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.

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.

10 July 2017

Feelin' Safe

We have tall sons, these two are 6'3" and 6'4". When they hug me I fit under their chins. I feel safe!

20 June 2017

Father's Day Talk

My earliest memory of my own father is of him giving me a blessing when I was between two and three years old and very ill. It was the first of many that I received at his hand through the years. As soon as the blessing was completed I fell asleep and began to heal.

I think that experience planted the seed in my mind and heart that I wanted to marry a righteous man who would be able to bless me and my own children.

Many years passed before I met Steve. Although not a member of this or any other church, he impressed me on our first date with his strong desire to marry and have a large family. His greatest hope was to become a Dad.

As we dated, I was further impressed with his work ethic, his gentlemanly manners, as well as his kindness and patience. He seemed to me to have all the right qualities to make a good husband and father.

After we’d been married a few months he asked me, “If the church means so much to you, why did you marry me, a non-member?” It took me a few days to answer as I had to ponder and attempt to put into words some deep spiritual feelings. Finally, I said, “I can teach you the gospel anytime you want to learn. But I can’t teach you to be a good man, hardworking, kind and patient, with a good sense of humor. You just had to come that way.”

From The Family: A Proclamation to the World, we learn that “By divine design fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”
I’ve long felt that it is not just physical dangers that a husband and father are to protect us from, but maybe more importantly they are to protect us from spiritual dangers as well.

When Steve was ready, he listened to the missionaries and chose to make sacred covenants in the waters of baptism, and then in the temple, where we were sealed as a family with the first three of our five children.

The gospel of Jesus Christ and the Priesthood of God has added to and enhanced all Steve’s goodness over the past 23 years.

No matter what your own father was or is like, I believe we can learn much that will benefit us from the examples of righteous fathers in the scriptures.

Father Adam is a good place to start. After he and Mother Eve were cast out of the Garden we’re told “that Adam began to till the earth, and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, as I the Lord had commanded him. And Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him. And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth. And from that time forth, the sons and daughters of Adam began to divide two and two in the land, and to till the land, and to tend flocks, and they also begat sons and daughters.” (Moses 5:1-3)

No doubt Adam and Eve had their children work alongside of them to teach them all they would need to know to be successful farmers and herdsmen, mothers and fathers.

They continued faithfully doing all that the Lord had commanded them and were one day visited by an angel and taught more about the Father’s Great Plan of Happiness. Afterward “. . . Adam blessed the name of God and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.” (Moses 5:12)
“And a book of remembrance was kept in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the Spirit of inspiration. And by them (meaning the books of remembrance) their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled. . . and a genealogy was kept of the children of God.” (Moses 6:5-6, 8)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “If by his example as well as his words a father can demonstrate what fidelity to God looks like in day-to-day living, that father will have given his children the key to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. A father who reads scripture to and with his children acquaints them with the voice of the Lord.” (Ensign, May 2016, page 94)

Our responsibilities are reiterated in the Family Proclamation.

Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

Adam is truly our first and best mortal example of Fatherhood in action.

My next example is Abram, later named Abraham. Although Abraham was raised by an unrighteous father who had strayed far from the gospel path, he sought for the blessings of the gospel and priesthood even moving far away to a strange land to get away from the unrighteousness of his father and seeking out those who could give him the blessings he sought.

Years later as an old man Abraham, with his wife Sarah, was blessed with a son. While Isaac was still a young man Abraham was tested by God and asked to give his son as a sacrifice. The scriptures do not record any complaint or questioning by Abraham, even though sacrificing his only son would leave him without the posterity promised by God. He rose up early in the morning and prepared all that would be needed for the burnt offering and took his son Isaac to the mountainous place as commanded. As they prepared to leave Isaac questioned what they were doing as there wasn’t a lamb for the offering. Abraham calmly replied that God would provide a lamb. When they arrived at the designated place and all was ready, including Isaac bound and laying on the pile of wood, an angel of the Lord called Abraham from heaven, and Abraham immediately answered, “Here am I.” The angel said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (Gen. 22:1-1)

It was at that time that the Lord reminded Abraham of his blessings that included posterity as numerous as the stars in the heavens and the sands upon the seashore; and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through that very posterity.

When we are obedient to God’s commandments He stands ready to bless us in ways we can’t yet imagine. We don’t even have to go through enormous tests like Abrahams. When we do what the current prophet asks of us, such as read and study the Book of Mormon daily, we qualify for the blessings of God poured out on us and our families.

The fact that obedience brings blessings is an eternal truth: “There is a law, [we are told,] irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)

Abraham’s righteous desire for posterity was granted after he was completely obedient to God’s commandments, even being willing to give up the one son he did have without knowing how the desired blessing would come about. We can learn to trust God, obeying his commandments even when we don’t understand them by learning from Abraham’s example.

Lehi, a prophet contemporary with Jeremiah and Daniel, is another example of obedience. He was called to preach repentance to the people in Jerusalem, which he did faithfully, until their murderous designs made it unsafe to stay there. The Lord commanded Lehi to take his family and flee into the wilderness. For eight long years they traveled and rested; while Lehi’s children married and began families of their own. His two oldest sons regularly complained, questioned and made life miserable for the rest of the family. They had been taught the same things Nephi had been taught, but for whatever reason, their spirits were contrary, and Lehi often had to call them to repent and turn from their wickedness.

After describing the wonders of his vision of the tree of life to his family, Nephi said of his father Lehi, “. . . because of things which he saw in a vision, he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord. And he [Lehi} did exhort them then with all the feelings of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, . . . yea, my father did preach unto them. And after he had preached unto them, . . . he bade them to keep the commandments of the Lord;” (1 Nephi 8:36-38)

What a good example for fathers! He didn’t yell at, hit, or belittle his sons. He spoke to them with tender feelings, calling them to repent; he preached to or taught them; and he bade them, or invited them, to keep the commandments.

Again from Elder Christofferson, “When a father provides correction, his motivation must be love and his guide the Holy Spirit. . . .Discipline in the divine pattern is not so much about punishment as it is about helping a loved one along the path of self-mastery.” (Ensign, May 2016, page 95)

Alma, former priest of King Noah, is another example of a good father. One of his sons was so wicked that he was persecuting members of the church and causing all kinds of trouble. When this wicked son was at his worst he was struck down by a visit from an angel sent from God. The angel said to Alma, the younger, “Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.” (Mosiah 27:14, emphasis added)

“Now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.” (Mosiah 27:19)

Alma the elder, listened to the report of what had happened and then called his priests together and they began to fast and pray for his son “that the eyes of the people might be opened to see and know of the goodness and glory of God.” (Mosiah 27:22) They fasted and prayed for two days and nights! Alma the younger recovered, repented, and went on to become a great missionary, leader and prophet.

The prayers of fathers regarding their children are heard and answered according to their faith and according to the will of God. The prayers and fasting of faithful fathers can have a great effect in the lives of their children.
Alma the younger, himself is another great example of fatherhood and the value of individual counseling with children. Chapters 36 thought 42 of Alma, in the Book of Mormon, are the records of the counsel Alma gave to his sons Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton. I encourage you to read those chapters. One thing that stands out to me is in the part to Corianton. Alma uses the words “I perceive” many times. Blessed with and recognizing the gift of discernment, Alma knew what was troubling Corianton, what questions he had and how to answer them.

Worthy fathers can have the same inspiration in their stewardship over their children. We can’t see into the heart and mind of another without the help of the Lord. As we live righteously, obeying the commandments and keeping our covenants we will be worthy instruments in the Lord’s hands to teach and train up our children.

My last example of a righteous father is one about whom we know very little. However, he had one of the most important fatherhood positions of all time. Joseph, of Nazareth, was called to be the earthly father/guardian of Heavenly Father’s only begotten son in the flesh, Jesus the Christ.

Matthew tells us that Joseph was a just man; when told his betrothed Mary, was expecting a child that was not his, “he was not willing to make her a publick example, [but] was minded to put her away privily.” (Matthew 1:19)

Joseph didn’t act hastily either, he pondered the situation, and as he did so, an angel appeared to him and explained the circumstances and told him not to fear taking Mary to wife.

It is obvious to me that Joseph was a righteous and spiritual man because he was visited by angels, given instruction and then he followed the instructions.

As far as we can read about him in the scriptures he seems to be kind, patient, tender hearted, a totally good man. He raised a child that wasn’t his, teaching him what he knew and providing for him as long as he lived.

One doesn’t have to be the physical father of a child to be a righteous influence, a good provider, or a good teacher. We are all brothers and sisters, children of a Heavenly Father, organized into mortal families patterned after our heavenly family. We who arrive on earth earlier take care of those who arrive later and together we help each other make it through this mortal boarding school so we can graduate and return to our heavenly home.

Single sisters, young and older, I encourage you to look for a man with righteous qualities and then get married before having children. Give your children the priceless gift of a righteous father.

Brothers and sisters, character is more important than looks or wealth or any other worldly measure when it comes to fatherhood. We can learn from the examples of righteous fathers throughout the scriptures. Our best example is our Heavenly Father who daily watches over us and provides for us, “h[e] who has created [us] from the beginning, and is preserving [us] from day to day by lending [us] breath. . . .And . . . all that he requires of [us] is to keep his commandments; and he has promised [us] that if [we] would keep his commandments [we] should prosper in the land; and he never . . . var[ies] from that which he ha[s] said; therefore, if [we] . . . keep his commandments he do[es] bless [us] and prosper [us].” (Mosiah 2:21-22)

Like Father Adam, Abraham, and Lehi, we can be obedient to the commandments, and teach them to our children; like Alma the Elder, we can pray in faith for our wayward children; like Alma the Younger, who was saved by the prayers of his faithful father, we can have the gift of discernment in teaching our children. And like Joseph of Nazareth we can love, teach and train children who are not our own biological children.

In closing I’ll share more from Elder Christofferson’s magnificent talk about fatherhood.
Let us lay aside the exaggerated notions of individualism and autonomy in today’s culture and think first of the happiness and well-being of others. . . . Live your life so that as a man you will bring purity to your marriage and to your children.
(Ensign, May 2016, page 96)

I testify that Our Father in Heaven truly loves us, wants the best for us and is willing to forgive us when we repent and return to him. He can help us to become more like Him and Our Savior if we will let Him.