Sunday, February 21, 2016

Talks Dad and Mom Gave In Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mom's Talk

Come Unto Christ
How Oft Would I Have Gathered You

I love reading the Book of Mormon. I read every day, and when I reach the end of Moroni, I begin again in First Nephi. I am not a scriptorian by any means, but I learn a little bit more each time I read, and each time, something touches my heart in a different way.

One of my favorite passages that I read is found in 3rd Nephi Chapter 10.

This was during Christ’s second time speaking to the multitudes after his death.
  There had been hours of silence,  when the voice of Christ again came .

O ye people of these great cities which have fallen,   who are descendants of Jacob,    yea, who are of the house of Israel,    how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,    and have nourished you.
 And again,     how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel,    who have fallen;       yea, O ye people of the house of Israel,       ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen;     yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
 O ye house of Israel     whom I have spared,     how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,      if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.

I love when I read that. And similar references are found in Matthew and Luke in the New Testament, and in the Doctrine and Covenants

We have hens. Years ago, we had both hens and chicks.I used to enjoy watching that mother hen as she taught her little ones: how to eat food and drink water, to scratch the ground for what might be hidden.When anything startled that mother, she would make a certain clucking sound and those chicks would come running to the safety of her wings. They would also sleep under the warm       cover of her wings at night. She was their teacher, their refuge from the storm, their safety. She would do anything and fight off anyone to protect them. 

Jesus Christ is there for us. As he said, “How oft have I gathered you….”  “How oft would I have gathered you…”  “How oft will I gather you…”

I find that as we begin to make more of our own choices in life, we often think that life will be like a class syllabus:If we do this, and this, and this, we will be rewarded with the grade we worked for.
A + B = C
Sometimes life does work out that way.
But sometimes, though we are obedient, we refine our lives, we repent and correct our mistakes,    the things we worked for, we hoped for, we wanted and had envisioned for our futures do not work out that way.
Sometimes, we suffer consequences of our own choices.
Sometimes, we must suffer the consequences of choices made by those we love.
Sometimes illness strikes. That illness may be chronic and something we will have to live with each and every day. Sometimes that illness will take our life, or the life of someone we love very much.
Sometimes a career comes to a halt.
Always these experiences, these disappointments, these changes in course are part of our process of learning to become more like our Heavenly Father.
We have a choice when these adversities occur:
We can turn away from Christ. We can allow our heartbreak and sadness turn to anger and rebellion.
Or, we can turn to our Savior, who is ready to gather us in His loving arms and give us strength to find our way through to a new path.
Elder Donald C. Halstrom said in a General Conference address in 2010:
“In the most difficult circumstances of life, there is often only one source of peace.      The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, extends His grace with the invitation  ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. He further promises, ‘My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.’”

He continued:
“Throughout the world and among the membership of the Church, there is great joy
and great pain. Both are part of the plan. Without one, we cannot know the other.
‘Men are, that they might have joy’    and      ‘…for it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things’ are not contradictory; they are complementary.  In describing how he felt when he turned to the Lord, Alma the Younger said, ‘My soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain.’”

Sometimes, we are overcome with major trials. And then sometimes, we allow small matters to become big.

There is a story of Symonds Ryder 
Heard about the Church          Met with Joseph Smith and was so touched by that experience that he joined the church                   He was ordained an elder and called to serve a mission   In his call letter from 1st Presidency they had misspelled his name by one letter                     Caused him to question his call and those who issued it      chose not to serve the mission fell away from the church        This soon led to hatred and intense opposition toward Joseph and the church Symonds led an angry mob that pulled Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon from their homes in the middle of the night where they were tarred and feathered   
In less than ten months, he went from eager convert to mob leader. 

No matter how big…or how small…the challenges, disappointments, offenses, and sadnesses are in our lives, HOW we respond can reset the course of our life.We can turn away, or we can turn to the One who loves us: Jesus Christ.He is there, ever ready to gather us in His loving arms.
He is there to heal our broken hearts.He is there to give us strength to love and encourage those who may have hurt us, or who disappoint us.He is there to help us care for those who need our help.

There was a story told by Phillip Allred in Meridian Magazine.
“A group of young college students were helping measure range damage after a wildfire raged across the prairie outside their university town. As they walked over the expanse of blackened earth, they noticed a cluster of small smoldering mounds. One of the volunteers was particularly interested in the unidentifiable heaps and asked one of the more experienced range managers what they were.
“This veteran of many range fires replied that he had seen this phenomenon on a few occasions and suggested that the young man turn over one of the piles. He did. To his great surprise, several sage grouse chicks ran out from under the upturned mound. He was fascinated. How incredible, he thought, that these little chicks had known to find and run underneath this mysterious shelter.
“The young man asked what the mound was and how the chicks knew to take refuge there. To his amazement, he was told that the smoldering heap was the remains of their mother. When there is danger, the mother hen…calls out to her young ones and stretches out her wings for them to run under and find protection in her embrace.”

The hen in the story was the only chance those chicks had for safety.  She, being willing to spare her own life, had gathered them up under her wings to herself.At the point of terrible pain and death, when she still might have saved herself, she chose to stay through the ordeal.Just as she literally uses her body to protect and save, Jesus Christ literally uses his body to protect his children from spiritual destruction. Christ and his Atonement are always available.

Our youngest son, Nathan, chose to serve a full time mission. He left nearly four years ago for ten weeks in the MTC and then to South Korea.
Second week in the MTC, he started having horrible headaches          tried everything           drinking more water                cutting sugar (a great hardship when the BYU Creamery brought treats weekly)      Priesthood Blessings

I received our Ensign during that time, and sent him the words of David A. Bednar from a talk entitled “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality.” These words gave Elder Rice strength to endure those headaches that continued nearly every single day in the MTC, in the mission field of South Korea, and even after he returned home. The answers and help came months later, after he married and went to Idaho for school. 

Elder Bednar said,
“Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners.I am not so sure, however, that we understand that the Atonement is also for saints-for good men and women who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully.We may mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline…

“The gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it is also essentially about doing and becoming good.”

He shared an example of one in the scriptures who knew and depended on the Savior’s enabling power. 

Nephi and his brothers had returned to Israel to bring Ishmael and his household.
As they returned to the wilderness, his brothers and others rebelled, tied him up, and planned his destruction.Nephi prayed, “O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound”

Elder Bednar points out:
“Nephi did not pray to have his circumstance changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances.And I believe he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew, understood, and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement"

And so it was for Alma and his people being persecuted by Amulon.Alma did not pray to have their afflictions removed.He knew he was an agent of the Lord, and he prayed for the power to act and affect his situation.Their burdens were made to feel light so they could fulfill their responsibilities with ease.It says in Mosiah 3:19
“And putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of live, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
And Alma and his people “did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”
The Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us strength and power to do things that we NEVER could do on our own.
Elder Bednar concludes with these words:
“The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities, but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain,  the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, ‘No one understands. No one knows.’ No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor-literally run to us-and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power.” 

“How oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.”


Dad's Talk

Come unto Jesus 2-21-2016

You, me, and everyone in this world has the same desire: to be happy; to enjoy this life. We think the same thoughts; those that make us happy. We have the same dreams of what we think will make us happy. But what is this happiness? Many people are very happy and satisfied in the life they have and they do not feel the need to search more. How do we know when we have reached the greatest happiness and joy that we can obtain? I know I ask a lot of questions, it is how I find answers.

It is only when we have found comfort and peace in the in the teachings, or of understand the teachings of our Savior in the way that our Savior wants us to know, understand and demonstrate in our lives that we can be truly happy. This is the message of the Gospel, which means Good News.  As Paul wrote, “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher.” Romans 10:14

I have heard, and I have believed, and I have called on our Savior. My parents used to drop my sister and I off at a small Methodist church located at 32nd Street and Roosevelt. The preacher there was kind and did a lot of nice things for me. He gave me a set of pigeons and I raised them.  He taught me about Jesus and I believed him. When I was eight years old, he gave me this Bible and I read it. I learned to call on Heavenly Father and I said my prayers nightly. Maybe it was just the faith of a kid, yet this faith carried me. Though my sister and me did not attend that little church very often in our teen years, I still had the faith which carried me for another nine years when the missionaries came to our home and taught me and my family the gospel. The preacher was sent: Elders Smith and Barber. And they gave me this Book of Mormon. I read it, and I called on God to know if it was true. And, much like Joseph Smith, I knew that God knew that I knew that the Book of Mormon is true and the word of God and I also could not deny it without offending God.

This is my story of “Coming to Christ”.

Actually, this was the beginning of my testimony. There are simple steps. Though simple, these steps do require desire, effort, hope and work on our part and determination to finish..

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated in his talk “how to come unto Christ”, that there are several steps for each of us to perform in order to come to Christ. These steps are not complicated, yet, nonetheless, they do require an effort on our part.

1.     First Step: We need to begin with a molecule of faith. As Alma says, “If you can no more than desire to believe…” What can cause us to desire to believe? Belief in Christ has to be something that we want.  The spirit touches us and makes us feel good; it makes us feel right; it makes us happy. Happiness is an incentive to want to believe. Alma says, “…exercising just a small particle of faith, giving even a small place for the promises of God to find a home…” That is enough to begin with. This is the first principle of the gospel: 1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Suzzy and I are the Stake Baptism Coordinators, which is a big word for you are in charge of preparing for and conducting the monthly Stake 8 Year Old Baptismal Service, typing the program and afterwards, washing the baptismal suits. We see these young boys and girls each month coming to be baptized. They know what they are doing and they are happy. They do not have doubts. They have been taught. They have felt good and they want the blessings that come from making this covenant. 
This brings us to the second principle. Repentance.
2.     Second: Repentance is necessary, as it is what changes us from the man I am to the man I should be. We must change everything we can, including everything that was any part of the problem.

Elder Robert C. Gay, in 2012 stated, (quote) “…what the Savior is asking of us: We are to give up all of our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon ourselves the image of god in our countenances.” (unquote)

 So are we to be perfect? We are to be as perfect as we can. Christ spoke “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I or your Father in heaven is perfect.” We can be as perfect as we desire to be, through the means of repentance, effort, work and help from the atoning sacrifice of the Savior.  It may not be easy, but it will be worth it. We will be rewarded in our journey and we will become happy as we come to Christ. Repenting and giving up things we enjoy are not easy. I say things we enjoy, because we want to be happy and probably would not do incorrect things or have incorrect thoughts if we were not rewarded in some way. That reward: for some it might be fun or pleasure, for others it might be power or wealth or other desires. Whatever the reward it is held as a means of leading us to continue in the incorrect actions. We will have to develop the desire to not gain pleasure from them any more. But we ill need to have Gods help to overcome them. Some things we cannot do on our own and we may think “I did it all myself without Gods help” Our very difficult weaknesses needs God’s help and God will help us in a way that we know that God helped us to overcome. When we know that God helped us when we could not, that will increase our conversion. Much like when ancient Israel was fighting their enemies, God put them in situations where their enemies even 400 to one outnumbered them order for them to know that is was God who saved them. The people of Israel knew that God fought their battle and without God they would have lost.  As with our weaknesses we will be lured repeatedly to enjoy them again and again as we build a hard heart trying to do it ourselves. Moroni stated in the book of Ether. “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men. My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for it they humble themselves before me and have faith in me then will I make weak things become strong unto them” When we rely on God, we will build our faith, testimony and gain confidence as we overcome. We will gain strength and, perhaps, we will come to dislike our favorite sins when we realize what blessings they have kept us from. They have kept us from spiritual growth, Godly learning, true happiness and they have stolen our precious time.

I watched The Odyssey by Homer several times when I was young, a spell binding movie of a man’s experiences and over coming trials as Ulysses makes his way home after a war. One if Ulysses trails he becomes overcome with pleasure while on an island and does not realize how many years have passed by. He comes to his senses when he understands the waste of life giving into distractions and pleasures. Ulysses overcame his weaknesses when realized that his true happiness was to be back with his wife and family. We too may come to realize the waste of time, effort, money, and our life when we are lost in worldly adventures and not working towards perfection. For me, a lot of growth came when I freed up time and used that time to read the scriptures and other books written by our prophets. I have learned a lot.  I have increased my knowledge and testimony and conversion. I can say that it has changed my life for the better. Learning of ancient people has given me a better understanding of human behavior. It is easy to see the correlations, over time, of how the ancient Israelites, Nephites, Jaredites, and those before the flood behaved, and how people behave today. People really have not changed much we still have desires and want to satisfy them. Some today still seek for the same Worldly or the same Godly things.

3.     Third, we are to take upon ourselves His name. We just had a season of worldly pleasure, excitement, pride, fun and camaraderie. I saw it on the news and Facebook. Many chose which team to take upon themselves. Many may have change names as this contest progressed to an end, for this year, of course. There are rituals associated with taking their favorite teams name upon themselves. Game attendance, shirts, feasts, devotion to broadcasts are other ways people show allegiance.  Elder Holland said (Quote), “There are ways to take upon ourselves the identity of Christ and we begin by taking upon ourselves His name. That name is formerly bestowed by covenant in the saving ordinances of the gospel. These start with baptism and conclude with temple covenants, with many others, such as partaking the sacrament, laced throughout our lives as additional blessing and reminders.” (Unquote).  As Nephi stated, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” 2nd Nephi 31:13.

I cannot think of a better team to be on. As Nephi stated, “…Follow the Son with full purpose of heart.”  Lift others and share your experiences. Be the “preacher” to bring others unto Christ. Elder Henry B. Eyring said, (quote)  “Those who have truly come unto him, they strive to become like him. They begin to try to do unto others as they know He would do” (Unquote).  

The late Marvin J. Ashton shared this insight from an inspired leader: “The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people.”
 Our Savior spoke of what behavior we should have. In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. 31 ¶When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Matthew 25:31 – 46.
What keeps me believing? What keeps me motivated to come unto Christ? Just as Alma talked about a particle of faith to desire to believe and to plant a seed, and to nourish that seed we must do that. I found that for me to stay active in this church, I had to continually nourish my testimony. A few months after being baptized I found myself missing meetings and finding other things to do on Sunday. I realized that I had quit reading the Book of Mormon. I started reading again and I finished the book I have continued to read and the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. We pray to talk to God, when we read his scriptures God talks to us. I also received strength and desire by following the prophet. Our prophet is God’s spokesperson on earth. It does not matter who provides Gods direction to us as we must live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. If we receive this direction either directly from God or the Prophet, it is the same. In addition to attending church the other way that I feel like I am coming closer to Christ is by helping other, attending the temple, paying my tithing and in a nutshell doing what God asks me to do.  Am I perfect, no I am not. We are taught to be perfect by our scriptures, our leaders and by the spirit which teacheth us.We must listen and obey.
What does God really want to give us? We must know in order to desire and to work for it.
What can happen to our society or us by taking upon us the name of Christ?  Several societies have highly benefitted and others did not. The first record that we have of a wicked society that came to Christ was the people of the City of Enoch. These people started wicked and after receiving the gospel that was taught by Enoch, this people became so righteous that the population of the City of Enoch was taken from the earth. These people had the priesthood; they were taught by a prophet and took upon themselves the name of Christ and came unto Christ. The city of Salem was wicked and after preaching by Melchizedek, they came to Christ and were also taken up. This group also had the priesthood and a prophet. Moses understood that he was to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt to become another righteous city to be taken up. Wonderful things happened to this society, they had God’s hand protecting them, many miracles occurred, God met with 73 of the Elders of Israel in a conference where they saw him. The people asked to also see him. God was going to show himself to the entire camp of Israel. Yet they could not leave their worldly ways and rebelled and told Moses that they did not want to be in the presence of God. Not only were they not taken up but instead had the higher priesthood taken away and you know their story.

Could we have as an individual or society Come to Christ as dearly as first two groups? Is this God’s desire for us?

Doctrine and Covenants 93:1 states “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;”.

Brothers and Sisters, the promise is there. I cannot think of a greater motivation to Come to Christ and behold his face. President Paige in last weeks Stake Conference stated that we couldn’t have a testimony or conversion of a principle until we live the principal. President Paige’s example was about elders not having a testimony of Home Teaching. In John we read “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” John 7:17. We have examples to guide help us come unto Christ. Our Savior has shown the example, lived the life, provided the incentives and has rewarded us for coming unto him and taking upon ourselves his name.

Everyone here that is baptized used his or her agency to take upon himself or herself the name of Christ and to come unto him. If we are not there as yet, it is up to us to chose to start with the desire and faith repent and improve and to take upon ourselves his name and come to Christ. If we have lost our way, then so many times in the scriptures this one word tells us what to do “remember”. Remember the testimony we once had if lost, remember the wonderful witness of the Holy Spirit that let us know that Jesus lives, he is our redeemer, He stands at the head of His church and directs His work by his living Prophet.

I know that God lives, I have had too many miracles in my life, too many answers to prayers. The more I learn the more I know that this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is God’s Kingdom on earth. Christ has restored his Kingdom through the Prophet Joseph Smith, restoring the priesthood, the keys and all things to act in God’s name. I have a firm testimony that our prophet today is guided by our Savior and speaks the words that our Savior wants him to speak. May we all come unto Christ.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

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