Sunday, November 8, 2015

"I Know My Savior Lives"
The talk I gave today to introduce the Primary program. I didn't even have an outline for this one! I pondered over the topic yesterday and felt inspired as I spoke aloud to myself. I relied on the Spirit today to help me remember what I needed to say. I couldn't remember it all as I wrote this though, but this is it for the most part.

The purposes of Primary are to:
  • teach children who Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are
  • teach children to love Them and to feel Their love
  • help children develop feelings of self-worth and understand they are children of God
  • give children positive church experiences
  • teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to follow His example
  • help children become familiar with the scriptures
  • prepare the boys for priesthood responsibilities and the girls for Young Women
Each year we're given a theme, along with monthly themes and weekly lessons that build upon the yearly theme. This year, the theme was "I Know My Savior Lives," and the scripture was, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25).

When I was thinking about what I wanted to say today, I asked myself, why is it important that the children know their Savior lives? The first thing that came to mind was the words to the song I chose for us to sing this morning, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives":

1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.

2. He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.

3. He lives, my kind, wise heav'nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I'll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.

4. He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Text: Samuel Medley, 1738-1799. Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835.
Music: Lewis D. Edwards, 1858-1921

When the children know their Savior lives and loves them, it will help them trust and have faith in Him. This knowledge will help them to become like Him as they keep the commandments. It will give them a foundation for their testimonies upon which they can build.

We need to remember to see them as Jesus does. Jesus loves children. We have two accounts from the scriptures, one from the Bible and one from the Book of Mormon, that share when Jesus gathered the little children around Him, held them, and blessed them. He also told us to become like them (Matthew 18:1-4).

These children are so precious. I hope you are able to feel their sweet spirits and the Holy Ghost as you watch and listen to the program.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Blessings of Having the Spirit Always With Us

Part 4 of the talk I gave at stake conference on Saturday, October 17. As with my previous talk, I used an outline, so this isn't word for word.

We receive an abundance of blessings when we have the Spirit always with us. Elder Kim B. Clark promised:
I know that if we will do these things, the Holy Ghost will come! . . . We increasingly will see all of our brothers and sisters the way God sees them . . . . We will hear the Savior’s voice in the scriptures, in the whisperings of the Spirit, and in the words of the living prophets. . . . We will see and understand ourselves and the world around us the way the Savior does. We will come to have what the Apostle Paul called “the mind of Christ.” I bear you my witness that through the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ will cut through the confusion, the pain, and the darkness. Whether it comes in a remarkable burst or in a gentle flow, that glorious spiritual power will infuse healing love and comfort into the repentant, wounded soul; dispel darkness with the light of truth; and cast out discouragement with hope in Christ.
President Eyring said, “When we accept that promise of having the Spirit with us always, the Savior can grant us the purification required for eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.”

We often forget the Holy Ghost's role as the Holy Spirit of Promise, who sanctifies us and ratifies the covenants we make if we've kept them fully so that we become worthy of exaltation. Without the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can't obtain the greatest gift of all, eternal life in God's presence.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Friday, October 30, 2015

How to Tell If We Have the Spirit in Our Lives
Part 3 of the talk I gave in stake conference on Saturday, October 17.As with my previous talk, I used an outline, so this isn't word for word.

After we've done everything to invite the Spirit into our lives, we need to know how to tell if he has come or given us the inspiration we seek. We can tell by the feelings we have, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). We also know that the Spirit “leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously . . . . which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:12–13).

When it comes to personal revelation, President Eyring told us in general conference that prayer and scripture study help us become familiar with the voice of the Holy Ghost. In a CES devotional, Sister Linda K. Burton reminded us that learning to recognize the Spirit is like learning a new language and takes time and practice.

If we still struggle, President Uchtdorf has uplifting counsel for us:
[S]tart where you are. 
Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not “more” of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will “make weak things become strong.” Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying. 
I learned in my life that we don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. 
God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord. . . . 
My dear brothers and sisters, if we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough. But our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become. He sees us as His sons and daughters, as beings of eternal light with everlasting potential and with a divine destiny. 
The Savior’s sacrifice opened the door of salvation for all to return to God. His “grace is sufficient for all [who] humble themselves before [God].”
Sister Burton also asked us to be patient with God's timing in when we receive answers. Perhaps we need more spiritual refinement, preparation, or experience before we will receive guidance. We must continue to invite the Spirit into our homes and hearts in the meantime.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Invite the Spirit Into Our Daily Lives
Part 2 of the talk I gave in stake conference on Saturday, October 17. As with my previous talk, I used an outline, so this isn't word for word.

You have probably seen the above photo of Jesus knocking on a door with no handle. The Holy Ghost works the same way. We have to let him in. That's why one person may say they didn't feel the Spirit and another may say they did although they were at the same sacrament meeting or other spiritual event.

The first part of inviting the Spirit is creating an environment in which he can dwell. We do this by keeping the commandments and always remembering Christ, as said in the sacrament prayers (Moroni 4:5, D&C 20:77). Elder Bednar expressed the connection between gospel living and having the Spirit: “Everything the Savior’s gospel teaches us to do and become is intended to bless us with the companionship of the Holy Ghost” (Increase in Learning, p. 49). One of the ways we can tell if the gospel is working for us (see President Uchtdorf's talk) is if we have an increased companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Another way to create an inviting environment is to imitate a place in which the Spirit resides, most notably the temple. In fact, the home is the only place that has been compared to the temple in sacredness. That doesn't mean you have to dress in white all the time, but there are certain practices from the temple you should adopt in your home. For example, we're supposed to talk quietly and reverently in the temple. We should do so at home. Yelling brings the Spirit of contention, which is of the devil (3 Nephi 11:29). 

Perhaps you are doing all that you're supposed to but still don't feel the Holy Ghost present in your life. First, you may need to make your spiritual experiences more meaningful and go outside your comfort zone. Sometimes we can get into a routine of going through the motions and checking things off our spiritual to-do list to avoid guilt without actually making the most of these activities.

Second, we learn from the scriptures that in order to receive the Spirit we need to have meekness and lowliness of heart (Moroni 8:26) and charity and virtue (D&C121:45–46). President Eyring said that when we show a willingness to obey the promptings of the Spirit, we will receive them more. The Holy Ghost isn't going to help us if we don't want his help, if we're not actually going to be receptive to his counsel and follow through. We need to be humble and, like the Savior, say, Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). President Eyring promised that as we then obey those promptings and record them to show we value them, we will get more and more impressions until we have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

This was enlightening information for me. I have made a lot of changes in my life to stay closer to the Spirit, but haven't felt like it's made much of a difference. Perhaps you missionaries can relate, as you've given up everything worldly right now. I was trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong, and I realized I still have a lot of pride and doubt to get rid of first before I'm going to receive inspiration. This doesn't mean I should stop doing what I'm supposed to be doing, but that my actions need to be coupled with sincere feelings and desires in order to invite the Holy Ghost.

Elder Quentin L. Cook wrote on his Facebook page
Some people wonder if their faith is strong enough to have miracles and spiritual experiences in their lives. I would counsel you to not let your doubts hold you back. 
To those who struggle with doubts, I would tell you to put your doubts in the corner and allow the Savior to strengthen you over time. Exercise your faith, do the things you should do, and the challenges to your faith will be solved. Don’t ever let your doubts override your faith.
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Significance of the Holy Ghost

Part 1 of the talk I gave in stake conference on Saturday, October 17. As with my previous talk, I used an outline, so this isn't word for word.

How often do we feel on fire in enthusiasm for the gospel and commitment to keep the commandments after general conference, EFY, a temple trip, or any other spiritual experience, and then a short time later realize it's gone? President Uchtdorf said in the First Presidency message of the October Ensign“As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have committed not only to begin the race but also to finish it—and finish it with our torch still burning brightly.”

We can keep our torch burning by inviting the Spirit into our daily lives. I don't think we realize the significance of the gift of the Holy Ghost. If someone asked you how our religion is different from others, you could probably name off a whole list of things. Joseph Smith said that we differ from other religions “in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. We [consider] that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost (Increase in Learning, p. 45, emphasis mine).

Elder Bednar noted, “Sometimes as Latter-day Saints we talk and act as though recognizing the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is the rare or exceptional event. We should remember, however, that the covenant promise is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us” (Increase in Learning, p. 41).

Gerald N. Lund revealed, “When one is given the gift . . . of the Holy Ghost, he has overcome spiritual death to a degree, for he has come into the presence of one member of the Godhead” (Ensign, “Salvation: By Grace or by Works?”). The Holy Ghost is one in mind, purpose, and work with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. How awesome that we get to have the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead!

Why is it necessary that we are given the amazing gift of the Holy Ghost? He tells us everything we need to do, gospel related or not (2 Nephi 32:5). Elder Lawrence said in general conference that the Holy Ghost tells us our strengths and weaknesses. "The Holy Ghost really does give customized counsel. He is a completely honest companion and will tell us things that no one else knows or has the courage to say. . . . The Spirit works with us at our own speed.”

President Eyring stated another reason in conference“The companionship of the Holy Ghost makes what is good more attractive and temptation less compelling. That alone should be enough to make us determined to qualify for the Spirit to be with us always. . . . [W]e need a constant influence of the Spirit of Truth to spare us moments of doubt. . . . Only through the Holy Ghost can we see people and events as God sees them” (emphasis mine). This is confirmed in Moroni 10:5“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Note that it says all things, not just gospel truths, but any truth we seek to discern or know.

When we have a true understanding of the significant role the Holy Ghost plays in our lives, we naturally will desire to invite Him into our hearts and homes.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4