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The Prodigal Son: Other Perspectives

I recently read the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) during my scripture study, and it reminded me of this talk from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in which he discusses the older brother. The Mormon Message video below shares excerpts from it.



This talk by Elder Brent H. Nielson from last April discusses the point of view of the waiting father. Both of these general conference talks remind us there is more to the story than just the wayward son and his return. Parables are often multifaceted, and the more we study all their facets, the better we understand the deeper meanings and applications.

Discussion: How does studying the perspectives of the faithful brother and the father help us better understand the parable and its application in our lives?

"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 areteach children to love Them and to feel Their lovehelp children develop feelings of self-worth and understand they are children of Godgive children positive church experiencesteach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to follow His examplehelp children become familiar with the scripturesprepare 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 …

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 comfo…

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 pr…

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 Ucht…

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 …

Preach by the Spirit

I'm a writer, editor, and linguist. The words I choose and how I organize them are very important to me. That is why I prefer expressing myself through writing over any other method.

I also enjoy public speaking because sharing my insights is exciting. I prepare my speeches, talks, and lessons in advance so I know exactly what I'm going to say. Church talks I always write out word for word to ensure I don't forget anything and so it's coherent and cohesive. As a teen, I would practice my talks until I practically had them memorized.

Due to the increased focus on making the Sabbath a delight and sacrament meeting more spiritually fulfilling, our branch president told us he wanted us to have only an outline for our talks and to lean on the Spirit for guidance. Only once have I ever used just an outline. It was September 2006 in my college ward for a talk about how to prepare for general conference, a topic easy to expound with just notes.

Two weeks ago I was asked to sp…

"Understanding Your Endowment" Book Review

As the time approached for me to enter the temple before I got married, I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect and I don't like feeling clueless. I had read The Holy Temple by President Boyd K. Packer the year before, but didn't find it particularly helpful.
I took a temple prep class while engaged and learned some of the covenants I would make. I knew some other things from what people had said here and there under various circumstances. The night before my endowment, my mom showed me her ceremonial clothing so I would know what each piece was. I didn't even know they existed. (The Church has since made the clothing public, as shown in this official video.)
Despite all this and being raised in an active, gospel-study-focused family, my first time going through the temple was somewhat strange. It did not feel wrong, but it did feel unusual at times. Besides baptisms, the activities in the temple are only done there, so there is no way to prepare for them in advanc…

"The Family Is of God"

For this talk, I did not have everything written out beforehand and just used short notes, so this is not everything I shared nor exactly what I said.

Sister Carol M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, spoke at the General Women's Broadcast in March about the Primary song "The Family Is of God." She began, "Is anything more beautiful and profound than the simple and pure truths of the gospel taught in a Primary song?" I have a strong testimony of the Primary songs and the pure and plain gospel truths they teach.

"In the words of “The Family Is of God” . . . [w]e learn not only that the family is of God but also that we are each part of God’s family." Although Sister Stephens addresses the importance of our individual families in her talk, I found that the focus was more on how we all are a part of God's family.

"The first line of the song teaches: “Our Father has a family. It’s me! It’s you, all others too: we …

How Not to Teach Modesty to Young Women

I recently wrote an article entitled "Five Myths About Female Modesty" for a liberal feminist site. It addressed harmful ways we tell women why they should dress modestly. Since I wrote it for a broad, worldly audience and not an LDS one, some people misunderstood it. I thought this blog would be a better place to express my view from a gospel perspective and share better ways we can teach modesty.

[Please remember that as much as I always try to back up my opinions with scriptural references, authoritative quotes, and other legitimate Church resources, these are still only my interpretations and should not be taken as official doctrine.]

The first point I made was that we shouldn't teach women that the purpose of dressing modestly is so men won't have inappropriate thoughts. We are only responsible for our own thoughts and actions, not other people's. We are counseled in the Book of Mormon to watch our thoughts (Mosiah 4:30) or they will condemn us (Alma 12:14).

Turn Discipline into Gospel Teaching Moments

Earlier this month, I was working in the office while the boys were playing in the bathtub. I heard suspicious activity, but unwisely decided not to check right away. When I finally went in, I saw foam and bubbles all over the boys, bathtub, and shower walls! It took me a second to realize what they had done: they used their baby body wash to make a bubble bath. Not a big deal, right? Easy clean up. But they had used the entire bottle that I had just bought! That soap ain't cheap, let me tell you. In fact, when we bought more last week, it had gone up in price, and I kicked myself for not getting it online when it was on sale. I reminded my son at the store not to use the soap for bubbles.

Tonight's setting was the same. I was in the office while the boys played innocently--or so I thought. When I went in to wash them up, lo and behold, another bubble bath. The good news is that is was nowhere near as big as the first and the soap bottle was still full.

My first instinct was …

Heavenly Music

I have been on a worldly music diet the past few months in an effort to invite the Spirit into my home and heart--and my children's hearts. I've been listening to hymns and Primary songs on my iPhone and classical stations on iTunes and the radio. I'm currently without my phone, so Sunday I dusted off my old iPod mini and resynced it with only classical, LDS, and kids music. I have heard some new beautiful music that fills my soul and moves me. In fact, I have now even become a fan of opera!

Music truly is a heavenly language that has so much power to bless or curse us. The intense emotions I've felt recently while listening to such uplifting songs has reminded me of quotes from my Hymns of the Restoration BYU class (I highly recommend it!):

"There is no music in hell, for all good music belongs to heaven. Sweet harmonious sounds give exquisite joy to human beings capable of appreciating music. . . . Every sweet musical sound that can be made belongs to the Saint…

Knowledge: What It Is, Why We Need It, and How to Obtain It