Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rome Temple Visitor's Center

One of our temples is being built in Rome, and a visitor's center will be next to it. In the visitor's center there will be a Christus statue, as well as copies of statues of the apostles. I would love to be able to see the finished products! Check out this report about the art work in progress

Bible Videos

Our church has produced some very nice videos that follow many Bible passages. You can follow this link to see them. Here is one for you to watch here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

His Grace is Suggicient

By Brad Wilcox, Given at a Brigham Young University Devotional, July 12, 2011

Brad Wilcox was serving as a member of the Sunday School General Board of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as a BYU associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education in the David O. McKay School of Education when this devotional address was given on 12 July 2011.
I am grateful to be here with my wife, Debi, and my two youngest children—who are currently attending BYU—and several other family members who have come to be with us.
It is an honor to be invited to speak to you today. Several years ago I received an invitation to speak at Women’s Conference. When I told my wife, she asked, “What have they asked you to speak on?”
I was so excited that I got my words mixed up and said, “They want me to speak about changing strengths into weaknesses.”
She thought for a minute and said, “Well, they’ve got the right man for the job!”
She’s correct about that. I could give a whale of a talk on that subject, but I think today I had better go back to the original topic and speak about changing weaknesses into strengths and about how the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27, D&C 17:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9)—sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes.
Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Cover Us
A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”
She said, “I just don’t get grace.”
I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”
She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”
She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing.
She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”
She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway.
Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makesall the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”
Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?”
She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot.
I said, “Wrong.”
She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.”
I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”
She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”
“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”
Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).
“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”
“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”
Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Transform Us
Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149; emphasis in original).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.
I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”
I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”
They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”
I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!”
Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Brett Sanders puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.” As my friend Omar Canals puts it, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.” As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moroni 7:48).
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to.
I know a young man who just got out of prison—again. Each time two roads diverge in a yellow wood, he takes the wrong one—every time. When he was a teenager dealing with every bad habit a teenage boy can have, I said to his father, “We need to get him to EFY.” I have worked with that program since 1985. I know the good it can do.
His dad said, “I can’t afford that.”
I said, “I can’t afford it either, but you put some in, and I’ll put some in, and then we’ll go to my mom, because she is a real softy.”
We finally got the kid to EFY, but how long do you think he lasted? Not even a day. By the end of the first day he called his mother and said, “Get me out of here!” Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly.
In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgment would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus.
Jesus checks His clipboard and says, “Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points.”
Brad begs Jesus, “Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay.” That’s how I always saw it.
But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it willnot be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists.
Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Help Us
“But Brother Wilcox, don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?
Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.
There are young women who know they are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them, and they love Him. Then they graduate from high school, and the values they memorized are put to the test. They slip up. They let things go too far, and suddenly they think it is all over. These young women don’t understand grace.
There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly these young men find out how easy it is to not be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. They mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again.” And then they do it. The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit. These young men don’t understand grace.
I know returned missionaries who come home and slip back into bad habits they thought were over. They break promises made before God, angels, and witnesses, and they are convinced there is no hope for them now. They say, “Well, I’ve blown it. There is no use in even trying any more.” Seriously? These young people have spent entire missions teaching people about Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and now they think there is no hope for them? These returned missionaries don’t understand grace.
I know young married couples who find out after the sealing ceremony is over that marriage requires adjustments. The pressures of life mount, and stress starts taking its toll financially, spiritually, and even sexually. Mistakes are made. Walls go up. And pretty soon these husbands and wives are talking with divorce lawyers rather than talking with each other. These couples don’t understand grace.
In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).
One young man wrote me the following e-mail: “I know God has all power, and I know He will help me if I’m worthy, but I’m just never worthy enough to ask for His help. I want Christ’s grace, but I always find myself stuck in the same self-defeating and impossible position: no work, no grace.”
I wrote him back and testified with all my heart that Christ is not waiting at the finish line once we have done “all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). He is with us every step of the way.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The Savior’s gift of grace to us is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive his grace before, during and after the time when we expend our own efforts” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 155). So grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch (see Hebrews 12:2).
In twelve days we celebrate Pioneer Day. The first company of Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Their journey was difficult and challenging; still, they sang:
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
[“Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, 2002, no. 30]
“Grace shall be as your day”—what an interesting phrase. We have all sung it hundreds of times, but have we stopped to consider what it means? “Grace shall be as your day”: grace shall be like a day. As dark as night may become, we can always count on the sun coming up. As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. Faithful pioneers knew they were not alone. The task ahead of them was never as great as the power behind them.
The grace of Christ is sufficient—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks (see Philippians 4:13). Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said the following:
Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .
. . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .
. . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. [CR, October 1976, 14, 16; “Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976, 12, 14]
With Elder Maxwell, I testify that God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’ grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Oh, young people, don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, I promise you will feel the enabling power we call His amazing grace. I leave this testimony and all of my love—for I do love you. As God is my witness, I love the youth of this church. I believe in you. I’m pulling for you. And I’m not the only one. Parents are pulling for you, leaders are pulling for you, and prophets are pulling for you. And Jesus is pulling with you. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Conference Messages: Ask the Missionaries! They Can Help You!

By Elder Russell M. Nelson Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles My beloved brothers, sisters, and friends, we extend our love and greetings to each of you. We are thrilled with President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement this morning, which adjusts the minimum age for missionary service to 18 for young men and 19 for young women. Through this option, more of our youth may enjoy the blessings of a mission. Two years ago and powerfully reaffirmed again this morning, President Monson declared “that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much.”1 Again he explained that for young sisters, a mission is a welcome option but not a responsibility. And again he invited many more mature couples to serve. Preparation for a mission is important. A mission is a voluntary act of service to God and humankind. Missionaries support that privilege with their personal savings. Parents, families, friends, and donors to the General Missionary Fund may also assist. All missionaries, younger and older, serve with the sole hope of making life better for other people. The decision to serve a mission will shape the spiritual destiny of the missionary, his or her spouse, and their posterity for generations to come. A desire to serve is a natural outcome of one’s conversion, worthiness, and preparation. In this great worldwide audience, many of you are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and know very little about us and our missionaries. You are here or tuned in because you want to know more about the Mormons and what our missionaries teach. As you learn more about us, you will find that we share many of the same values. We encourage you to keep all that is good and true and then see if we can add more. In this world filled with challenges, we do need help from time to time. Religion, eternal truth, and our missionaries are vital parts of that help. Our young missionaries set aside their education, occupation, dating, and whatever else young adults would typically be doing at this stage of life. For 18 to 24 months they put it all on hold because of their deep desire to serve the Lord.2 And some of our missionaries serve in their more mature years of life. I know their families are blessed. In our own family, eight are currently serving as full-time missionaries—three daughters, their husbands, one granddaughter, and one grandson. Some of you may wonder about the name Mormon. It is a nickname for us. It is not our real name, though we are widely known as Mormons. The term is derived from a book of sacred scripture known as the Book of Mormon. The true name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the reestablished original Church of Jesus Christ. When He walked upon the earth, He organized His Church. He called Apostles, Seventies, and other leaders to whom He gave priesthood authority to act in His name.3 After Christ and His Apostles passed away, men changed the ordinances and doctrine. The original Church and the priesthood were lost. After the Dark Ages, and under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ brought back His Church. Now it lives again, restored and functioning under His divine direction.4 We follow the Lord Jesus Christ and teach of Him. We know that after His glorious triumph over death, the resurrected Lord appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions. He ate with them. He walked with them. Before His final Ascension, He commissioned them to “go … and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”5 The Apostles heeded that instruction. They also called upon others to help them fulfill the Lord’s command. Today, under the direction of modern apostles and prophets, that same charge has been extended to missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These missionaries serve in more than 150 nations. As representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, they strive to fulfill that divine command—renewed in our day by the Lord Himself—to take the fulness of the gospel abroad and bless the lives of people everywhere.6 Missionaries in their late teens or early 20s are young in ways of the world. But they are blessed with gifts—such as the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of God, and testimonies of the truth—that make them powerful ambassadors of the Lord. They share the good news of the gospel that will bring true joy and everlasting happiness to all who heed their message. And in many instances they do so in a country and a language foreign to them. Missionaries strive to follow Jesus Christ in both word and deed. They preach of Jesus Christ and of His Atonement.7 They teach of the literal Restoration of Christ’s ancient Church through the Lord’s first latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith. You may have previously encountered, or even ignored, our missionaries. My hope is that you will not fear them but learn from them. They can be a heaven-sent resource to you. That happened to Jerry, a Protestant gentleman in his mid-60s who lives in Mesa, Arizona. Jerry’s father was a Baptist minister; his mother, a Methodist minister. One day Jerry’s close friend Pricilla shared with him the pain she felt from the death of her child during childbirth and a bitter divorce that occurred shortly thereafter. Struggling as a single mother, Pricilla has four children—three daughters and a son. As she opened her heart to Jerry, she confessed that she was thinking of taking her own life. With all the strength and love Jerry could muster, he tried to help her understand that her life had value. He invited her to attend his church, but Pricilla explained that she had given up on God. Jerry did not know what to do. Later, while watering trees in his yard, this man of faith prayed to God for guidance. As he prayed, he heard a voice in his mind saying, “Stop the boys on the bikes.” Jerry, a little bewildered, wondered what this meant. As he reflected on this impression, he gazed up the street and saw two young men in white shirts and ties riding bicycles toward his home. Stunned by this “coincidence,” he watched them ride by. Then, realizing that the situation required him to act, he shouted out, “Hey, you, please stop! I need to talk to you!” With a puzzled but excited look, the young men stopped. As they approached, Jerry noticed that they wore name tags identifying them as missionaries in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jerry looked at them and said, “This may sound a little weird, but I was praying and was told to ‘stop the boys on the bikes.’ I looked up the street, and here you are. Can you help me?” The missionaries smiled, and one said, “Yes, I am sure we can.” Jerry explained the worrisome plight of Pricilla. Soon the missionaries were meeting with Pricilla, her children, and Jerry. They discussed the purpose of life and God’s eternal plan for them. Jerry, Pricilla, and her children grew in faith through sincere prayer, their study of the Book of Mormon, and the loving fellowship with members of the Church. Jerry’s already strong faith in Jesus Christ grew even stronger. Pricilla’s doubts and thoughts of suicide turned to hope and happiness. They were baptized and became members of Christ’s restored Church.8 Yes, missionaries can help in many ways. For example, some of you might want to know more about your ancestors. You may know the names of your parents and your four grandparents, but what about your eight great-grandparents? Do you know their names? Would you like to know more about them? Ask the missionaries! They can help you!9 They have ready access to the vast family history records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of you are members but not presently participating. You love the Lord and often think of returning to His fold. But you don’t know how to start. I suggest that you ask the missionaries!10 They can help you! They can also help by teaching your loved ones. We and the missionaries love you and desire to bring joy and the light of the gospel back into your lives. Some of you may want to know how to conquer an addiction or live longer and enjoy better health. Ask the missionaries! They can help you! Independent studies have shown that, as a group, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a healthy lot. Their death rates are among the lowest and their longevity greater than any yet reported in any well-defined group studied over a lengthy period of time in the United States.11 Some of you may feel that life is busy and frenetic, yet down deep in your heart you feel a gnawing emptiness, without direction or purpose. Ask the missionaries! They can help you! They can help you to learn more about the true purpose of life—why you are here on earth and where you are going after death. You can learn how the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will bless your life beyond anything you can presently even imagine. If you have concerns about your family, ask the missionaries! They can help you! Strengthening marriages and families is of utmost importance to Latter-day Saints. Families can be together forever. Ask the missionaries to teach you how this is possible for your family. Missionaries can also help you with your desire for greater knowledge. The human spirit yearns for enlightenment. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from God, we seek it! The glory of God indeed is intelligence.12 Increase in learning includes spiritual as well as temporal knowledge. We stress the importance of understanding sacred scriptures. An independent study recently found that Latter-day Saints were the most knowledgeable about Christianity and the Bible.13 If you want to understand the Bible better, to understand the Book of Mormon better, and gain a broader comprehension of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, ask the missionaries! They can help you! Many of you have a deep desire to help people in need. Because we follow Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints are also compelled by that insatiable urge.14 Anyone may join with us to help the needy and provide relief to victims of disaster anywhere in the world. If you want to participate, ask the missionaries! They can help you! And if you want to know more about life after death, about heaven, about God’s plan for you; if you want to know more about the Lord Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and the Restoration of His Church as it was originally established, ask the missionaries! They can help you! I know that God lives. Jesus is the Christ. His Church has been restored. Fervently I pray that God may bless each of you and each of our precious missionaries. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Notes 1. Thomas S. Monson, “As We Meet Together Again,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2010, 5–6. 2. See Doctrine and Covenants 4:3. 3. See Matthew 10:1; Luke 6:13; 10:1; Ephesians 4:11–12. 4. See Doctrine and Covenants 1:30. 5. Matthew 28:19. 6. See Doctrine and Covenants 68:8; 84:62; 112:28. 7. See 1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Nephi 25:26. 8. Personal communication from W. Tracy Watson, former president of the Arizona Mesa Mission. 9. Where I have phrased the invitation to “ask the missionaries,” you could also ask a friend who is a member of the Church for assistance. 10. Actively participating relatives, friends, and Church leaders would also be pleased to assist. 11. See James E. Enstrom and Lester Breslow, “Lifestyle and Reduced Mortality among Active California Mormons, 1980–2004,” Preventive Medicine, vol. 46 (2008), 135. 12. See Doctrine and Covenants 93:36. 13. See U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Sept. 28, 2010), 7. 14. See Ram Cnaan, Van Evans, and Daniel W. Curtis, Called to Serve: The Prosocial Behavior of Active Latter-day Saints (University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, 2012); “Mormon Volunteerism Highlighted in New Study” (Mar. 16, 2012),; Mormons in America: Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Jan. 12, 2012), 43; Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (2010), 444–54. Official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Friday, October 12, 2012

Conference Messages: Is Faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ Written in Our Hearts?

I LOVE this talk by the newly called General Relief Society president. What a great sermon about the meaning of the atonement of Jesus Christ. If you only read one conference talk, this one would be one of the most powerful.
"My beloved sisters, you have been on my mind and in my heart for months as I have pondered this challenging responsibility. Though I don’t feel equal to the responsibility placed upon me, I know that the call has come from the Lord through His chosen prophet, and for now, that is enough. The scriptures teach that “whether by [the Lord’s] voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same.”1
One of the precious gifts associated with this calling is the assurance that Heavenly Father loves all of His daughters. I have felt His love for each of us!
Like you, I love the scriptures! In the book of Jeremiah we find a scripture that is very dear to my heart. Jeremiah lived in a difficult time and place, but the Lord allowed him to foresee “a time of hope during the latter-day gathering of Israel”2—our day. Jeremiah prophesied:
“After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. …
“… They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”3
We are the people Jeremiah saw. Have we invited the Lord to write the law, or doctrine, in our hearts? Do we believe that the forgiveness available through the Atonement that Jeremiah refers to applies to us personally?
A few years ago, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared his feelings about the deep-rooted faith of pioneers who pushed toward the Salt Lake Valley even after the deaths of their children. He said, “They didn’t do that for a program, they didn’t do it for a social activity, they did it because the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ was in their soul, it was in the marrow of their bones.”
He expressed, with tender emotion:
“That’s the only way those mothers could bury [their babies] in a breadbox and move on, saying, ‘The promised land is out there somewhere. We’re going to make it to the valley.’
“They could say that because of covenants and doctrine and faith and revelation and spirit.”
He concluded with these thought-provoking words: “If we can keep that in our families and in the Church, maybe a lot of other things start to take care of themselves. Maybe a lot of other less-needed things sort of fall out of the wagon. I’m told those handcarts could only hold so much. Just as our ancestors had to choose what they took, maybe the 21st century will drive us to decide, ‘What can we put on this handcart?’ It’s the substance of our soul; it’s the stuff right down in the marrow of our bones.”4 Or, to put it another way, it is what is written in our hearts!
As a new Relief Society presidency, we have sought the Lord earnestly to know what essential things He would have us put in our Relief Society handcart to continue moving His work forward. We have felt that Heavenly Father would first have us help His beloved daughters understand the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As we do so, we know our faith will increase, as will our desire to live righteously. Second, as we have considered the critical need to strengthen families and homes, we have felt that the Lord would have us encourage His beloved daughters to cheerfully cleave to their covenants. When covenants are kept, families are strengthened. Finally, we feel He would have us work in unity with the other auxiliaries and with our priesthood leaders, striving to seek out and help those in need to progress along the path. It is our fervent prayer that each of us will open our hearts and let the Lord engrave in them the doctrines of the Atonement, covenants, and unity.
How can we expect to strengthen families or help others unless we first have written in our own hearts a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement? Tonight I would like to share three principles of the Atonement that, if written in our hearts, will increase our faith in Jesus Christ. It is my hope that understanding these principles will bless each of us, whether we are new to the Church or lifelong members.
Principle 1: “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”5
We, with you, bear witness of the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our testimonies, like yours, have been written in our hearts as we have faced assorted soul-stretching challenges and adversities. Without an understanding of Heavenly Father’s perfect plan of happiness and the Savior’s Atonement as the central feature of that plan, these challenges could seem unfair. We all share in the trials of life together. But in faithful hearts is written, “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Why does the Lord allow suffering and adversity to come to us in this life? Simply put, it is part of the plan for our growth and progress! We “shouted for joy”6 when we knew we would have the opportunity to come to earth to experience mortality. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “Our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquillity.”7
The example of a faithful pioneer sister illustrates this truth. Mary Lois Walker was married at age 17 to John T. Morris in St. Louis, Missouri. They crossed the plains with the Saints in 1853, entering the Salt Lake Valley shortly after their first anniversary. On their journey they had suffered the privations typical of other Saints. But their sufferings and adversity did not end when they reached the Salt Lake Valley. The following year Mary, then 19, wrote: “A son was born to us. … One evening when he was two or three months old … something whispered to me, ‘You will lose that little one.’”
During the winter the baby’s health declined. “We did all we could, … but the baby grew steadily worse. … On the second of February he passed away … and so I drank the bitter cup of parting from my own flesh and blood.” But her trials were still not over. Mary’s husband was also stricken, and three weeks after losing her baby, he died.
Mary wrote: “So was I, while yet in my teens, bereft in the short period of 20 days, of my husband and my only child, in a strange land hundreds of miles from my blood kin and with a mountain of difficulty before me … and I wished that I too, might die and join my loved one[s].”
Mary continues: “One Sunday evening I was taking a walk with my friend. … I was reminded of [my husband’s] absence and my intense loneliness, and as I wept bitterly I could see, as it were in mental vision, the steep hill of life I should have to climb and felt the reality of it with great force. A deep depression settled upon me, for the enemy knows when to attack us, but our [Savior, Jesus Christ,] is mighty to save. Through … the help given of the Father, I was able to battle with all the force which seemed to be arrayed against me at this time.”8
Mary learned at the tender age of 19 that the Atonement gives us the assurance that all things that are unfair in this life can and will be made right—even the deepest sorrows.
Principle 2: There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.9 There is a way to know when we have learned a doctrine or principle of the gospel. It is when we are able to teach the doctrine or principle in a way that a child can understand it. A valuable resource to teach children to understand the Atonement is an analogy that is found in a Primary lesson. Perhaps this can help us as we teach our own children, grandchildren, or friends of other faiths who desire to understand this essential doctrine.
“A [woman] walking along a road fell into a pit so deep [she] could not climb out. No matter what [she] did, [she] could not get out by [herself]. The [woman] called for help and rejoiced when a kind passerby heard [her] and lowered a ladder down into the pit. This allowed [her] to climb out of the pit and regain [her] freedom.
“We are like the [woman] in the pit. Sinning is like falling into the pit, and we can’t get out by ourselves. Just as the kind passerby heard the [woman’s] cry for help, Heavenly Father sent his Only Begotten Son to provide the means of escape. Jesus Christ’s atonement could be compared to lowering a ladder into the pit; it gives us the means to climb out.”10 But the Savior does more than lower the ladder, He “comes down into the pit and makes it possible for us to use the ladder to escape.”11 “Just as the [woman] in the pit had to climb up the ladder, we must repent of our sins and obey the gospel principles and ordinances to climb out of our pit and make the Atonement work in our lives. Thus, after all we can do, the Atonement makes it possible for us to become worthy to return to Heavenly Father’s presence.”12
Recently I was privileged to meet a modern-day pioneer, a beloved daughter of God and recent convert to the Church in Chile. She is a single mother with two young sons. Through the power of the Atonement, she has been enabled to put her past behind her and is now earnestly striving to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. As I think of her, a principle taught by Elder David A. Bednar comes to mind: “It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us.”13
As this Chilean sister and I discussed how to stay on the path leading to eternal life, she enthusiastically assured me that she was determined to continue on the path. She had been off the path most of her life, and she declared that there was nothing “out there” off the path that she wanted to have back in her life again. The enabling power of the Atonement is living inside of her. It is being written in her heart.
That power not only enables us to climb out of the pit but also gives us power to continue on the strait and narrow path leading back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Principle 3: The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children. We would do well to ponder this stirring thought from Elder Oaks: “Think how it must have grieved our Heavenly Father to send His Son to endure incomprehensible suffering for our sins. That is the greatest evidence of His love for each of us!”14
That supreme act of love ought to send each of us to our knees in humble prayer to thank our Heavenly Father for loving us enough that He sent His Only Begotten and perfect Son to suffer for our sins, our heartaches, and all that seems unfair in our own individual lives.
Remember the woman President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke of recently? He said: “One woman who had been through years of trial and sorrow said through her tears, ‘I have come to realize that I am like an old 20-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But I am still a 20-dollar bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full 20 dollars.’”15
This woman knows that she is a beloved daughter of her Heavenly Father and that she was worth enough to Him to send His Son to atone for her, individually. Every sister in the Church should know what this woman knows—that she is a beloved daughter of God. How does knowing our worth to Him change how we keep our covenants? How does knowing our worth to Him affect our desire to minister to others? How does knowing our worth to Him increase our desire to help those who need to understand the Atonement as we do—way down deep? When each of us has the doctrine of the Atonement written deep in our hearts, then we will begin to become the kind of people the Lord wants us to be when He comes again. He will recognize us as His true disciples.
May the Atonement of Jesus Christ cause a “mighty change” to be wrought in our hearts.16 As we awaken to this doctrine, declared by an angel of God to be “glad tidings of great joy,”17 I promise that we will feel as King Benjamin’s people felt. After they had prayed mightily that the Atonement would be applied in their lives, “they were filled with joy”18 and were “willing to enter into a covenant with … God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things.”19 Making, keeping, and rejoicing in our covenants will be the evidence that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is truly written in our hearts. Please remember these three principles, sisters:
1. “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”20
2. There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.21
3. The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children.22
“After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”23 I invite us to ask the Lord to write these principles of the Atonement in our hearts. I testify that they are true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Notes 1. Doctrine and Covenants 1:38. 2. Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (2001), 198. 3. Jeremiah 31:33–34; emphasis added. 4. Jeffrey R. Holland, “Roundtable Discussion,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Feb. 9, 2008, 28. 5. Preach My Gospel : A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 52. 6. Job 38:7. 7. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Liahona, Jan. 2001, 42; Ensign, Nov. 2000, 33. 8. Autobiography of Mary Lois Walker Morris (copy in possession of Linda Kjar Burton). 9. See David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Liahona, Apr. 2012, 12–19; Ensign, Apr. 2012, 40–47. 10. Primary 7: New Testament (1997), 104. 11. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (1954–56), 1:123. 12. Primary 7 , 104. 13. David A. Bednar, Liahona, Apr. 2012, 14; Ensign, Apr. 2012, 42. 14. Dallin H. Oaks, “Love and Law,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2009, 26. 15. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “You Are My Hands,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2010, 69. 16. See Alma 5:12–14. 17. Mosiah 3:3. 18. See Mosiah 4:1–3. 19. See Mosiah 5:2–5. 20. Preach My Gospel, 52. 21. See David A. Bednar, Liahona, Apr. 2012, 12–19; Ensign, Apr. 2012, 40–47. 22. See Dallin H. Oaks, Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2009, 26. 23. Jeremiah 31:33; emphasis added. Official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © 2012 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mormons and Evangelicals

I think this is a pretty fair interview. I do think there is a lot of slanted bias against us. Click here to see the video.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book of Mormon Sampler: 2 Nephi 2:25

2 Nephi 2:25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.