27 December 2021

What I Said on Christmas Eve


What Christmas Means to Me

The Christmas story, the story of Jesus’ birth has been told and retold for centuries in venues ranging from great Gothic Cathedrals to tiny log cabins to fox holes at the battlefront.  Millions are likely more familiar with this story than they are with the circumstances and details of their own birth.  Jesus’ nativity is the story of obedience, service, peace and hope.   

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

The word taxed in the King James Bible can be translated also as counted, or numbered. It is generally thought that a census was being taken and everyone went to the city of their ancestral home.  When the Israelites entered the promised land it was divided among the tribes with the area of Bethlehem, already an old city, being given to the tribe of Judah. Joseph and Mary traveled south to be counted among the descendents of the tribe of Judah.

Having given birth five times, myself, I can imagine what a difficult and tiring journey that must have been. Joseph and Mary arrived to find the city thronged with the returning families that had scattered over the years. Perhaps the journey took longer than anticipated because of frequents stops for rests. Whatever the reasons, it wasn’t too long after arrival that the birth of Mary’s child was imminent.
 “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”   (Luke 2:1, 3-7)

The scriptures are silent as to who attended Mary as she labored and delivered this special baby. Perhaps Joseph sent for a midwife, perhaps a relation, a cousin or aunt, was there. Perhaps there were angels unseen, but ministering and comforting a young wife far from home giving birth to the Savior of the world in humble circumstances.

We do know what happened after Jesus was born.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  (Luke 2:8-14)

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”  (Luke 2: 15-17)

The Shepherds didn’t procrastinate after hearing about the Savior’s birth. They didn’t call for a meeting and put it on the calendar. They went “with haste” to the manger where the baby lay.  After they saw for themselves, they left the stable bursting with good news, telling everyone they could about the wondrous babe in the manger.

Is there a message for us here?  We can’t be satisfied merely to hear about Jesus.  We must seek him ourselves.  Searching for him “with haste” and then when we have found him; telling others, sharing the precious gift of God, just as the shepherds of old did. Finding the Savior should change our lives. Having faith in him should change our lives. Obeying him will change our life. Following him will change our life. Sharing him will change others.

The story doesn’t end there though. The Lord taught Nephi saying “Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men,. . .and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea even upon all the nations of the earth?” (1 Nephi 29:7)

Matthew records what happened next in Jesus’ story.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him?

“And they said unto [them] In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, ‘And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.’  

“When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:1-2, 5-6, 9-11)

The scriptures don’t give us the identity of the wise men from the east; but in my mind they could be prophets from the eastern lands to whom the Lord revealed the signs of his coming. They recognized the signs when given and journeyed westward to Bethlehem to offer their gifts to the newborn King.

We can offer gifts to Christ also.  He said “And ye shall offer . . . unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit . . . Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God.” (3 Nephi 9:20, 22)  “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:35) “Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (3 Nephi 12:16)  “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) 
What does Christmas mean to me? Christmas celebrates the beginning of the mortal life of the One who would grow up to accomplish the mission of the Great Atoning Sacrifice.  Jesus is our Brother, our Spiritual Father, our Exemplar, our Healer, our Lord and Savior.  I celebrate his mortal birth in gratitude for his condescension and mercy in coming to save us from the bonds of death and sin.

Is there a right way to celebrate his birth? Not really. Christmas can be anything that leads us to Him, to obey Him, to serve Him, to share Him with others.  When we look beneath all the trappings of commercialism we can find the core of love and service that motivates our celebration.  The Psalmist expresses the feelings of my heart, “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.  My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.” (Psalms 104:33-34)

I testify that he lives; he is our Savior, Redeemer and Friend; and his Atonement is infinite and eternal, as well as totally personal for each one of us.

15 December 2021

The Most Important Talk I've Ever Written

In 2014 I was asked to be the main Sacrament Meeting speaker on the Sunday before Christmas. When I prayed to know what I should say this is the talk that came to me, it was a deeply spiritual experience. I hope it will inspire you this season.

Christmas 2014
Atlantic Branch Sacrament Meeting
21 December 2014

At various times in my life I’ve suffered with acute homesickness. Sometimes, such as when I was a missionary, the condition of homesickness was easily explained. At other times while at home with a loving husband and wonderful children the intense feelings of longing for home were not so readily understandable. After pondering and praying about it I realized that the longings were not for an earthly home and family but for my heavenly home and family. Although a veil of forgetfulness covers our memories when we are born here on earth, our spirit remembers and responds to echoes of the beauty and refinement we used to know. We feel our hearts and souls stretching to reach our Heavenly Parents and long to be with them again as we were in the beginning.

The poet William Wordsworth put it most beautifully:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:  
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,   60
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,  
          And cometh from afar:  
        Not in entire forgetfulness,  
        And not in utter nakedness,  
But trailing clouds of glory do we come   65
        From God, who is our home:

Let’s imagine the scene in our pre-mortal life. With our intelligences housed in our spirit bodies we had matured to the point where we needed to take the next step to progress any further. Our Heavenly Father called for a Grand Council of all His children. We gathered in anticipation of His wisdom and teaching. He spoke eloquently of His Plan for our Happiness which would require that we leave His presence and go to an earth for further schooling and testing. I imagine He showed us the blueprints of the world we would live on and images of what it would look like. I’m sure we were in awe of the planned world’s beauty and majesty. We were thrilled to be able to have the chance to gain a body like our Father’s, for that is the only way we could become like Him. He taught us of the perils we would face and the tests we would endure away from Him. Although they may have sounded challenging and maybe a bit frightening, in our youthful vigor we knew we could be valiant and strong; we would pass the tests and return unscathed.

Our experienced Father knew better than we did that all of us would stumble and fall in mortality, no one would return unscarred. He gently explained to us that because He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance He would provide a Savior for us to take upon Himself our sins and weaknesses, paying the terrible price of justice for us through an Atoning Sacrifice so that mercy could claim us. I expect we breathed a sigh of relief at the news that through repentance and accepting the power of the Atonement we could be cleansed and made whole so we might return to our Father.

When Father asked “Whom shall I send [to be the Savior]?” (Abraham 3:27) two of our brothers stepped forward. Lucifer spoke up “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1) Jesus, whom the Father called My Beloved Son, answered “Here am I, send me Father; thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Abraham 3:27 and Moses 4:2) Heavenly Father chose His Beloved Son, Jesus, known as Christ, the Anointed One, to send to earth at the appointed time to be our Savior. 

Next we watched as the earth was created for us. Do you remember our reaction?

In the Old Testament is a record of Jehovah asking Job “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7) That was us! Our reaction was joyful singing! Sometimes I wonder if the stirring feelings I experience when I hear the Tabernacle Choir sing are because my soul remembers the joy and singing of that grand occasion. 

The earth was created and Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. They were married by God, and given commandments, first, to be fruitful and multiply, and second, to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While in the garden they walked and talked with God, innocent as children. We do not know how long they were in this state. But we do know that they couldn’t progress any further. I’m sure we watched and wondered what would happen, trusting in Our Father’s wisdom that His Plan would work for our good. 

Satan came along with the idea that he could really mess things up. He didn’t realize that he was part of the plan. Our Father in Heaven cannot force anyone. He gives us the most precious gift of agency, the power to choose for ourselves. Heavenly Father knew we needed to come to earth and experience mortal life to be tested away from His presence. He allowed Satan to tempt our first parents, giving Adam and Eve the chance to choose for themselves whether or not they would be obedient. Eve, in a great act of courage and faith, partook of the forbidden fruit, so that Father’s plan could come to pass and we all would have the chance to be born into mortality. I believe that there was great rejoicing as we watched the Plan unfold on earth.

Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden for transgressing the commandment and now were mortal, subject to pain and death. Spiritual separation from God and physical death of our mortal bodies were the results of the fall. 

After being cast out of the garden, Adam and Eve became farmers, the scriptures say “they began to till the earth, and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat [their] bread by the sweat of [their] brow.” (Moses 5:1) They began to have children, and their children grew up and paired off and began to multiply. We watched as our spirit brothers and sisters departed for their turn on earth.

Adam and Eve continued faithful and prayed together, and in time heard the voice of the Lord from over by the garden, giving them commandments to worship the Lord their God, and offer the firstlings of their flocks for an offering unto the Lord. The scriptures record that Adam was obedient to the commandments of the Lord. (Moses 5:4-5)

After some time, the scriptures say “many days”, an angel of the Lord appeared to Adam and asked “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?” Adam said “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” Adam obeyed the commandments without fully understanding what they meant. The angel then explained, “This thing [meaning the sacrifice of the firstling of the flock] is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the son forevermore.” (Moses 5:6-8)

The scriptures record that “. . . in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning; henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.” (Moses 5:9) Adam responded to this, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.” Eve said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Moses 5:10-11) I wonder if we, the unborn spirits waiting to come to earth, were there, eavesdropping a little and rejoicing that Our Father’s Plan of Happiness was proceeding.

I wonder if we got impatient in heaven as we watched events on earth. Did we rejoice when our brothers and sisters were righteous? Did we mourn when they were wicked? Did we hope that we would do better and be faithful in our mortal experience? I wonder if we interviewed those who had gone before us to see what earth life was really like. Were we anxious and afraid, or full of hope and faith, valiant in our testimony and longing for the chance to prove ourselves?

Now let’s move forward in time to the point when the most important baby would be born on earth. Our Father sent an angel to a carefully chosen and prepared young woman to announce that she, Mary, was the chosen vessel. Oh how we must have looked on her with love and admiration, knowing of her great virtue and purity.  Nephi describes her as “most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” (1 Ne 11:15) And I’m sure we admired Joseph for his humility and obedience when told his beloved was with child and that he should not fear to take her as his wife. I have no doubt we watched as they journeyed to Bethlehem to be counted in the census ordered by Roman leaders. Do you think we were nervous about the timing and the threat to the faithful in the western hemisphere that if the sign was not given they would be killed? Did we have faith and trust in Our Father that his timing is perfect?
And then began the labor of bringing a mortal body into this world. We watched as Mary brought forth her first born son. Perhaps we were among the heavenly host who announced the birth to the humble shepherds. Can you imagine the joy we felt as we sang “Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Our hearts must have overflowed with happiness that the Anointed One was finally born to live his mortal life and be our example, our guide, our Savior.

We must have hovered near as the shepherds made haste to worship at the manger, and left to spread the good news to others who had waited so long for the Messiah to arrive. Do you think we watched the wise men from the east traveling toward the star? They must have consulted their scrolls of prophecy and counseled among themselves to ensure they were proceeding in the right direction. Then did we return to watch as they presented their gifts to the young child and his mother? Oh, how gracious they were and generous in their gifts to the Son of God; he who was promised and prophesied of since the beginning of the world. Could we have guessed the wickedness of the Satan inspired leaders whose jealousy propelled the slaughter of the innocents. We must have wept at the horrifying edict of Herod to kill children under the age of two, and were so grateful that the Father sent an angel to warn Joseph to take his family to safety in Egypt.

I imagine we watched carefully as our Savior grew to manhood and embraced His mission to bring salvation to the world. He was completely obedient to all of Our Father’s commandments. He never faltered or gave in temptation. We must have marveled at His knowledge and complete self-control. He made it look so easy!

He lived up to the names Isaiah prophesied he would have:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Jesus went about doing good, teaching and training His disciples to become Apostles, special witnesses of Him, who could carry on the work when He was gone. He taught His followers of a higher law and the discipline of self-mastery. His love and mercy manifested itself in the many miracles of healing He performed and the teachings He espoused. His complete obedience to His Father’s will became the perfect example for the world.

His apostle, known as John the Beloved, testified: “And there are many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25)

At the October [2014] General Conference, President Monson said: 
Of paramount importance, we have been provided with a perfect example to follow—even the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—and we have been instructed to follow that example. Said the Savior Himself: “Come follow me.” “The works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do.” He posed the question, “What manner of men ought ye to be?: And then He answered, “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” “He marked the path and led the way.”
We read in Proverbs the admonition, “Ponder the path of thy feet.” As we do, we will have the faith, even the desire, to walk the path which Jesus walked. We will have no doubt that we are on a path which our Father would have us follow. The Savior’s example provides a framework for everything that we do, and His words provide an unfailing guide. His path will take us safely home.”
(Ensign, November 2014, p. 86, 88) 

And isn’t that what we want? To make it safely home?

The time came for Jesus to complete His mission and I’ve no doubt we watched anxiously as the appointed day came. He spent the evening with His Apostles, partaking of a meal, the Last Supper they would have together. He introduced a new ordinance to them. He broke bread, blessed it, and said “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you.” Next He took a cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to His Apostles to drink, and said, “This is in remembrance of my blood . . . , which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name.” 

After administering the sacrament to the Nephites, Jesus said: “He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.” (Cheryl A. Esplin, Ensign, November 2014, p. 12,13)

We must have watched in wonderment at the simplicity of this ordinance and the wisdom that through this simple ordinance “Christ teaches us that the Spirit heals and renews our souls. The promised blessing of the sacrament is that we will ‘always have his Spirit to be with [us]. ‘” (Cheryl A. Esplin, Ensign, November 2014, p. 13)

But this was not the end and we must have been anxious as we watched Jesus announce that there was one who would betray Him. How unthinkable that must have seemed to us. But it had to be.

Jesus led his apostles to a garden and instructed them to “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” Then He went further into the garden and knelt down to pray. As he labored in prayer we heard Him say “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Did we hide our eyes in horror at the agony our brother was enduring? Did we lose faith and cry out “No, it’s too hard, he’ll never make it”? Did we pray fervently asking the Father to help? And then watch as an angel descended to strengthen Jesus in his suffering. Did our tears fall as we watched Him endure the absence of Our Father as He took upon Himself our sins, weaknesses, pains, and sorrows and “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground”?

Oh the relief we must have felt when that part in the Garden was over, only to watch as he was arrested and taken before wicked priests and leaders to be mocked and scourged and tormented in unlawful trials, then sentenced to death by crucifixion.

Luke records that “it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.” (Luke 23:44-45) Matthew add the details that “the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;”(Matthew 27:51) It was finished. Our Brother completed the work He was sent to do. I imagine the joyful noise in Heaven was deafening! I believe we greeted Him with “shouts of acclamation” and cries of Hosanna! He broke the bonds of sin. He paid the debt to justice for us. He set us free! But there was still more. His spirit returned to earth to retrieve His mortal body in an act never before seen. He was resurrected, spirit and body joined together never to die again. Now the celebrations escalated. We could become like Our Heavenly Father with glorified, perfected bodies. What a debt of gratitude we owe our elder brother.

And for me that is the real reason for our Christmas festivities. Christmas celebrates the beginning of the mortal life of the One who would grow up to accomplish the mission of the Great Atoning Sacrifice.  Jesus is our eldest Brother, our Spiritual Father, our Exemplar, our Healer, our Lord and Redeemer.  We celebrate his mortal birth in gratitude for his condescension and mercy in coming to save us from the bonds of death and sin. He is the one who makes Our Father’s Plan of Happiness complete and operational in our lives.

With humble hearts full of thankfulness we should put Christ at the center of our lives, following His example and teachings. His perfection and strength is available to us through the power of the Atonement to help us obediently walk the gospel path he blazed.

Many celebrate Christmas with a birthday cake for Jesus and gifts of goals for self-improvement or service to others. Do you know what the best gift to give Jesus Christ is? I believe He told us Himself when he said to the Nephites gathered at the temple in Bountiful after His resurrection:
And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold ye have the commandments before you and the law is fulfilled. Therefore come unto me and be ye saved.
(3 Ne 12: 19-20)

He gave us the incomparable gift of the Atonement, paying our debt for sin, and taking upon Himself our sorrows and pains. We can give Him a heart broken by humility, and a spirit sincerely remorseful of the sins we have committed. By offering up our pride and willfulness and covenanting to always remember Him and obey His commandments we can have His Spirit to be with us always. What a fitting Christmas gift for the king who rules over the Kingdom of God.

I know Our Heavenly Father lives; I’m so grateful for His Plan of Happiness; I know our Savior, Jesus Christ, lives; I have felt His loving arms around me succoring me in times of need. Oh how grateful I am for Him. He is the head of this great church and kingdom. We are led by His prophet, [at the time of this talk] Thomas S. Monson. I know the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, is true because I have read it and studied it and prayed about it. If you don’t know these things with surety also, make it your goal for the new year to study, pray about them, then act in obedience to the commandments so your testimony can grow and strengthen enough to carry you through the times in which we live so we all can make it safely back to our Heavenly home and parents.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

12 August 2021

Father's Day Talk


Jesus Christ - Our Covenantal Father

20 June 2021

Fairmont Branch, Minnesota


The English language has some unique expressions:

Father Time

Father Christmas

Father of Our Country

In the church we even use the expression "Father of the Ward". And of course, Father of our Spirits.


My own father has been gone for three years and my grandfathers for over 40 years, so I don't call any earthly man Father any more. At times I miss them immensely.


Today I will talk about a very special father, one whom we should continually learn about and emulate; and one we can turn to at any time for help and comfort.


After King Benjamin had taught his people and introduced the covenant that he wanted them to make, the people exclaimed that they knew their king had taught them the truth and they desired to enter into this covenant to do God's will and ". . .to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days. . . " King Benjamin responded "And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; 

for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters." (Mosiah 5:5, 7)


Jesus Christ becomes our spiritual father when we make covenants in the waters of baptism to take upon us his name, to obey his commandments, and follow him to the end of our lives. We could call him Our Covenantal Father. This has been so since the human family began with Adam. Recorded in Moses, we're told that after Adam was baptized, being laid under the water and brought forth out of the water, that the Spirit of God descended upon Adam and he was born of the spirit; then he heard a voice from heaven declaring, "Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen." (Moses 6:64-68)


John the Beloved, apostle of Jesus, in his recorded testimony says, that ". . .as many as received him [Jesus], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:12)


Each week we come here to renew our covenant with this special father through partaking of the sacrament. This ordinance is the most sacred one we can participate in outside of the temple. In this ordinance we affirm that we take upon us Christ's name, that we will always remember him, and that we will keep (or obey) his commandments. 

In return we are promised that his spirit will always be with us. (Doc. & Cov. 20:77-78)


What else does our covenantal father, Jesus Christ, do for us?


From the document 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."


Three responsibilities: Preside, provide and protect! 


A father presides over his family.


The Doctrine and Covenants begins with these words:

Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together. 

Doesn't that sound like a father, calling his family together to give them instructions?


Jesus Christ stands at the head of this church, he presides and instructs us through his living prophet and apostles. He is not distant, but very near and aware of all that is happening to and among his children.


Last year President Russell M. Nelson gave a talk in General Conference titled Let God Prevail.

He said: "When your greatest desire is to let God prevail,. . ., so many decisions become easier. So many issues become nonissues! You know how best to groom yourself. You know what to watch and read, where to spend your time, and with whom to associate. You know what you want to accomplish. You know the kind of person you really want to become.

Now, my dear brothers and sisters, it takes both faith and courage to let God prevail. It takes persistent, rigorous spiritual work to repent and to put off the natural man through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (Mosiah 3:19) It takes consistent, daily effort to develop personal habits to study the gospel, to learn more about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and to seek and respond to personal revelation."


Do we let Jesus Christ preside or prevail in our lives? Do we study his commandments and example, then do our best to keep them and follow him? Do we repent daily of our sins, small and not so small so we can be reconciled to him? 


Jesus Christ presides in love and righteousness. He has patience and mercy and so much love for us. He welcomes us with open arms to receive comfort, help and hope. He cares about the details of our lives and rejoices when we succeed in obeying his commandments, and sorrows when we fail.


To us He says things like, "Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world," (D&C 50:40) ". . . be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;" (D&C 61:36) ". . .ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along." (D&C 78:17) "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)


With such a Father, why wouldn't we want to let him preside or prevail in our lives!


A father provides the necessities of life for his family. 

King Benjamin taught this about the Savior:

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another--

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another--I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.   (Mosiah 2:20-21)


He created us, keeps and preserves us from day to day, lends us breath, allows us to live and move and do according to our own will, supporting us from moment to moment! He has provided everything for us so that we can pass the test of this mortal boarding school if we choose to follow Him.


During Jesus' mortal ministry he used his time to teach and provide for some specific physical needs through miraculous means. He healed persons with all sorts of infirmities; he fed the hungry, rescued the lost, cast out demons, and raised the dead. He still does that, though today he works through authorized priesthood holders and faithful sisters. The fact that He is not physically present doesn't negate his ability to work miracles in our lives.


My earliest memory is of being in bed in terrible pain while my father and another brother in the ward anointed me with consecrated oil and then sealed the anointing in a priesthood blessing of healing. I was just two years old.  And I was instantly healed. 


Another miracle occurred some years ago, at a time in my life when I felt burdened and unloved, I stepped into my closet to get away from clamoring children and poured out my heart to God asking Him if I was loved. Though I couldn't see anyone I could feel warm, strong arms around me holding me close. The feeling of love that poured through me is indescribable. I still rely on the comfort and strength that experience gave me to get through tough times. My Covenantal Father provided comfort, strength and hope to a daughter in great need.


Many miracles are much less dramatic. Finding a needed item on sale can feel like a miracle. I like to think it is, given by a Father who knows my needs and provides for them. Seeing a rainbow; feeling a cooling breeze on a hot day; arriving at a destination safely; hearing from a friend at just the right time; all these and so many, many more examples of little and big things that occur I consider to be miracles. Tender mercies of provision from a loving Father. Perhaps we just need to be more aware, and express more gratitude for all that Our Father does for us and gives us.


A father protects his family. 


What is it that a father protects his family from? We live in a relatively peaceful time and place. We don't face war or famine. At least not in a physical sense.


Elder Dallin H. Oaks said this:

Many of our challenges are different from those faced by former pioneers but perhaps just as dangerous and surely as significant to our own salvation and the salvation of those who follow us.3 For example, as for life-threatening obstacles, the wolves that prowled around pioneer settlements were no more dangerous to their children than the drug dealers or pornographers who threaten our children. Similarly, the early pioneers’ physical hunger posed no greater threat to their well-being than the spiritual hunger experienced by many in our day. The children of earlier pioneers were required to do incredibly hard physical work to survive their environment. That was no greater challenge than many of our young people now face from the absence of hard work, which results in spiritually corrosive challenges to discipline, responsibility, and self-worth. Jesus taught: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). (Following the Pioneers; Oct. 1997)


How does our covenantal father, Jesus Christ protect us?


He has given us His example, the commandments, and covenants.


We have to do the work of studying His example in the scriptures and putting into practice what he did and said. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30 emphasis added) 


Jesus can protect us from the burdens and weariness of the world. The burden of obedience to the commandments is light compared to the burdens of the consequences of sin. Obedience brings a freedom not known by those who are under crushing addictions or guilt or imprisonment. The commandments are not restrictions, edicts from a tyrannical deity; rather they are boundaries and protections set by a loving Father to ensure our physical and spiritual safety.


Joseph Smith taught us that "There is a law, irrevocably degreed 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 is it predicated." (D&C 130:20-21) We are not only protected by the commandments, we are rewarded or blessed by them too.


After preaching to a multitude Jesus left by boat with his disciples. While underway a great storm arose and the men were afraid. They found Jesus asleep, woke him up saying Lord, save us, we perish. He replied, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Matt. 8:23-26)


Jesus can calm the tempests in our lives, and give us the protection of His peace in the midst of them. He said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27) 


I recently read a book about India which included descriptions of some of their Hindu religious practices of giving offerings to their gods to show their devotion, and incur favorable or desired outcomes.


Our Covenantal Father says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) For "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10) By obeying the commandments and keeping our covenants we will be both spiritually and physically protected under His great power.


What more could we ask for?


Brothers and sisters, most of us have truly wonderful fathers, whom we honor this day. I suspect that most of those wonderful fathers patterned their lives after the Savior, Jesus Christ, Our Covenantal Father who presides over, provides for and protects us, His children.


I testify that He lives! He loves us more than we can understand. He gave His life for us and rose again that we also can live again and be reunited with our loved ones. May we be more diligent in learning of Him, following His example, obeying His commandments and keeping our covenants.


In His sacred and holy name, Jesus Christ, Amen.



20 April 2021

The Busy Excuse

Too often we use the "I'm busy" excuse to assuage our guilt over not getting something done. But are we really too busy?

  • Am I busy avoiding what I should be doing?
  • Am I busy evading the work that's eternally important?
  • Am I too busy connecting with the world to connect with the divine?
I'm pondering these questions and looking for ways to change. It's not easy, and it certainly is a process, rather than an event.

What do you think?

07 January 2021

Conduit for Revelation

In November 2019 I gave a talk in Stake conference that I shared in a previous blog post. I've continued to ponder on the subject of that talk for over a year. Particularly this paragraph:
A popular question in Christian circles, when facing a situation or need, is: What would Jesus do? Frankly, that question makes me uncomfortable because I can’t do what Jesus did. I don’t have the ability to read minds and hearts; I don’t have the power to heal all manner of sicknesses, and I don’t have the authority to raise the dead.
At the first of this year I restarted reading the Book of Mormon, reading just one chapter a day. I love this book and find it to be a conduit for revelation to me. The other night as I began to read a chapter the conduit opened up and my mind filled with understanding such that I had to pay attention and write it all down. Perhaps what came to me is old news to you, but if not, here it is for our mutual benefit:

Healing the spiritually blind: help them to see the truths of the Gospel and the Lord's hand in their life; help them to see the eternal purpose of life, the Plan of Salvation, their divine nature and individual worth.

Healing the spiritually deaf: teach them the ways to hear the Spirit through the scriptures, General Conference addresses, the still small voice, warm feelings, remembrances, etc.

Healing the spiritually lame: teach them the skills and practices that will help them move forward spiritually under their own power.

Raising the spiritually dead: reactivating someone, restoring their spiritual life.

Feeding the multitudes spiritually: give excellent lessons, talks and testimonies; well prepared, deeply fulfilling spiritually, giving them living water and the bread of life.

Succoring the spiritual beggar: give time and attention to those who struggle, who are poor financially, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, etc.

Curing the spiritually sick: love and accept those who sins are visible or smellable, as well as those whose are not; love is a healing balm; acceptance creates trust that allows for change to happen.

I was so energized by that revelation! It helped me understand that although I can't heal people physically, I can have an effect on them spiritually and can put this into practice in my ministering efforts.

I have always loved visiting teaching and done my best to be faithful in that. Ministering is just a broader vision of taking care of the needs of the members. I miss being visited regularly. I think that until ministering is better understood and practiced, we won't be able to become a Zion people. Because I don't have any visible physical needs people think I don't need anything. I really miss the uplift of the monthly spiritual message and would love to receive something similar still.

I know Heavenly Father understands my needs because I got a strange phone call the other day from a Jehovah Witness (with an out of state phone number) saying she was my neighbor just calling to share a Bible verse with me. She actually shared two different verses and then bore her testimony of the Savior. We talked for only a few minutes, but it sure lifted my spirit and fed my soul to talk to someone about the gospel and how it is our anchor in the time we live. How she got my number is a mystery, but I'm so grateful she was faithful to her conviction to share the gospel.