Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Years Day Talk

One of the first things I learned as a full-time missionary was that God follows patterns. He follows a pattern for speaking to his children and calling them to repentance. He follows a pattern for teaching us divine truths. He follows a pattern in blessing our lives for our obedience to his commandments. This is a profound faith-promoting principle. With this fact planted firmly in our minds we can go forth in any endeavor without any predictability of the outcome but with the knowledge that our righteous efforts will yield blessings and our heed to the commandments will sanctify us and fill our hearts with peace and good will to men. We can work with the assurance that God will lead and guide us in our efforts as long as we are diligent and obedient.

Let’s look at the example of young Nephi and his brothers in attempting to retrieve the brass plates from Laban. The commandment was extended by the patriarch and leader of the family, Lehi.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)

Nephi’s attitude from the very beginning is a lesson to us in faith and trust in the Lord as well as devotion to the Being he recognized as his true king and ruler of heaven and earth. Nephi was confident in the outcome of his future labors and he must have had some good lessons taught by his parents to have that kind of faith. Lehi said of his elder sons:

And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured. (1 Nephi 3: 5-6)

In contrast, Laman and Lemuel had poor attitudes regarding what they saw as their father’s requirement. I would like to point out that the scripture does not say that Laman or Lemuel refused to their father. I am sure that they would not at this point have challenged the authority of their father. I hope that each of us do not follow their example of accepting a commandment, and murmuring against the Lord or his annointed servants because of the perceived difficulty of the task.
Nephi demonstrated his willingness, even up to the loss of this life, to complete the work that had been placed upon his shoulders. He ventured into Laban’s presence after his brother’s life had been threatened. He even returned to Jerusalem after his own life had been imperiled by Laban.

As members of the church God gives each of us responsibilities. As I prepared this talk I was at first immediately humbled by my inadequacies and my shortcomings. I am a detail oriented person. I have always been interested in understanding how everything around me works. In my tasks I am intent on perfection and become frustrated with my mistakes and perceived imperfections. What I see as flaws in appearance of my work or performance seem to me, as if viewed through a scope, to be more glaring than the good qualities of what I may be or make.

I am sure we have each had moment where we questioned why God has given us responsibility. We see our faults and deficiencies as Paul stated: “For now we see through a glass, darkly…” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We must remember this fact. Our perception of ourselves and of our worth is limited by our mortal human nature and by the veil that we passed through at birth.

Our vision of ourselves can also be skewed by our choices and our desires. One of the devil’s most effective tools is guilt. A man striving to follow the Savior may at times feel guilt for previous sins or mistakes that casts a shadow over his mind and clouds his perception of his divine nature and potential, his individual worth, and most importantly his capacity to improve.

The Savior taught that our weaknesses are an enabling gift. According to this words recorded by the prophet Moroni:

And 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 that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27)

We can view our weaknesses as blessings from the Lord that remind us of our dependence upon his grace and infinite love. Our weaknesses put in greater relief his perfect life and can inspire gratitude and determination to follow his example. Our Father in Heaven knows that we are not perfect and still he loves us because we are his children. Each of us is of great worth to him and through our weaknesses we can become strong in faith and trust in the Lord and strong in living the commandments of Lord.

As members of the Church we are commanded to meet together often. In addition to Sacrament the Priesthood meets regularly in quorums and conferences. According to the Handbook for Administering the Church, “the primary purposes of quorums are to serve others, build unity and brotherhood, and instruct members in doctrines, principles, and duties” (p. 40).
President Stephen L Richards (1879–1959), former First Counselor to President David O. McKay, taught: “A quorum is three things: first, a class; second, a fraternity; and third, a service unit. Within it the men of the Priesthood learn of the principles of the Gospel, establish true brotherhood, and carry forward the work of Christ. It is a God-given association from which they derive more of lasting advantage than from any other fraternal organization in our society. Its prime purpose is to encourage and safeguard the individual.”

Just imagine what great things are possible for a group of united priesthood holders who sit in council together, teach one another the gospel and serve without expectation of compensation. They become strong in faith and focused in purpose, and endowed with the power of God, to serve His children who may feel weakened in testimony, struggling financially or in health, or grieving for loss in their family.

The contrast immediately comes to mind of a group gathered around a bar consuming intoxicating drinks or vapors, creating an altered state of mind where their benefit to mankind is questionable if not completely negated.

In a recent priesthood meeting here in the Highlands ward we were each asked to write our testimonies as a means of preparing ourselves to do missionary work. I am grateful for that opportunity that was presented that day. And while I didn’t have enough time to write everything I wanted I want to share what I wrote with you to close my talk.

I know that God lives, that He is the father or our Spirits, and as our father He loves us.
I know that he desires our happiness and wants us to return to Him where we can enjoy everything he has.
I know that Jesus Christ is our Heavenly Father’s son, that he lived, he suffered the eternal penalty for our sins if we would repent, that he was crucified and gave up his life, and that he resurrected on the third day.
I know that because our Father loves us He sends us messengers with his words. I know that Joseph Smith was one of these true messengers and that he literally saw our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon was translated by him through the power of God.
I know that the Book of Mormon is God’s word. I know we can improve ourselves and our lives by studying the Book of Mormon and applying its teachings to our lives.
I know that God is interested in us and will help us through our struggles, sometimes through miraculous means. His power is on the earth today and is at work.
The Lord gives us commandments and when we make covenants of obedience with him we are blessed. Keeping our covenants will surely bring us back into his presence.
In the name of Jesus Christ,