Sunday, September 18, 2016

To the Rescue: We Can Do It

Part 2 of my talk from August 21. Read Part 1.

Principle 2 : We Must Never Give Up

“President Thomas S. Monson, who has sounded the clarion call to go to the rescue, noted, 'Our members need to be reminded that it is never too late when it comes to our … less-active members … who could have been considered a hopeless cause.'”

As I was working on this talk, Sister X called me to tell me she wants to come back to church. [Sister X got baptized in December and then wanted nothing to do with us by spring due to the negative influence of some "friends."] Even though she stopped coming, I stayed in contact with her, and now I'm picking her up for church next week! I took that as a sign that I had chosen the right topic for this talk!

Principle 3: How Great Shall Be Your Joy If You Bring Save It Be One Soul Unto Christ

Elder Arnold then shared a story about a priests quorum adviser who hunted down a missing priest one Sunday. He found him surfing, and went in after him in his suit! He continued to minister to the young man. That priest has since married in the temple, has a large family active in the Church, has done much temple work for his ancestors, and is bishop for the third time. “He recently shared, 'In our ward, we have 32 active young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, 21 of whom were rescued in the last 18 months.' As individuals, families, quorums, auxiliaries, classes, and home and visiting teachers, we can do that!

Principle 4: No Matter Our Age, We Are All Called to Go the Rescue

“President Henry B. Eyring declared, 'Whatever our age, capacity, Church calling, or location, we are as one called to the work to help [the Savior] in His harvest of souls until He comes again.'”

Elder Arnold then shared many examples of how members of all ages have gone to the rescue:
Amy, age 7, invited her friend Arianna and her family to her annual Primary sacrament meeting program. A few months later, Arianna and her family were baptized. 
Allan, a young single adult, felt inspired to share the Church videos, Mormon Messages, and verses of scripture with all his friends using social media. 
Sister Reeves began sharing the gospel with each telemarketer who called.
James invited his nonmember friend Shane to his daughter’s baptism. 
Spencer sent his less-active sister a link to President Russell M. Nelson’s conference address and reported, “She read the talk, and a window was opened.”
Challenge: Don't give up on your rescuing efforts. If something isn't working, pray to know what new approach to take. You will find joy whether or not you reap any results. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

To the Rescue: Don't Delay

Part 1 of my talk from August 21. Read Part 2.

I was asked to speak on my favorite conference talk. My favorite was Elder Holland's, but it didn't feel like the right one. Every day I read a different talk, and each one was wonderful. I couldn't choose! It wasn't until Friday that it all came together. I picked two that went together perfectly. In fact, they were given one right after the other in conference. The first one I'd like to share is "To the Rescue: We Can Do It" by Elder Mervyn B. Arnold. He began,

The Savior clearly understood His mission to rescue our Heavenly Father’s children, for He declared:
“The Son of man is come to save that which was lost. …
[For] it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” . . .
Let me share four principles that will help in our rescue efforts.

Principle 1: We Must Not Delay Going to the Rescue

Elder Arnold shared a sad story from a former Area Seventy, Elder PatanĂ­a, whose brother went fishing with his crew when a storm came. On their way back to port, they saw another fishing boat with a broken engine. They hooked the boat to theirs and called in for help. Local authorities from different organizations met to figure out the best plan of action. While they discussed, more calls for help came. By the time a rescue team was organized, it was too late, and both boats and their crew members perished in the storm.

Elder PatanĂ­a explained that, while we must be organized in our councils, quorums, auxiliaries, and even as individuals, we must not delay going to the rescue. Sometimes many weeks pass as we talk about how to help families or individuals who are in special need. We deliberate about who will visit them and the approach to take. Meanwhile, our lost brothers and sisters continue needing and sometimes even calling and pleading for help. We must not delay.

Of course, having a plan is ideal. The Lord's church is a house of order. But we don't need to wait until a plan is set before taking any action. For example, last year or so, I was asked to be a letter writer for visiting teaching. I talked to another sister to get information about the people on the list. I waited for the Relief Society presidency to give me stamps. I wanted to wait until a birthday or holiday came to send out a card. I thought I needed cuter stationery. I found excuse after excuse, so the total number of letters I ended up writing was zero. This is a perfect example of delaying going to the rescue. Only God knows what difference a letter could have made in one of those sisters' life.

It's important to remember to stick to the basics in rescue efforts. They don't have to be big or fancy. We can offer simple service. An article I read from a non-LDS source explained beautifully what service really is.

In recent years the question how can I help? has become meaningful to many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not how can I help? but how can I serve? Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If I'm attentive to what's going on inside of me when I'm helping, I find that I'm always helping someone who's not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don't serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. . . . Service is a relationship between equals. 
Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. . . . 
Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. . . .  
There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. . . . We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected . . . . We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy. . . .  
[W]e can fix without serving. And we can help without serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. I think I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul. They may look similar if you're watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different, too. 
Our service serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us. Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time we burn out. Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us. 
Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred . . . . Fundamentally, helping, fixing and service are ways of seeing life. When you help you see life as weak; when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing. 
Lastly, fixing and helping are the basis of curing, but not of healing. . . . Only service heals. ("In the Service of Life," Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen).

Challenge: Don't delay. Think of something you can do right now to reach out to someone who needs rescuing, and go do it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

An Unexpected Gospel Lesson From Cleaning My Glasses

photo by Jean Scheijen
Based on the testimony I gave Sunday.

Because I only wear my glasses shortly in the morning and before bed, I don't put effort into taking care of them properly. I wipe them clean with just my shirt and only use water if they're really dirty. I've never had any issues with this method.

When we first moved here, I went to a community event showcasing local businesses and received eyeglass cleaner and a cleaning cloth from an optometrist. They sat in a drawer for the last two years. A couple weeks ago, out of nowhere, I finally decided to use them.

The difference was unbelievable!

I was astonished by the enhanced clarity. I couldn't believe not only that I had been missing out all these years on even better vision, but also that I didn't even know I was missing out! I thought my glasses had been perfectly clean, when in fact they had the potential to be even clearer had I used the proper materials specifically made for the job.

I immediately related this to the gospel. (I love how gospel symbolism and lessons can be found in the most everyday situations.) I thought of repentance and how I may think I'm clean because everything looks good, but really I could be even cleaner if I ask the Holy Ghost to reveal to me where I can improve and then use the Atonement to become truly clean. I thought how there is no replacement for the Atonement. No amount of good deeds, personal righteousness, or help and support from others can do what Christ did through His infinite sacrifice.

Then I thought how much better I could see. Repentance leads us to be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who lets us see things as they really and remain clean as we follow the truth he shows us.

I am so grateful for this small but significant experience. It opened my eyes to how I need to use the proper materials to keep myself truly pure and able to discern truth. Now I clean my glasses with the cleaner and cloth every night and am working on doing the same with my spirit.

Sharing Time: Share a time when a seemingly insignificant situation led to a significant gospel lesson.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Constant Companionship of the Holy Ghost

The talk I gave at a baptism last night.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is often underappreciated. Once we come to understand why his constant companionship is a gift, we value it more and do whatever we can to be worthy of keeping his presence in our lives.

Elder Bednar said, “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).

Why? Elder Gerald N. Lund stated, “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?", Apr. 1981).

With the perspective of having a member of the Godheadone who counsels with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christas a constant presence in our lives, it's easier to see how he is a gift and brings so many blessings to us through the many roles he plays.

He gives us guidance straight from the One who knows what we need and what the plan for each of us is. The Holy Ghost is a reliable source of truth and will never lead us astray. 

He testifies of gospel truths, leading to testimony and ultimately conversion. He also relays answers from heaven when we pray and ask for help.

He gives us warnings of physical and spiritual danger. Protection from sin is reason enough for us to desire and appreciate the gift of the Holy Ghost (Elder Eyring, “The Holy Ghost As Your Companion,” Oct. 2015 general conference).

Through him, we have continuous access to immediate comfort and peace. We can feel God's love through His Spirit.

The Holy Ghost gives us promptings of how we can help others. His companionship not only blesses us, but also allows us to bless others.

One of his most important roles that is often overlooked is sanctification. Baptism washes away our sins, and the sacrament enables us to continue to be cleansed from sin, but only through the Holy Ghost. Elder Bednar explained this relationship in his talk last conference (Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins,” Apr. 2016):
Sometimes Latter-day Saints express the wish that they could be baptized again—and thereby become as clean and worthy as the day on which they received their first saving gospel ordinance. May I respectfully suggest that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son do not intend for us to experience such a feeling of spiritual renewal, refreshment, and restoration just once in our lives. . . .
As members of the Lord’s restored Church, we are blessed both by our initial cleansing from sin associated with baptism and by the potential for an ongoing cleansing from sin made possible through the companionship and power of the Holy Ghost—even the third member of the Godhead. . . . 
The act of partaking of the sacrament, in and of itself, does not remit sins. But as we prepare conscientiously and participate in this holy ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then the promise is that we may always have the Spirit of the Lord to be with us. And by the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we can always retain a remission of our sins.
Last of all, the Holy Ghost is a like a stamp of approval. He approves of the covenants we make in this life to make them valid in the next. He also gives us a way to measure our discipleship. If we feel his companionship constantly, then we know we are on the right track and are worthy of his presence. If we don't feel him, then we know we need to make changes to invite him back into our lives.

With these blessings in mind, it's easy to see how he is the greatest gift we can receive on earth, because he leads us to the greatest gift of all: eternal life (D&C 14:7).

Elder Clark confirmed this beautifully (“Eyes to See and Ears to Hear,” Oct. 2015 general conference):
Brothers and sisters, I know that if we will do these things, the Holy Ghost will come! We will grow spiritually and gain experience with the Holy Ghost, and He will be our companion. If we will look to Christ and open our eyes and our ears, the Holy Ghost will bless us to see the Lord Jesus Christ working in our lives, strengthening our faith in Him with assurance and evidence. We increasingly will see all of our brothers and sisters the way God sees them, with love and compassion. 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 the power of God resting upon His prophet and all the leaders of His true and living Church, and we will know with a surety that this is God’s holy work. 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.” We will have eyes to see and ears to hear, and we will build the kingdom of God. 
Life may get hard, confusing, painful, and discouraging. 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. We will see these blessings come, and we will know by the witness of the Spirit that it is the Lord Jesus Christ working in our lives. Our burdens truly will be “swallowed up in the joy of [our Redeemer].”
 Challenge: Strive to always have the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I Am Hannah
This was the part I wrote for my role in the pageant for our stake women's conference on women from the scriptures and Church history. 

I am Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel, from the Old Testament. I was in a polygamous marriage, and as if that wasn’t hard enough, my husband’s other wife, Peninnah, could have children, but I could not. Peninnah would tease me for being infertile because she was jealous that our husband loved me more than he loved her.

Every year we went to the temple. One year, Peninnah was so cruel, I wept bitterly and couldn't eat. My husband tried consoling me by asking, “Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” Of course he was a good husband to me, but the love a woman has for her husband and the love she has for her children are not quite the same, and I wanted to experience that motherly love more than anything.

I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the temple alone and poured out my soul in prayer and tears. I vowed to God that if He would give me a son, I would dedicate my son’s life to the Lord. Eli, the temple priest, told me to go in peace and blessed me that God would answer my prayer. The peace and faith I felt were so strong that I knew the Lord would. My bitterness left, and my appetite returned. [After I spoke, it hit me that perhaps she had been fasting.]

After one last trip to the temple, we went home. That very same night I conceived! Although for years I had cried unto God for this blessing, it wasn’t until I had a humble heart and was willing to sacrifice the very thing I wanted that the Lord gave me what I desired—and so quickly.

After Samuel was born, I wanted to wait until he was weaned before taking him to his new home. I cherished this precious time with him, holding him and nourishing him. Once he was old enough, I kept my promise and took him to the temple to stay. Every year when we visited, I would bring him a coat I made.

It was hard letting him go and not being the one to raise him, but I sang in joy and praise to show my gratitude. The Lord blessed me even further for my sacrifice. He gave me three more sons and two daughters! And Samuel grew to be a great and faithful prophet who restored order and worship to our people and counseled kings.

Because of my experience, I offer you the gift of grace, the meaning of my name. It was through the Lord’s grace from His atoning sacrifice that I was able to make and keep my covenant with God, to trust in His timing and love, to no longer be sad, to forgive Peninnah, to endure life without my firstborn, and to know Samuel would be mine again someday.

My prayer for you from the past is that you rely on the grace of Jesus Christ to help and strengthen you in times of trial. Grace isn’t meant just for repentance. You can access this divine power at all times for all needs, whether it be comfort, increased faith, a softened heart, or a weakness made strong. If you continually apply His grace, then you will be able to do whatever He asks of you, and you will receive every blessing He has promised you.

Discussion: What else can we learn from Hannah's story?