04 October 2022

Like a Dry Sponge

This post is part of the General Conference OdysseyThis week covers the Sunday morning session of the October 1998 conference.

This weekend's General Conference was a magnificent fountain of living water. I felt like a dry sponge soaking up all the goodness: music, prayers, and talks. It was a much needed refueling in my life. We live in a time of great drought and famine, not of earthly water and food, but of living water and the bread of life. The eternal truths spoken of in conference can be feasted upon again and again. Which is one of the reasons I'm enjoying participating in the General Conference Odyssey.

Topics in this session from 1998 included tithing, hope, temples, testimony, righteousness, and a Q&A format from President Hinckley. Choosing a favorite talk is like trying to choose a favorite child. They are all great.

The talk on tithing resonated with me as we personally face challenging circumstances of a slightly reduced income and greatly increasing prices due to governmental inflation. It's good to be reminded of the financial commandments and attendant blessings to bolster our faith.

President James E. Faust talked about his father paying tithing in kind with the best of the hay and said, "The legacy of faith he passed on to his posterity was far greater than money, because he established in the minds of his children and grandchildren that above all he loved the Lord and His holy work over other earthly things." 

He told of being a young bishop and having President Henry D. Moyle, of the First Presidency, in his ward come in for tithing settlement declaring, "Bishop, this is a full tithe, and a little bit more, because that's the way we have been blessed." I can add my testimony to that. It's better to round up and give a little more, than to try and be precise with odd numbers. You can't ever out give the Lord.

I've always believed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to all of societies ills. Especially regarding poverty. I've never known or heard of any full-tithe payer being homeless, or starving, or even hopeless. President Faust quoted President Hinckley from when he spoke to saints in the Philippines, "if members, even living in poverty and misery . . . will accept the gospel and live it, pay their tithes and offerings, even though those be meager, they will have rice in their bowls and clothing on their backs and shelter over their heads. I do not see any other solution." President Faust continued, "Indeed, I believe it is possible to break out of poverty by having faith to give back to the Lord part of what little we have."

I have seen the blessings of tithing in my life. The windows of heaven have truly opened, not always in a direct monetary way, but in countless ways that add up to living prosperously. Blessings of health when there isn't medical insurance; vehicles and appliances lasting until there is money to replace them. Getting great gas milage when serving in callings that require a great deal of travel. (Here in the Midwest where branch boundaries are huge.) Finding items on sale right when they are most needed. Receiving "hand-me-downs" of all kinds of the very things we needed. Having food stretch, almost to the point of "fishes and loaves". All these constitute blessings I associate with paying a full and honest tithing.

President Faust used a favorite Joseph Smith quote, "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." When I hear leaders say, "Oh we can't ask the members to do that," I wonder why not? Aren't we supposed to sacrifice? And those of us who have been endowed in the temple have covenanted to consecrate our all to the building up of the kingdom. President Faust said, "Our donations are made holy by our faith." Much like the widows mite. "To be faithful members of this Church requires sacrifice and consecration."

He finished by talking about all of the sacrifices we must make to obtain the blessings. "Receiving the blessings requires the payment of tithes and offerings. Ours is not a Sunday-only religion. It demands exemplary conduct and effort every day of the week. It involves accepting calls and serving with fidelity in those callings. It means strength of character, integrity, and honesty to the Lord and our fellowmen. It means that our homes need to be places of sanctuary and love. It means a relentless battle against the bombardment of worldly evils. It means, at times, being unpopular and politically incorrect." How timely is that! 

The promise for obedience is that "Those who keep their covenants and pay their tithes and offerings will have some extra defense against these virulent modern-day forms of evil."

27 September 2022

For My Sons


This post is part of the General Conference OdesseyThis week covers the Priesthood session of the October 1998 conference.

I married an Marine, who had been a Drill Instructor. Four of our five children are boys. They grew up with more military stories than missionary stories. They all love guns. When we have family reunions one activity day is dedicated to shooting. Three of our sons have or are serving in the military. (Our daughter was the first to serve, but she doesn't enjoy guns or shooting. The other son tried but was injured in Recruit Training and didn't get to serve.)

As our sons have built up their arsenals I have reminded them again and again that there is something more powerful than guns or bombs or any other weapon. President James E. Faust said it this way, "You young holders of the priesthood have access to the greatest power source in the world." Though he cautioned that "we can enjoy priesthood power only when we do our duty."

President Faust told the story of Zion's Camp and some of the hardships they endured. He quoted George A. Smith, a sixteen year old who recorded their experiences, saying of Joseph Smith, "But during the entire trip he never uttered a murmur or complaint." And went on to explaining that "Although Zion's Camp failed in its stated purpose of restoring the Saints to their lands in Jackson County, Missouri, it was invaluable as a stern schooling. They learned that faith is more important than life itself." What an important lesson! Similar to what I've tried to impress on our sons, that being a righteous priesthood holder is more important that having a huge arsenal. 

President Faust told about the covenants made at various times in early church history to provide for and take care of the poor and needy, assisting them to physically move from one place to another. Then he admonished, "We have an additional duty in our time to increase our labors to love the spiritually poor among our brethren so that they and their families might enjoy 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.'" I find it interesting to read these talks in light of the adjustments in recent years to the concept of ministering. It's as if that is what has been preached to us all along and we just didn't fully understand it.

He concluded, "As we look to the future, we will continue to have obstacles, difficulties, challenges, and opposition. Satan has more tools at his disposal than ever before to deceive, distract, and corrupt our people. We will continue to be winnowed." 

The brethren aren't called prophets casually, they are the real deal. They see what is coming and we benefit when we heed their teachings and warnings. 

We will have the privilege of hearing from them this coming weekend during another General Conference. By listening with our spiritual ears we will hear what we need to move forward with faith and confidence.

20 September 2022

Becoming Like Christ

This post is part of the General Conference OdesseyThis week covers the Saturday afternoon session of the October 1998 conference.

Some years ago I read through all of my journals, which I began keeping in June 1975 after I received a journal as a high school graduation gift from a cousin. I haven't written daily for the entire 47 years, but enough to get to know me and my life. 

While reading I noticed three themes that were constant throughout:
1) I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ
2) I want to be married to a righteous man
3) I feel that I don't measure up, and want to be better and do better

It was an interesting exercise in self-reflection and discovery. I'm so grateful I've kept a record of my life. For the past two or three years I've been writing daily, partly because my memory is not what it once was, and I want to remember things!

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin's talk resonated with me as he talked of "Cultivating Divine Attributes". Since 2020 I've been contemplating what it means to "live the gospel" and "become like Christ" and "build a Zion people". I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to re-read this talk and find some answers.

Elder Wirthlin speaks of preparing for the Second Coming and asks, " What do we believe that will motivate us to move forward? What do we hope for? What are the virtuous, lovely or praiseworthy things we should seek after? I believe we should strive to develop within ourselves the traits of the character of the Savior." 

He turns to the words of the Apostle Paul, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Then Elder Wirthlin suggests, "We should not wait a single day to intensify our personal efforts to strengthen these virtuous, lovely, and praiseworthy attributes. . . As I read and ponder the scriptures, I see that developing faith, hope and charity within ourselves is a step-by-step process. Faith begets hope, and together they foster charity. . . . These three virtues may be sequential initially, but once obtained, they become interdependent. Each one is incomplete without the others. They support and reinforce each other. . . . These are the virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy characteristics we seek." 

What a wonderful, simple pathway to improvement! And the Lord has promised that if we seek we shall find. 

16 September 2022

A Season of Opportunity

This post is part of the General Conference OdesseyThis week covers the Saturday morning session of the October 1998 conference.

My husband retired in June for the second time. The first time was in 1999 after serving in the United States Marine Corps for over 25 years. This time it is from teaching technology (shop) for about 15 years. We are currently on vacation in Washington state visiting friends from 30 years ago who were part of the ward where TopDad joined the church. This is a new season for us!

Bishop H. David Burton spoke of a ". . . season of a thousand opportunities," at this session of conference. This talk had a particular lasting impression on me when I heard it the first time around. He told of grocery shopping when he was first married and seeing President and Sister Joseph Fielding Smith in the same store, far from where they lived in downtown Salt Lake City. After several sightings Bishop Burton got up the courage to ask why they were shopping so far from home at this particular store. "Looking over the tops of his glasses he emphatically said, Son! [he had my attention.] Sister Smith and I patronize establishments that keep the Sabbath day holy."

Bishop Burton went on to talk about the importance of keeping the covenant of the Sabbath day. "But I also know that remembering to keep the Sabbath day holy is one of the most important commandments we can observe in preparing us to be the recipients of the whisperings of the Spirit."

I thought this was particularly insightful because I'd never had any trouble not shopping on Sunday, or attending recreation or cultural events; but to make an effort to shop at and support others who were also keeping the Sabbath day seemed to me to be a new level of obedience. So since that time I've looked for and shopped at stores that are closed on Sunday. That is not easy, and sometimes in some areas I haven't found any. But when I do I make the most of them.

In Iowa I found a grocery chain that closed on Sunday. In researching locations on their website I looked into the history and values of the stores. 

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. As a family-owned business, we understand the importance of family time and always have this in mind when operating our stores.

The idea of resting on Sunday is something our founder, Paul S. Beckwith, firmly believed in; 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.

I thought that was a great story! One of the benefits I have experienced from choosing to shop at stores that honor the Sabbath is that I seem to find unadvertised sales on the very items I need that week. Or on things to put into storage. It's almost like the benefits of paying tithing; money goes further!

Bishop Burton said, "This is the season of opportunity for families to stand tall and be counted among the faithful who obey the fourth great commandment:"

Seems to me that that particular season has never ended. 

06 September 2022

Needed Encouragement

This post is part of the General Conference OdesseyThis week covers the General Young Women session of the April 1998 conference.

I grew up wanting nothing more than to be a wife, mother and homemaker. It is what I had seen my mother and grandmothers, even a great-grandmother, do with their lives. I had interests and talents, but the driving force of my soul desired a family. Looking back from the vantage point of a senior citizen I wish someone would have encouraged me to pursue one of my interests to the point of mastery and certification; I could have used the income earning potential at various times.

Each of the four speakers in this session addressed the fact that our main purpose in life as women, is to marry and raise a family. It is part of Heavenly Father's plan for His children to do so, partly as a learning laboratory, and partly as a means for other spirit children to come to earth for their mortal experience.

Sister Margaret D. Nadauld said, "You young women have an important role to play in at least three families. The first is the family you are part of now, the second is your future family, and the third is the heavenly family of which we are all part."

This is an important reminder that no matter our current marital status, we are all part of at least two families at all times; and if we think of our church unit as our family then that is three! We don't ever have to be or feel that we are alone.

"Oh, you learn a lot of things in a family, don't you? And they're important things--things like praying and sharing and laughing and working and getting along with others." Sister Nadauld explained. That certainly could describe our church unit families too. 

Sister Carol B. Thomas told several stories of young women who were learning things in their families and also from watching the women at church. "As each of you practices being a homemaker, you are doing exactly what the Lord wants you to do. In every young woman's heart is a deep yearning to someday be a wife and a mother. These feelings were nurtured in your soul long before you came to earth." 

This is exactly why Satan works so hard to confuse and discourage young women about their role in today's world. He doesn't want more spirits to come to earth to righteous parents. He doesn't want there to be a leavening influence of righteous mothers raising children to be like the stripling warriors from the Book of Mormon. He wants women to question their role and try to be like men; to limit their families and spend more time chasing dollars, position and praise in the world. It shouldn't be a hard decision at all to stay home with a baby and make home a refuge for a growing family. But Satan has distracted women who end up feeling that it is an extreme sacrifice to be a wife, mother, and homemaker.

Sister Sharon G. Larsen said, "Young women, you are like titles of liberty as you strive to protect your families from such intruders as selfishness, harshness, anger, and strife. Your banner stands for peace, love and service to your families. . . . Young women, your life is the banner that can help to protect your families from wicked intruders. We call upon you to take a stand for kindness and goodness and service to those you love most--your families."

President James E. Faust expressed his love of women and said, "I hope that each of you girls will become an individual of significant worth and a person of virtue who contributes both now and in eternity. As a woman you have been born with many unique endowments that are not common to men." 

I can vouch for that! My husband can do many things, but remembering birthdays and holidays, and preparing for the future are not among them. He can lift heavy things, but his logic, and financial choices, defy understanding at times.

"Women today are encouraged by some to have it all: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world. For women, the important ingredients for happiness are to forge an identity, serve the Lord, get an education, develop your talents, serve your family, and if possible, to have a family of your own.
"However, you cannot do all these things well at the same time. . . . You cannot be a 100-percent wife, a 100-percent mother, a 100-percent Church worker, a 100-percent career person, and a 100-percent public-service person at the same time. How can all of these roles be coordinated? I suggest that you can have it sequentially."

I've written several times about being a homemaker on my other blog. If you're interested you can read my thoughts here and here.

President Faust ends with, "Lastly, how do I think you may become great women? You should cultivate and employ generously your noble, womanly instincts of care and mercy, first to your family and then to others. May you always hunger and thirst after righteousness within the framework of the revealed gospel of Jesus Christ. May you have an eternal perspective as you go about your angelic cause of doing good so that it will not only lead you to become great women, but ultimately to become queens in the eternities."

I have several regrets in my life, but being a wife, mother and homemaker is not one of them. This session was a wonderful shot in the arm for me, affirming my life choice and helping me remember the eternal perspective.