Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Kind Blessing

A story Elder Cornish shared in General Conference October 2011.

When I was a young resident physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, I worked long hours and traveled between the hospital and our home in Watertown, Massachusetts, mostly by bicycle since my wife and young family needed our car. One evening I was riding home after a long period in the hospital, feeling tired and hungry and at least a bit discouraged. I knew I needed to give my wife and four small children not only my time and energy when I got home but also a cheery attitude. I was, frankly, finding it hard to just keep pedaling.

My route would take me past a fried chicken shop, and I felt like I would be a lot less hungry and tired if I could pause for a piece of chicken on my way home. I knew they were running a sale on thighs or drumsticks for 29 cents each, but when I checked my wallet, all I had was one nickel. As I rode along, I told the Lord my situation and asked if, in His mercy, He could let me find a quarter on the side of the road. I told Him that I didn’t need this as a sign but that I would be really grateful if He felt to grant me this kind blessing.

I began watching the ground more intently but saw nothing. Trying to maintain a faith-filled but submissive attitude as I rode, I approached the store. Then, almost exactly across the street from the chicken place, I saw a quarter on the ground. With gratitude and relief, I picked it up, bought the chicken, savored every morsel, and rode happily home.

In His mercy, the God of heaven, the Creator and Ruler of all things everywhere, had heard a prayer about a very minor thing. One might well ask why He would concern Himself with something so small. I am led to believe that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that the things that are important to us become important to Him, just because He loves us. How much more would He want to help us with the big things that we ask, which are right (see 3 Nephi 18:20)?

Little children, young people, and adults alike, please believe how very much your loving Heavenly Father wants to bless you. But because He will not infringe upon our agency, we must ask for His help.

Sharing Time: Share a moment when Heavenly Father has given you a kind blessing. You can read mine here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What the New Missionary Ages Really Mean

Today we had a regional stake conference, in which Elder Holland spoke. He ended his talk with what lowering the missionary ages really means and how missionary work affects all of us:

1. The change had nothing to do with convenience for young adults and everything to do with the large labor before us. The world needs more missionaries!

2. Time spent at the MTC has been cut down a third. The real MTC is the home, and preparation must start earlier. (I feel strongly about this, as I wrote in my post "This Is My Sacred Duty.")

3. Just as we want our children to have successful missions wherever they go, so do the parents of the missionaries sent to our area. We need to help them.

4. Tracting is no longer a reality today. We have to be the finders. Missionaries are simply the teachers.

Discussion: What can we do to make missionaries successful, both ones we send out and ones we receive?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Conquer Despair through Hope

Elder Teixeria
One of today’s great challenges is learning to conquer fear and despair in order to overcome trials and temptations. It takes only a few moments for us to open a newspaper, scroll the web, or hear a news broadcast on radio or television to be confronted with distressing accounts of crime and natural calamities that happen every day.

Understanding the promises in scripture concerning how the Lord will conquer evil and how truth will conquer error can help us face the future with hope and optimism. In today’s world we see war, natural calamities, and economic crises. At times these events are not just things we observe from a distance but are things that affect us personally. . . .

We should all face the future with hope because we know that the forces of evil will be overcome. We should all maintain a positive outlook as we face challenges because today we have the scriptures, the teachings of living prophets, priesthood authority, temples, and the support of each other as members of the Church. We should all “come off conqueror” because of prayer (D&C 10:5). And most important, we should have hope in eternal life because of the Lord’s perfect atoning sacrifice (see Moroni 7:41).

Challenge: Conquer any worries you may have about our nation's future with hope and faith in Christ.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Teach by the Spirit

I love to teach. My favorite Church calling was as a Sunday school teacher my freshman year at BYU. I asked for the calling and got it. I felt I was a great teacher and had much to offer my fellow peers. While I may have had good teaching skills from a professional perspective and put great time and effort in preparing my lessons, I lacked the Spirit. No matter how qualified I thought I was, it didn't matter without having the support and guidance of the Holy Ghost.

President Richardson, second counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, said in General Conference October 2011:
Those who teach after the manner of the Spirit understand they teach people, not lessons. As such, they overcome the urge to cover everything in a manual or teach all they have learned on the subject and focus instead on those things that their family or class members need to know and do. Parents, leaders, and teachers who mirror how the Spirit teaches learn quickly that real teaching involves much more than just talking and telling. As a result, they intentionally pause to listen, carefully observe, and then discern what to do next.6 When they do this, the Holy Ghost is in a position to teach both learners and teachers what they should do and say.7 
Second, the Holy Ghost teaches by inviting, prompting, encouraging, and inspiring us to act. Christ assured us that we come to the truth when we live doctrine and act accordingly.8 The Spirit leads, guides, and shows us what to do. . . .
Those who teach after this manner of the Spirit help others by inviting, encouraging, and providing them opportunities to use their agency. Parents, leaders, and teachers realize they cannot feel for, learn for, or even repent for their family, congregation, or class members. Rather than asking, “What can I do for my children, class members, or others?” they ask, “How do I invite and help those around me to learn for themselves?”
Elder Bednar has emphasized this point over and over: we are agents to act for ourselves and not to be acted upon. I was acting upon my students: although I engaged them in the lessons and invited them to follow the commandments or principles discussed, I did not encourage them to learn for themselves. I wanted to give them all the answers and show off my knowledge instead of allowing them the privilege of searching, discovering, and gaining a testimony for themselves. Those opportunities, Elder Bednar noted, are when we gain the strongest testimonies, because we reached it on our own.

That doesn't mean we don't help others in their quest for understanding. As President Richardson said, we guide them, as led by the Spirit, to where they need to go to get the answers. The best example I had of such teaching was my years in seminary. My last two teachers taught by the Spirit and taught us to search the scriptures instead of lecturing us or answering our questions right away. They gave us the skills and resources we needed to be able to understand the gospel through our own study and prayer.

I have tried to do the same on this blog. Most of my posts end with a challenge inviting you to act. I hope that you do and gain a stronger testimony and greater understanding of the gospel.

Challenge: Put aside pride and let the Spirit guide your teaching, whether in a class or at home.

For more great information on teaching, read "The Lesson Is inside the Learner" by General Sunday School President Russell T. Osguthorpe.