12 May 2018

Mother's Day

This is a talk I gave two years ago:


The Eternal Nature of Mothers

Twenty-one years ago preparations were underway and reported on in the news for an upcoming World’s Conference on Women, to be held in August 1995 in Beijing, China. Many voices clamored for recognition, and spouted slogans demanding increased rights for women, including abortion on demand, freedom from the slavery of marriage, and recognition of the validity of same-sex relationships.  After listening to radio reports and reading newspapers and magazines, I longed to hear what the Lord had to say about all this, knowing he would speak the truth through his prophet.

Days and weeks went by and no statements were forthcoming from the church. I had a heavy heart and a thirst for the word of the Lord.  I kept a prayer in my heart that the Lord would make his will clearly known concerning the issues the world found so troubling.

Tears of inexpressible gratitude fell as I sat in the chapel for the General Relief Society Broadcast on September 23, 1995 and listened to President Hinckley read: The Family - A Proclamation to the World.  I knew the Lord had answered the deepest longings of my heart.  Here was the bread of life for a world in the midst of a famine of the word of God; Living Water for a drought stricken people; a sword of truth to cut through the war of words.

We are so blessed to have pure, simple and true doctrine about the family, about men and women’s roles as husbands and wives, and as fathers and mothers. We learn that these roles are not temporary for earth life, but are part of an eternal continuum stretching from before we were born, through earth life and on into eternity after we die.

The family, beginning with a man and a woman married in a covenant relationship, is an eternal pattern. We are spirit children of a Heavenly Father, who obviously is not alone, but partnered with a glorified and perfected woman. The story of the creation in the book of Abraham refers to Gods, plural, who participated in creating this earth and all things on it.

So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.” (Abr. 4:27)

Eliza R. Snow, sister to the Prophet Lorenzo Snow, penned these lines:
I had learned to call thee Father, Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But until the key of knowledge was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.
(Hymns #192)

Throughout the scriptures are stories of great mothers. They are not considered great because of their education, careers or other worldly attainments. Their greatness comes from their obedience to God and their faithfulness to the Plan of Happiness.


Eve
Eve was the very first mortal mother on this earth. She was given the ability to bear children when she partook of the forbidden fruit and was cast out of the Garden of Eden with Adam, her husband. She was given the name Eve “because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20) In fact, Eve means “life” in Hebrew.
We know from the book of Moses that Adam and Eve had many more children than Cain, Abel and Seth. “And Adam knew his wife and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth.” (Moses 5:2) The Book of Moses also gives a deeper description of the type of woman Eve was. We learn that Eve labored with Adam; that she knew the Plan of Salvation for she says, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” We learn that Eve taught her children all that she had learned. (Moses 5:12)
The scriptures do not record Eve’s reaction when Cain killed his brother, Abel, but I imagine that she was devastated. I also imagine that she still loved Cain with all her heart. She knew that Cain had the agency to make his own choices.
That is probably one of the hardest things about motherhood, letting our grown children make their own choices, even when we know the choices they are making are wrong and will bring sorrowful consequences. I expect that Eve continued to pray for Cain and love him every day for the rest of her life. I’ve no doubt that her righteous posterity brought her great joy.
What can we learn from Eve? We must work alongside our husbands in creating our homes and raising our children. We must have a clear understanding and a strong testimony of the Gospel. And we must teach our children the truths of the Gospel, and then allow them to make their own choices; but we never give up on our wayward children.
Jochebed
Jochebed, the Mother of Moses, is mentioned briefly in Chapter 2 of Exodus; and by name in chapter six. We can number her among the brave women of the Old Testament. Moses was born during a time when the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians and the Pharaoh had commanded all newborn Hebrew sons to be killed. Jochebed did not allow that to happen to her son. First, she hid Moses for three months. At the point when she could no longer hide him, she made an ark to lay him in, and put the ark on the banks of the river. She then had her daughter watch over him. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses and decided she wanted to raise him as her own son. Jochebed was then hired to nurse him until he was old enough to return to live with Pharaoh’s daughter.
It is unclear if either the servant who hired Jochebed or the Pharaoh’s daughter knew that she was his biological mother. Either way, it most certainly was not a coincidence for Moses to spend the first years of his life with his biological mother before being turned over to Pharaoh’s daughter.
What can we learn from Jochebed? We should physically protect our children from evil, and we sometimes need to make sacrifices in order to protect them. What can we learn from Pharaoh’s daughter? We can be mothers to other children as well, whether we adopt, foster, or simply act in motherly ways toward the children in our wards and neighborhoods.
Naomi
The story of Naomi focuses on her relationship with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. This story is especially important because modern entertainment too often finds humor in portraying a negative relationship between mothers and daughters-in-law. It is disheartening to hear real-life stories about difficult relationships with in-laws; so Ruth and Naomi’s story can be beneficial for all of us whether we are the daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, or both.
When Naomi’s sons died, she told their wives, Orpah and Ruth, to return to their families as she was going to return to Bethlehem. Both women wanted to remain with Naomi because they loved her. She again advised them to return to their own families, which Orpah did, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi, so Naomi allowed Ruth to accompany her.
Naomi began calling Ruth “my daughter”, as she absolutely considered Ruth her family. Naomi encouraged Ruth to remarry and advised her to ask Boaz for help in finding a new husband. When no one would take Ruth as a wife, Boaz did. He and Ruth had a son, Obed, and Naomi helped take care of him.
Naomi could have been upset that Ruth moved on from her first husband, but instead she was the one who encouraged and planned it. She even cared for Ruth’s son with whom she had no biological connection, as Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s husband.
What can we learn from Naomi? We should love and respect our daughters-in-law. We should support them in their righteous endeavors, and help care for grandchildren. What can we learn from Ruth? We should love and respect our mothers-in-law. We should listen to their advice and guidance, and allow them to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Mary, the mother of our Savior, answered God’s call to bear His son knowing that she would be condemned for being pregnant outside the bonds of marriage. She probably believed that her engagement to Joseph would end. But God with His greater wisdom followed the eternal pattern of family and sent an angel to tell Joseph that it was right to take Mary to wife, providing Jesus with an earthly father.
When the wicked King Herod set out to find and slay Jesus as a young child, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, being warned of God, fled to Egypt. Mary was willing to leave a land and culture where she had spent her entire life, and move to a new and strange place in order to protect her son.
Mary allowed Jesus to teach her. When Jesus was 12 years old, he stayed behind in Jerusalem, after the Passover feast. Joseph and Mary noticed he wasn’t in the company of travelers and went looking for him. It took them three days to find him. I know something of the fear and panic going on in Mary’s heart. When they found him Mary lectured Jesus, as Mother’s do, and Jesus answered that he was about his Father’s business. After that Luke writes that “[Mary] kept all these sayings in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)
When Jesus was grown, Mary knew that he had his own job to do. In fact, when wine ran short at a wedding, Mary came to Jesus for help. Jesus reminded her that his time had not yet come, but he would still help in his own way, and Mary allowed him to choose how he would help. (John 2:1-10)
At the end of Christ’s mortal ministry Mary had to go through one of the most excruciating experiences a woman can go through watching her son die. I have no doubt that she mourned him the rest of her life, but I also know that she knew she would see him again. She understood God’s plan, and believed in it.
What can we learn from Mary? We should follow Heavenly Father’s plan for our families and accept the children He sends us. As important as it is to teach our children, we should also be willing to learn from our children, and from our experiences parenting. I’ve often said that most of what I know and understand about Heavenly Father I’ve learned from being a parent myself. From Mary we also learn that if and when we are separated from our children, whether through missionary service, school, work, or death, we press forward with the knowledge that our temple covenanted family is forever and we will see them again.
Sariah
Sariah was mother to Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, as well as several daughters. She went from being a rich woman of society to a woman living in a tent in the wilderness. She watched her children argue and physically fight with each other. Her heart broke over the wickedness of her two oldest sons. But with all she went through, she remained faithful and loving.
In the first sentence of the Book of Mormon we learn from Nephi that Sariah – along with Lehi – was “goodly” and taught Nephi “somewhat in all the learning of [his] father”. (1 Nephi 1:1) Sariah knew that her husband was a prophet, and she went along with the family’s move into the wilderness. She did have a brief moment of weakness, as she went through her tests and trials, but it helped strengthen her testimony. She believed that her sons had been killed by Laban, and accused Lehi of being visionary. Instead of being angry, Lehi comforted her, and when their sons returned Sariah says:
“Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.” (1 Nephi 5:8)
It was a mother’s love that caused this fear to come upon her. Her sons’ safe return was a testament to her that God will protect them and she can allow her sons to continue to do the work of the Lord. This is a great verse for missionary moms.
Sariah gave birth to Jacob and Joseph while in the wilderness.  She didn’t let their difficult new life get in the way of her family’s growth. When Laman and Lemuel bound Nephi while traveling across the ocean, Sariah and Lehi become ill from the stress of the wickedness of their sons. Nephi writes that they almost died because of it. Sariah’s heart broke because of her sons’ wickedness, but she never sent them away; she continued to love them.
What can we learn from Sariah? We need to teach our children the gospel, and follow the Lord’s plan for our families. It’s normal to have moments of weakness, but we can learn from them, and use them to strengthen our resolve to keep our covenants. When our children choose wickedness, we continue loving them and praying for them; and we keep living the gospel so we can be examples to them.
These five women serve as wonderful examples of good and faithful mothers. The common threads in all the lives of these mothers are obedience to God’s commandments, keeping sacred covenants, and teaching their children these things.
Their stories teach great lessons about following God and caring for our children. If we apply these messages to our lives we can better follow the heavenly pattern of family life. These stories were recorded to teach us and future generations. I encourage you to study motherhood throughout the scriptures and apply what you learn in your own families. I know that with Heavenly Father’s help we can become great and wonderful mothers to his beloved spirit children, our earthly children.
I know that God, our Father lives; he loves us more than we can understand. He sent his son to be our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus Christ lives! He stands ready to lift us, carry us, and help us as we repent and follow him. I testify that Jesus Christ’s spokesman on earth is Thomas S. Monson, prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only true and living church on the face of the earth. The Book of Mormon is a true testament of the Savior and his mission. It was translated through the gift and power of God by Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration.

I give my solemn and humble witness of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

29 November 2017

Joy and Rejoicing

This is what it looks like:


Lt. Lehi and his bride exiting the Idaho Falls Temple after their sealing.

25 September 2017

The Sabbath Day

Talk I gave in church recently.

Many of you know that we recently bought a house in -------. You know that because you helped us clean it, do part of the yard work, and then move our belongings into it. We are so grateful for your service and hope we can either return the favor or pay it forward as we serve in the branch. This particular house was built in 1896; it’s a large three story, with full basement, Victorian mansion. While it is structurally sound, it is suffering from a century of benign neglect. The last occupant was unable to do even the most basic cleaning or upkeep.

As I’ve worked on this house, cleaning it, repairing it and making plans to refurbish it I’ve felt inspired that this house is a metaphor for our lives. With daily, weekly and seasonal maintenance and repairs we can keep both our physical homes and our spiritual lives in order, up to date, and thriving.

Daily housekeeping can be compared to daily prayer and scripture study. Communing with our Heavenly Father and reading His words daily keeps our spirits clean and aligned with His goal for us of immortality and eternal life. It takes just minutes to read, ponder and pray each day, but those acts serve to keep us on the path, holding fast to the iron rod, leading to the tree of life. When we neglect these daily devotions, our spirits get dusty, covered with the little spills and the debris of worldliness that result in a big mess that takes so much time and effort to clean up. How much better to keep up our physical and spiritual housekeeping daily.

Seasonal deep cleaning, often called Spring and Fall cleaning is when I move furniture to clean underneath. I launder curtains, wash woodwork and light fixtures, open windows wide to let in fresh air and prepare my home for the coming season. I catch things that need to be repaired before they get too big to do ourselves, and make lists of needed supplies to acquire for preparedness.

We can compare this to participating in General Conference. We listen to the counsel of our prophets, apostles and other leaders, then look into the deep recesses of our souls and make adjustments to our lives, repenting, repairing and maintaining our souls before problems get too big. I love General Conference for the chance it gives me to measure my obedience, how well I’m doing. If a subject is talked about that makes me squirm I know I need to pay attention and do some repenting to bring my life into harmony with the will of the Lord.

I’d like to talk more in depth today about a level of maintenance between daily and semi-annual. At home I have a schedule where I clean each area of the house once a week. This is more than just a quick wipe down or tidy up. It is meant to clean and keep organized each room, noticing anything that may have been missed or overlooked due to lack of time in a daily clean up.

The Lord has blessed us with a day each week to accomplish a more thorough job on our spiritual houses. He set the pattern from the beginning of the existence of this earth.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
(Genesis 2:1-3)

The Law of the Sabbath is as old as Adam and Eve. It was known among those who followed the prophets of the Old Testament. The Lord spoke of it to Moses even before it was codified as part of the Ten Commandments. Instructing Moses about the gathering of manna the Lord said to gather twice as much on the sixth day for “Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.” (Exodus 16:23) This was the only time the Israelites could save manna overnight. Any other time the manna “bred worms and stank.” (Exo. 16:20)

Subsequently, Jehovah revealed to Moses the law for His people. Listen to the language of the Lord recorded in what is now known as The Ten Commandments:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Later Moses records further instruction about the Sabbath: “Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of the thy handmaid and the stranger, may be refreshed.” (Exodus 23:12)

When we first moved to Iowa I looked for a grocery store that was closed on Sunday. I did so because of a story I heard years before about President Joseph Fielding Smith told by then Presiding Bishop H. David Burton.
When Sister Burton and I were first married, we lived in the southeast part of the Salt Lake Valley. On occasion, as we purchased groceries from a small neighborhood store, we observed President and Sister Joseph Fielding Smith in the same store making their purchases. After several such observations, I finally mustered the courage to inquire of President Smith why it was he traveled all the way from downtown, past a dozen grocery stores, to shop at this particular store. Looking over the tops of his glasses he emphatically said: “Son! . . . Sister Smith and I patronize establishments that keep the Sabbath day holy.  (General Conference October 1998)

This story so affected me that after that I too sought out stores that honored the Sabbath. They aren’t easy to find. In Iowa I found Fareway; and in looking on their website was interested to find the story of their founding.
Fareway's policy of being closed on Sunday has been in place for as long as our company has been in existence. We believe our customers, employees, and business partners deserve a day at home with their families - free from the fast-paced life we all live the other six days of the week.

The idea of resting on Sunday is something our founder, Paul S. Beckwith, firmly believed; in part because of his religious beliefs and a story told to him by his father. Paul's father was a pioneer who traveled to new territory by wagon train. Some pioneers were in a hurry, and drove on every day, leaving behind those who stopped for a day of rest and worship. As settlers continued to move westward, families who had taken Sunday off began to catch-up with those who had pushed ahead; finding broken-down wagons, lame animals, and weary people. Paul's father told him he decided that the Bible was right; neither man nor beast was made to work seven days a week.
(https://www.fareway.com/about/values)

While still on Mount Sinai, the Lord further instructed Moses, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord, whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:13-17)

Fortunately, we are not put to death physically for breaking the Sabbath; but we still die a little each time we don’t keep the Sabbath holy. We become spiritually dead and disconnected from God.

Many years ago when Steve was a new member of the church and our children were young and rambunctious, we argued about how best to keep the Sabbath day. He asked me, “Why do we have to do things your way?” To which I responded, “I don’t want to do things my way, I want to do them the Lord’s way.”

So what is the Lord’s way of keeping the Sabbath? Just this week in our morning scripture reading we read Luke’s account of one Sabbath when the Pharisees took Jesus to task because he healed a man’s hand. Jesus responded, “I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or, to do evil? To save life, or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) What an easy distinction! To do good and to save life! We are asked to rest from OUR labors on the Sabbath, and engage in HIS labors, to do good and to save life.

How many things can you think of that come under those categories?

Home and Visiting Teaching
Family History and Missionary work
Writing letters to loved ones
Visiting the lonely or homebound
Studying next Sunday’s lessons
Watching past General Conference talks
Reading current church magazines
Taking a walk or drive to view and appreciate Heavenly Father’s creations
Preparing for Family Home Evening

And so forth. We can ask ourselves of our activities: Is this doing good? Is this saving life? Especially spiritual life?

Mormon, through the writings of his son Moroni gives us another way to judge our choices.
But behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man [and woman] that he may know good from evil; wherefore I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. (Moroni 7:15-16)

Isaiah wrote of this also, “Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgement, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:2)

Remembering what the Lord said to Moses about keeping the Sabbath as a sign of a covenant Elder Russell M. Nelson recently said:
In my much younger years, I studied the work of others who had compiled lists of things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath. It wasn’t until later that I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father.12 With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, “What sign do I want to give to God?” That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear. (General Conference April 2015)

In the writings of Isaiah we also read the word of the Lord, “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

Keeping the Sabbath day holy and doing good takes some daily preparation, including repenting so we come to church ready to partake of the Sacrament to renew our baptismal covenants. What a delight it can be to see fellow saints each Sunday, to sing the hymns of Zion together, to partake of the sacred emblems of the Sacrament; to study the gospel together sharing insights and testimony gained through daily study; to feel united, “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens . . . of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19); to feel refreshed by laying aside our worldly cares and activities to “do good” and to “save lives”.

I know from my own experiences that when I keep the Sabbath day different from the rest of the week, when I keep it holy and special, I feel the strength and refreshment from doing so. When we do things the Lord’s way he pours out his blessings, we feel his love and approval, and we accomplish what we were sent here to do.

I testify that Our Father in Heaven is real, His son, Jesus Christ, our elder brother, is our Savior and Redeemer. We are led today by a prophet and apostles; who in recent years have taught us and exhorted us to Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, as a sign of our covenant with God.

May we be blessed to do so.