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.