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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blessings of #LDSConf

This article has become my most viewed entry over conference weekend, which fits, considering it's Easter weekend as well.  Jesus is the single most influential, powerful, loving person who ever walked this earth.  I love that Easter was a heavily covered topic in LDS General Conference.  In light of that fact, the purpose of this article is to emphasize what I see as the central truths He has brought to our attention once more through His prophets this weekend.

1.  God's standard on marriage and family is still not changing.  President Packer, Sister Burton, Elder Perry and Elder Christofferson made that abundantly clear on Saturday.  As The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, "Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity... individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

As this blogger to eloquently noted (even if it was about a different subject matter), there are only two sides to the coin of truth, God's side and the world's side, truth and error, respectively.  No matter what the world says about the way they want marriage and family to be defined, it will never change how the Lord has defined them.  Both are gifts from Him with the sole purpose of bringing His children back to Him and making us more like Him.  Neither can happen effectively in any setting other than a Christ-centered home and family, united in their commitment to love each other, the Savior and Father in Heaven.  Please stay on the right side of the coin.  As Elder Bednar so clearly taught, "Jesus Christ the only source of enduring peace".

2.  Missionaries.  Not just full time missionaries.  Returned missionaries, member missionaries, future missionaries, basically, all members of the church.  The Lord has spoken through Elder Ballard.  He reminded us that 10+ years ago the bar was raised for missionary work.  Said President Hinckley in 2003 "The time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called … as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. … We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel".  Elder Ballard gave us unmistakable counsel to extend that raising the bar to the rest of us.  He did a sort of personal interview with all of us and asked us some important soul searching questions that we really should be taking more and more seriously as the second coming of our Lord grows closer.  To review them, are our habits with scripture study (different from reading, mind you), praying in the morning and evening, fast offerings, thoughts of our Savior and the Atonement, Sabbath observance, honesty, chastity and time management a reflection of a disciple of Christ?  If not we have some changing to do and we have to start now, for the sake of our own happiness and salvation, among other things.

4.  Responsibility of priesthood holders.  Elder Soares made some key points about defending truth.  He told a story of a deacon who opposed peer pressure.  This young man was invited to view pornography on his friend mobile devices.  He boldly told them of the dangers of pornography and encouraged them to stop, but was ridiculed for his decision.  He did not, however, let this ridicule effect his choices.  As sensitive a subject as pornography is, if a young deacon, subject to the burden that we all know changing hormones can be, as possibly inexperienced as he may be with the weight of the role of a priesthood holder, can fearlessly stand up to immature friends regardless of the consequences, no other priesthood holder on this planet has an excuse not to either.  If we expect to receive the divine help inherent with the calling of priesthood we need to be living and defending truth as worthy priesthood holders would.  I know the truth of this from my own experience, on both sides of it.

5. What you're distraction?  We all have weaknesses for different distractions in life.  We are all pulled in the wrong direction by one worldly influence or other from time to time.  But, the distraction I'm addressing here, which has been addressed probably hundreds of times by other bloggers around the world, is technology.  In fact, after reading this, I challenge you to go and spend at least an hour or two doing something that builds your spirit and strengthens your character away from an electronic screen.  Yes, there are many good uses of technology that strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Elder Teixeira made specific mention of making use of resources on lds.org and subscribing to church accounts on social networks to aid in bringing the Spirit of the Lord into our homes.

With the internet being such a ubiquitous thing in the world today, we really have no excuse to not be using these precious resources to strengthen our relationship with our Savior, increase our testimony of and experience with Him and His Atonement, invite His Godly love into our lives, and continually increasing our spiritual stamina in a world constantly striving the drag us down.  But please, don't rely solely on technology for this.  Elder Pearson nailed it when he said "Heeding those who do not believe in Christ will not help you find Him.  Searching #spaciousbuilding for knowledge will not lead you to truth.  It's not posted there.  Only the Savior has the words of eternal life.  Everything else is just words."

Take a physical copy of your scriptures or other gospel literature and a pen or pencil, go to a quiet place to study, ponder and pray, indoors or out, and make use of the Atonement by seeking for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  He will enlighten and transform you for Jesus sake, your own good and the good of others.  There is no risk of temptations on the internet like pornography, mindless distractions or contention to detract from our Savior if you are unplugged from it and focused on Him.

6. Choose sensitivity over apathy.  I absolutely LOVED the title of Bishop Causse's talk, "Is it still wonderful to you?"  In the Book of Mormon, one of the biggest mistakes Laman and Lemuel made was allowing the effect of the Holy Ghost wear off, to the point where they were "past feeling, that [they] could not feel [the Lord's word]" in their heart.  To keep the joys of the gospel with us, it takes constant, daily work, because of the pull of the world in the other direction.  Life is going up a down escalator.  If you're not running up faster than the world is pulling down you're either sinking or getting nowhere and just uselessly tiring yourself out.  We have to "stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers [us]", stay all amazed at it and become continually more amazed at it every day so obedience can become easier and our joy in it can become more untainted, pure and full.  I can't speak for her, Elder Brent H. Neilson's sister who left the church for a time, but I imagine she may have fallen victim to this mindset and years later, when she came back, was re-amazed at Jesus' love and His gospel.

Elder Holland gave us his powerful testimony of the Savior as well, showing His amazement at it as well, given with a parable of the two rock climbers.  When we are more aware of the healing, saving, changing, loving reality and effects of the victory of Christ that is His Atonement, we will have more capacity to take a leap of faith by obeying, repenting and changing and trust the Lord to not let our hands slip on loose gravel on the edge.  I know He won't.  My wife and I have taken that leap in our own lives in repentance and obedience and we have felt Him catch us and save us from falling many times by sending people into our lives to accomplish His purposes.  As long as we have stayed "all amazed" we have seen and experienced the saving and enabling power of His atonement first hand.

7. Stick to the plan.  Elder Raphael E. Pino said "Understanding the plan will help people keep the commandments, make better decisions and have the right motivation."  Lets face it, our perspective of life and the eternities shapes everything we think, say, believe and do.  Elder Pino made a brilliant analogy of looking at things close up vs. far away.  When we often times look at the gospel from a close up perspective, focusing on just one tiny detail of the God's plan, it can seem unpleasant or difficult to understand until we back up and see the whole thing as it really is.  The opposite is true of the standards of the world.  Up close they can look appealing, but when you really step back and see their effect on society as a whole, it's obvious what the better choice is.

Elder Hales comments about religious freedom being threatened is a great example of the obvious effects on society of obedience to our loving God's plan vs. selfish disregard to it.  As we follow Elder Anderson's council to look for and be grateful for the hand of God in our lives, backing up to see His plan of happiness as it really is, the magnitude of the rewards He has for us will become that much more obvious and the right choice will become unmistakable.

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I was practicing the guitar chords for the primary song "He Sent His Son" using the gospel library app today and was reminded of why I love it so much.  God did not just send us here and say "good luck! I'll check in with you when you're done and see if you've lived perfectly." What He did was send us here with a message of "I love you and I know you're going to mess up, but I'll make it obvious how to get back to Me.  I'll provide you with a Savior to rescue you from your sins and show you how to live and become like Me.  He will only live 33 years in mortality, so I'll communicate with prophets as well who are living in the same mortal perspective as you and share His life and example with them. That way it will be easier for you to recognize the help I send."

Prophets are one of the most merciful blessings we ever received from our Father in Heaven.  That's the way I see it.