith unto” us, we earnestly commit to align our everyday behavior with God’s will. Such simple acts of faith as studying the scriptures daily, fasting regularly, and praying with real intent deepen our well of spiritual capacity to meet the demands of mortality. Over time, simple habits of belief lead to miraculous results. They transform our faith from a seedling into a dynamic power for good in our lives. Then, when challenges come our way, our rootedness in Christ provides steadfastness for our souls. God shores up our weaknesses, increases our joys, and causes “all things [to] work together for [our] good.”6
A few years ago, I spoke with a young bishop who was spending hours each week counseling with members of his ward. He made a striking observation. The problems that members of his ward faced, he said, were those faced by Church members everywhere—issues such as how to establish a happy marriage; struggles with balancing work, family, and Church duties; challenges with the Word of Wisdom, with employment, or with pornography; or trouble gaining peace about a Church policy or historical question they didn’t understand.
His counsel to ward members very often included getting back to simple practices of faith. Frequently, however, their response to him was one of skepticism: “I don’t agree with you, Bishop. We all know those are good things to do. We talk about those things all the time in the Church. But I’m not sure you’re understanding me. What does doing any of those things have to do with the issues I’m facing?”
It’s a fair question. Over time, that young bishop and I have observed that those who are deliberate about doing the “small and simple things”7—obeying in seemingly little ways—are blessed with faith and strength that go far beyond the actual acts of obedience themselves and, in fact, may seem totally unrelated to them.
Daily acts of obedience are solutions to the big, complicated problems
It may seem hard to draw a connection between the basic daily acts of obedience and solutions to the big, complicated problems we face. But they are related. In my experience, getting the little daily habits of faith right is the single best way to fortify ourselves against the troubles of life, whatever they may be.
Some rewards of obedience do come quickly; others come only after we are tested. In the Pearl of Great Price, we read about Adam’s tireless diligence in keeping the commandment to offer sacrifices. When the angel asked Adam why he was offering sacrifices, he answered, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” The angel explained that his sacrifices were “a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father.” But that explanation came only after Adam had demonstrated his commitment to obeying the Lord for “many days” without knowing why he was supposed to offer those sacrifices.9
God will always bless us for our steadfast obedience to His gospel and loyalty to His Church, but He rarely shows us His timetable for doing so in advance. He doesn’t show us the whole picture from the outset. That is where faith, hope, and trusting in the Lord come in.
God asks us to bear with Him—to trust Him and to follow Him. He pleads with us to “dispute not because ye see not.” He cautions us that we shouldn’t expect easy answers or quick fixes from heaven. Things work out when we stand firm during the “trial of [our] faith,” however hard that test may be to endure or slow the answer may be in coming.10 I am not speaking of “blind obedience”11 but of thoughtful confidence in the perfect love and the perfect timing of the Lord.
The trial of our faith will always involve staying true to simple, daily practices of faith. Then, and only then, does He promise that we will receive the divine response for which we long. Only once we have proven our willingness to do what He asks without demanding to know the whens, the whys, and the hows do we “reap the rewards of [our] faith, and [our] diligence, and patience, and long-suffering.”12 Real obedience accepts God’s commandments unconditionally and in advance.13
Every day, consciously or otherwise, we all choose “whom [we] will serve.”14 We demonstrate our determination to serve the Lord by faithfully engaging in daily acts of devotion. The Lord promises to direct our paths,15 but for Him to do that, we have to walk, trusting that He knows the way because He is “the way.”16 We must fill our own waterpots up to the brim. When we trust and follow Him, our lives, like water to wine, are transformed. We become something more and better than we ever otherwise could be. Trust in the Lord, and “whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
Dinner Topics for Friday
Quotes from Christian Leaders on Foundation of Faith:
Prayer and Scripture Study: Key to Peace
Boyd K. Packer: Scripture Study—Key to Protection
Make scripture reading a part of your regular routine, and the blessings will follow. There is in the scriptures a voice of warning, but there is also great nourishment.
If the language of the scriptures at first seems strange to you, keep reading. Soon you will come to recognize the beauty and power found on those pages.
Paul said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”5
You can test this promise for yourself.
We live in perilous times; nevertheless, we can find hope and peace for ourselves and for our families. Those living in sorrow, despairing at the possibility of children being rescued from where the world has taken them, must never give up. “Be not afraid, only believe.”6 Righteousness is more powerful than wickedness.
Children taught an understanding of the scriptures early in life will come to know the path they should walk and will be more inclined to remain on that path. Those who stray will have the ability to return and, with help, can find their way back.
If you are set on a course of faith and activity in the Church, stay on course and keep your covenants. Continue forward until the time when the Lord’s blessings will come to you and the Holy Ghost will be revealed as a moving force in your life.
If you are presently on a course that points away from the one outlined in the scriptures, let me assure you there is a way back.
Jesus Christ has prescribed a very clear method for us to repent and find healing in our lives. The cure for most mistakes can be found by seeking forgiveness through personal prayer. However, there are certain spiritual illnesses, particularly those dealing with violations of the moral law, which absolutely require the assistance and treatment of a qualified spiritual physician.
As the repentance process is completed, you will come to understand the meaning of Isaiah’s promise about the Atonement: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”11
Just as chalk can be removed from a blackboard, with sincere repentance the effects of our transgression can be erased through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That promise applies in every case.
The gospel teaches us to be happy, to have faith rather than fear, to find hope and overcome despair, to leave darkness and turn toward the light of the everlasting gospel.
Paul and others warned about the trials of our time and the days yet to come. But peace can be settled in the heart of each who turns to the scriptures and unlocks the promises of protection and redemption that are taught therein. We invite all to turn to the Savior Jesus Christ, to His teachings as found in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
I bear certain witness of the scriptures as a key to our spiritual protection. I also bear witness of the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, “that through him all might be saved”12 who will be saved. The Lord’s Church has been established on the earth once again. Of the truthfulness of the gospel I bear witness. Of Him I am a witness, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Thomas S. Monson: Faith and Prayer Key to Peace—We Never Walk Alone
There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.
When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer. I love the words of President Ezra Taft Benson concerning prayer. Said he:
“All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have … received. It has become an integral part of me—an anchor, a constant source of strength, and the basis of my knowledge of things divine. …
“… Though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life’s greatest blessing.”2
The Apostle Paul admonished:
“Let your requests be made known unto God.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”3
What a glorious promise! Peace is that which we seek, that for which we yearn.
We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: “Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”4
Of course, prayer is not just for times of trouble. We are told repeatedly in the scriptures to “pray always”7 and to keep a prayer in our hearts.8 The words of a favorite and familiar hymn pose a question which we would do well to ask ourselves daily: “Did you think to pray?”9
Allied with prayer in helping us cope in our often difficult world is scripture study. The words of truth and inspiration found in our four standard works are prized possessions to me. I never tire of reading them. I am lifted spiritually whenever I search the scriptures. These holy words of truth and love give guidance to my life and point the way to eternal perfection.
As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. We can find answers to our questions. We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us. When scripture study is combined with our prayers, we can of a certainty know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.
Said President Gordon B. Hinckley, “May the Lord bless each of us to feast upon his holy [words] and to draw from [them] that strength, that peace, [and] that knowledge ‘which passeth all understanding’ (Philip. 4:7).”10
As we remember prayer and take time to turn to the scriptures, our lives will be infinitely more blessed and our burdens will be made lighter.
As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone.
Foundation of Faith
Foundation of Faith
My plea is that we will make the sacrifices and have the humility necessary to strengthen the foundations of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If there is one preeminent objective of general conference, it is to build faith in God the Father and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
My remarks address the foundations of that faith.
Personal foundations, like many worthwhile pursuits, are usually built slowly—one layer, one experience, one challenge, one setback, and one success at a time. A most cherished physical experience is a baby’s first steps. It is magnificent to behold. The precious look on the face—a combination of determination, joy, surprise, and accomplishment—is truly a seminal event.
In our family, there is one event of a similar nature that stands out. When our youngest son was about four years old, he came into the house and gleefully announced to the family with great pride: “I can do everything now. I can tie, I can ride, and I can zip.” We understood he was telling us that he could tie his shoes, he could ride his Big Wheel tricycle, and he could zip his coat. We all laughed but realized that for him they were monumental achievements. He thought he had truly arrived and was grown up.
Physical, mental, and spiritual development have much in common. Physical development is fairly easy to see. We begin with baby steps and progress day by day, year by year, growing and developing to attain our ultimate physical stature. Development is different for each person.
When we watch a great athletic or musical performance, we often say that the person is very gifted, which is usually true. But the performance is based upon years of preparation and practice. One well-known writer, Malcolm Gladwell, has called this the 10,000-hour rule. Researchers have determined that this amount of practice is necessary in athletics, musical performance, academic proficiency, specialized work skills, medical or legal expertise, and so on. One of these research experts asserts “that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything.”1
Most people recognize that to obtain peak physical and mental performance, such preparation and practice are essential.
Unfortunately, in an increasingly secular world, less emphasis is placed on the amount of spiritual growth necessary to become more Christlike and establish the foundations that lead to enduring faith. We tend to emphasize moments of sublime spiritual understanding. These are precious instances when we know the Holy Ghost has witnessed special spiritual insights to our hearts and minds. We rejoice in these events; they should not be diminished in any way.
But for enduring faith and to have the constant companionship of the Spirit, there is no substitute for the individual religious observance that is comparable to physical and mental development. We should build on these experiences, which sometimes resemble initial baby steps.
We do this by consecrated commitment to sacred sacrament meetings, scripture study, prayer, and serving as called. In one recent obituary tribute for the father of 13 children, it was reported his “loyalty to daily prayer and scripture study profoundly influenced his children, giving them an immovable foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”2
An experience I had when I was 15 years old was foundational for me. My faithful mother had valiantly tried to help me establish the foundations of faith in my life. I attended sacrament meeting, Primary, then Young Men and seminary. I had read the Book of Mormon and had always prayed individually. At that time a dramatic event occurred in our family when my beloved older brother was considering a potential mission call. My wonderful father, a less-active Church member, wanted him to continue his education and not serve a mission. This became a point of contention.
In a remarkable discussion with my brother, who was five years older and led the discussion, we concluded that his decision on whether to serve a mission depended on three issues: (1) Was Jesus Christ divine? (2) Was the Book of Mormon true? (3) Was Joseph Smith the prophet of the Restoration?
As I prayed sincerely that night, the Spirit confirmed to me the truth of all three questions. I also came to understand that almost every decision I would make for the rest of my life would be based on the answers to those three questions. I particularly realized that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was essential. In looking back, I recognize that, primarily because of my mother, the foundations were in place for me to receive the spiritual confirmation that evening. My brother, who already had a testimony, made the decision to serve a mission and ultimately won our father’s support.
Spiritual guidance is received when needed, in the Lord’s time and according to His will.3 Just as repetition and consistent effort are required to gain physical or mental capacity, the same is true in spiritual matters.
Faith is a Principle of Power
Faith is a principle of power. Let me illustrate: When I was a young missionary, a great mission president6 introduced me in a profound way to the scriptural account found in Luke 8 of the woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years and had spent everything she had on physicians who could not heal her. It has remained to this day one of my favorite scriptures.
You will remember that she had faith that if she could but touch the border of the Savior’s garment, she would be healed. When she did so, she was healed immediately. The Savior, who was walking along with His disciples, said, “Who touched me?”
Peter’s answer was that all of them, walking together, were pressing against Him.
“And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.”
The root word for virtue could easily be interpreted as “power.” In Spanish and Portuguese, it is translated as “power.” But regardless, the Savior did not see her; He had not focused on her need. But her faith was such that touching the border of the garment drew upon the healing power of the Son of God.
As the Savior said to her, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”7
I have contemplated this account all my adult life. I realize that our personal prayers and supplications to a loving Father in Heaven in the name of Jesus Christ can bring blessings into our lives beyond our ability to comprehend. The foundations of faith, the kind of faith that this woman demonstrated, should be the great desire of our hearts.
However, initial foundations of faith, even with spiritual confirmation, do not mean that we will not face challenges. Conversion to the gospel does not mean all our problems will be solved.
Like the ancient Apostles on the day of Pentecost, many members experienced marvelous spiritual experiences in connection with the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.8 But, as in our own lives, this did not mean they wouldn’t face challenges or hardships going forward. Little did these early members know they would be faced with a United States financial crisis—the panic of 1837—that would test their very souls.9
One example of the challenges related to this financial crisis was experienced by Parley P. Pratt, one of the great leaders of the Restoration. He was an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In the early part of 1837, his dear wife, Thankful, died after delivering their first child. Parley and Thankful had been married almost 10 years, and her death devastated him.
A few months later, Elder Pratt found himself in one of the most difficult times the Church has experienced. In the midst of the national crisis, local economic issues—including land speculation and the struggles of a financial institution founded by Joseph Smith and other Church members—created discord and contention in Kirtland. Church leaders did not always make wise temporal decisions in their own lives. Parley suffered significant financial losses and for a time became disaffected with the Prophet Joseph.10 He wrote a stinging criticism to Joseph and spoke in opposition of him from the pulpit. At the same time, Parley said he continued to believe in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.11
Elder Pratt had lost his wife, his land, and his home. Parley, without telling Joseph, left for Missouri. On the road there, he unexpectedly met fellow Apostles Thomas B. Marsh and David Patten returning to Kirtland. They felt a great need to have harmony restored to the Quorum and persuaded Parley to return with them. He realized that no one had lost more than Joseph Smith and his family.
Parley sought out the Prophet, wept, and confessed that what he had done was wrong. In the months after his wife, Thankful’s, death, Parley had been “under a dark cloud” and had been overcome by fears and frustrations.12 Joseph, knowing what it was like to struggle against opposition and temptation, “frankly forgave” Parley, praying for him and blessing him.13 Parley and others who remained faithful benefited from the Kirtland challenges. They increased in wisdom and became more noble and virtuous. The experience became part of their foundations of faith.
Adversity should not be viewed as either disfavor from the Lord or a withdrawal of His blessings. Opposition in all things is part of the refiner’s fire to prepare us for an eternal celestial destiny.14 When the Prophet Joseph was in Liberty Jail, the words of the Lord to him described all manner of challenges—including tribulations and false accusations—and conclude:
“If the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”15
The Lord, in this instruction to Joseph Smith, also made it clear that his days were known and would not be numbered less. The Lord concluded, “Fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”16
What, then, are the blessings of faith? What does faith accomplish? The list is almost endless:
Our sins can be forgiven because of faith in Christ.17
As many as have faith have communion with the Holy Spirit.18
Salvation comes through faith on Christ’s name.19
We receive strength according to our faith in Christ.20
None enter the Lord’s rest save those who wash their garments in Christ’s blood because of their faith.21
Prayers are answered according to faith.22
Without faith among men, God can do no miracle among them.23
In the end, our faith in Jesus Christ is the essential foundation for our eternal salvation and exaltation. As Helaman taught his sons, “Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation … , which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”24
My plea is that we will make the sacrifices and have the humility necessary to strengthen the foundations of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dinner Topics for Monday
Passing on Gospel Teachings to Next Generation
The Language of the Gospel
No achievement in this life, important as it may be, will be relevant if we lose the language of the gospel in our families. Powerful teaching is extremely important to preserve the gospel in our families, and it requires diligence and effort.
After being called as a General Authority, I moved with my family from Costa Rica to Salt Lake City for my first assignment. Here in the United States, I have been blessed to visit wonderful people of different ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Among them are many who, like me, were born in the countries of Latin America.
I have noticed that many of the first-generation Hispanics here speak Spanish as their primary language and enough English to communicate with others. The second generation, who were either born in the United States or came at an early age and attend school here, speak very good English and perhaps some broken Spanish. And often by the third generation, Spanish, the native language of their ancestors, is lost.1
In linguistic terms, this is simply called “language loss.” Language loss may happen when families move to a foreign land where their native language is not predominant. It happens not only among Hispanics but also among populations throughout the world where a native language is replaced in favor of a new one.2 Even Nephi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, was concerned about losing the native language of his fathers when he was preparing to move to the promised land. Nephi writes, “Behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers.”3
Preserve Eternal Language
But Nephi was also concerned about losing another kind of language. In the next verse, he continues, “And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time.”4
I noticed a similarity between preserving a mother tongue and preserving the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Today in my analogy, I would like to emphasize not any particular earthly language but rather an eternal language that must be preserved in our families and never lost. I speak of the language5 of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By “language of the gospel,” I mean all the teachings of our prophets, our obedience to those teachings, and our following righteous traditions.
I will discuss three ways that this language can be preserved.
First: Being More Diligent and Concerned at Home
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord invited many prominent members of the Church, including Newel K. Whitney, to set their homes in order. The Lord said, “My servant Newel K. Whitney … hath need to be chastened, and set in order his family, and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home, and pray always, or they shall be removed out of their place.”6
Language of the Gospel Must Be Taught
One factor that influences language loss is when parents don’t spend time teaching their children the native language. It is not enough to merely speak the language in the home. If parents desire to preserve their language, it must be taught. Research has found that parents who make a conscious effort to preserve their native language tend to succeed in doing so.7 So what would be a conscious effort to preserve the language of the gospel?
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cautioned that “weak gospel teaching and modeling in the home” is a powerful cause that may break the cycle of multi-generational families in the Church.8
We can therefore conclude that powerful teaching is extremely important to preserve the gospel in our families, and it requires diligence and effort.
We have been invited many times to acquire the practice of daily family and personal scripture study.9 Many families that are doing this are blessed each day with greater unity and a closer relationship with the Lord.
When will daily scripture study happen? It will happen when parents take the scriptures in hand and, with love, invite the family to gather together to study. It is difficult to see this study happening in any other way.
Fathers and mothers, don’t miss out on these great blessings. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
Second: Strong Modeling in the Home—Bring the Gospel Alive for your Children
One linguistics expert wrote that to preserve a native language, “you need to bring the language alive for your children.”10 We “bring language alive” when our teaching and modeling work together.
A lesson about Tithing
When I was young, I worked in my father’s factory during vacations. The first question my father always asked after I received my salary was “What are you going to do with your money?”
I knew the answer and responded, “Pay my tithing and save for my mission.”
After working with him for about eight years and constantly answering his same question, my father figured he had taught me about paying my tithing. What he didn’t realize was that I had learned this important principle in just one weekend. Let me tell you how I learned that principle.
After some events related to a civil war in Central America, my father’s business went bankrupt. He went from about 200 full-time employees to fewer than five sewing operators who worked as needed in the garage of our home. One day during those difficult times, I heard my parents discussing whether they should pay tithing or buy food for the children.
On Sunday, I followed my father to see what he was going to do. After our Church meetings, I saw him take an envelope and put his tithing in it. That was only part of the lesson. The question that remained for me was what we were going to eat.
Early Monday morning, some people knocked on our door. When I opened it, they asked for my father. I called for him, and when he arrived, the visitors told him about an urgent sewing order they needed as quickly as possible. They told him that the order was so urgent that they would pay for it in advance. That day I learned the principles of paying tithing and the blessings that follow.
In the New Testament, the Lord talks about modeling. He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”11
It is not enough just to talk to our children about the importance of temple marriage, fasting, and keeping the Sabbath day holy. They must see us making room in our schedules to attend the temple as frequently as we can. They need to see our commitment to fasting regularly12 and keeping the entire Sabbath day holy. If our youth cannot fast two meals, cannot study the scriptures regularly, and cannot turn off the TV during a big game on Sunday, will they have the spiritual self-discipline to resist the powerful temptations of today’s challenging world, including the temptation of pornography?
Third: Traditions—Combat Worldly Influences with Righteous Teaching
Another way language can be altered or lost is when other languages and traditions are mixed with a mother tongue.13
Disobedience and Unrighteous Traditions cause Loss of Light and Truth
In the early years of the restored Church, the Lord invited many prominent members of the Church to set their homes in order. He began His invitation by addressing two ways we may lose light and truth from our homes: “That wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.”14
As families, we need to avoid any tradition that will prevent us from keeping the Sabbath day holy or having daily scripture study and prayer at home. We need to close the digital doors of our home to pornography and all other evil influences. To combat the worldly traditions of our day, we need to use the scriptures and the voice of our modern prophets to teach our children about their divine identity, their purpose in life, and the divine mission of Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: Preserve Language of the Gospel Above All
In the scriptures, we find several examples of “language loss.”15 For example:
“Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers. …
“And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.”16
For the rising generation, the gospel became a strange language. And while the benefits of maintaining a native language are sometimes debated, in the context of the plan of salvation there is no debate about the eternal consequences of losing the language of the gospel in our homes.
As children of God, we are imperfect people trying to learn a perfect language.17 Just as a mother is compassionate with her little children, our Heavenly Father is patient with our imperfections and mistakes. He treasures and understands our feeblest utterances, mumbled in sincerity, as if they were fine poetry. He rejoices at the sound of our first gospel words. He teaches us with perfect love.
No achievement in this life, important as it may be, will be relevant if we lose the language of the gospel in our families.18 It is my testimony that Heavenly Father will bless us in our efforts as we strive to embrace His language, even until we become fluent in this higher level of communication, which always was our mother tongue.