30 August 2022

Endure to the End (I hope I can!)

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

I think it was when I was serving as a missionary that I began to notice lots of scriptures about enduring to the end. I marked and cross-referenced them believing they were important reminders that we have to remain obedient and active in our testimonies until the end of our lives. It also helped me get through some hard days as a missionary in the deep South with little success in finding the golden contacts.

Another season of enduring to the end was during five pregnancies, which can not be rushed or ended just because I'm tired of feeling bloated and cumbersome and weary in body and spirit. Each baby came when she or he was ready to come. I had to endure to the end!

In this particular session of conference Elder Robert D. Hales spoke about enduring to the end. "Our greatest example comes from the life of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. . . . The Savior of the World was left alone by His Father to experience, of His own free will and choice, an act of agency which allowed Him to complete His mission of the Atonement." Where would we be if He had given up, and not endured to the end? Our gratitude should be boundless for Jesus' faithfulness in completing His assigned mission.

Elder Hales also spoke of the pioneers. "They knew their purpose or goal--to not only find Zion but to establish it. Because they knew that, they were willing to endure all manner of hardships to bring it about." More gratitude here for the fortitude of those faithful and steadfast pioneers who didn't give up when the going got hard. Elder Hales counseled us saying, "We are taught in the scriptures that there must be opposition in all things (see 2 Ne. 2:11). It is not a question of if we are ready for the tests; it is a matter of when. We must prepare to be ready for tests that will present themselves without warning."

Another gem, "The Church is not built in one generation. The sound growth of the Church takes hold over three and four generations of faithful Saints. Passing the fortitude of faith to endure to the end from one generation to the next generation is a divine gift of unmeasured blessings to our progeny. Also, we cannot endure to the end alone. It is important that we help by lifting and strengthening one another."

Have you ever pondered what it actually means to "endure to the end"? Do we just grind through our days hoping that it gets better? Do we quit when things are tough, taking an easier route? Elder Hales gives some advice: "We learn to endure to the end by learning to finish our current responsibilities, and we simply continue doing it all of our lives. We cannot expect to learn endurance in our later years if we have developed the habit of quitting when things get difficult now. . . . Everyone has something they must learn to master. Some are just more obvious than others. . . . When we take an assignment, we have to think, 'I will learn how to accomplish this task by all honorable means, by doing it the Lord's way. I will study, ask questions, search and pray. I have the potential to keep learning. I am not finished until the assignment is completed.' This is enduring to the end: seeing things through to completion."

And finally, "There is nothing that we are enduring that Jesus does not understand, and He waits for us to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer."

I certainly thought life would get easier as I got older; I'd be wiser, more experienced, etc. Well, in some ways that's true, but in other ways I feel more foolish and inexperienced now than I did as a missionary. There truly is opposition in all things! And enduring to the end means staying faithful to covenants and obedient to commandments to the very end when we take our last breath.

Elder Hales says, "I testify that if we will be obedient and if we are diligent, our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed, and we will be close to the Lord and feel of His love and of the comfort of the Holy Ghost." What a promise worth enduring for!

23 August 2022

Timeless Testimonies

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

President Thomas S. Monson began the session with a talk called "Look to God and Live". Two gems from him:
  • There seems to be an unending supply of trouble for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.
  • Lest we question the Lord concerning our troubles, let us remember that the wisdom of God may appear as foolishness to men; but the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks addressed the question, Have You Been Saved?
in his masterful lawyerly way. I didn't remember all the different ways and means that he talked about and it was a good refresher course to file away again for retrieval in conversations with people of other faiths.

Elder W. Eugene Hansen spoke of Children and the Family, using The Family: A Proclamation to the World as a framework. I loved the quote from his father, "There's nothing so boring as loafing, because you can't stop and rest." He also said of his parents, "And most significantly, they taught by what they did, not just by what they said." I wish I could redo some of my parenting!

Sister Margaret D. Nadauld talked about the joyful invitation to Come Unto Christ. "Surely it pleases the Lord when we, His children, reach out to one another, to give help along the way and to bring another closer to Christ." That is timely today as we strive to build a Zion people ready to receive the Savior when He returns.

Elder Henry B. Eyring also spoke of becoming one saying, "And all of us know something of the sadness and loneliness of being separate and alone." He taught, "Then, through obedience to those ordinances and covenants, their natures would be changed." We don't have to remain in a fallen state, "The Savior's Atonement . . . makes it possible for us to be sanctified. We can then live in unity, as we must to have peace in this life and to dwell with the Father and His Son in eternity."

More gems from him:
  • Where people have that Spirit with them, we may expect harmony. The Spirit puts the testimony of truth in our hearts, which unifies those who share that testimony. The Spirit of God never generates contention. It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife. It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified family, a unified Church, and a world at peace depend on unified souls.
  • Quoting President Clark: "When we partake of the Sacrament we covenant to obey and keep his commandments. There are no exceptions. There are no distinctions, no differences." President Clark taught that just as we repent of all our sins, not a single sin, we pledge to keep all the commandments. Hard as that sounds, it is uncomplicated. We simply submit to the authority of the Savior and promise to be obedient to whatever He commands. It is our surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ which will allow us to be bound as families, as a church, and as the children of our Heavenly Father.
  • We must speak no ill of anyone. We must see the good in each other speak well of each other whenever we can.
  • There is a protection against pride, that sure source of disunity. It is to see the bounties which God pours upon us not only as a mark of His favor but an opportunity to join with those around us in greater service. 
President Gordon B. Hinckley ended this session with his stirring and powerful Testimony. "I would enjoy sitting in a rocker, swallowing prescriptions, listening to soft music, and contemplating the things of the universe. But such activity offers no challenge and makes no contribution. I wish to be up and doing. I wish to face each day with resolution and purpose."

His gems:
  • It is the opportunity, it is the responsibility of every man and woman in this Church to obtain within himself or herself a conviction of the truth of this great latter-day work and of those who stand at its head, even the living God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • We grow in faith and knowledge as we serve, as we study, as we pray.
  • It is this conviction, this quiet inward certainty of the reality of the living God, of the divinity of His Beloved Son, of the restoration of their work in this time, and of the glorious manifestations which have followed which become for each of us the foundation of our faith. This becomes our testimony.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth and it is timeless in its application, sounding as relevant today as when the talks were delivered; even going back to the beginning. What a blessing to have the technology to listen to and read the talks again and again.

16 August 2022

Whistle While You Work

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

So many powerhouse speakers in this session! I remember Elder Maxwell's address, not because I heard it, but because when I read it in the Ensign it resonated with me as something my parents had done with their five children. (They adopted a sixth, but she was handicapped and treated a bit differently.)

Oh how we need a strong work ethic today among our citizens, old and young. In the (I believe) wrongful emphasis on getting a college education we have given too much emphasis on working with minds instead of with our hands; looking down on those who do as less intelligent. WRONG!  My hero, role model for a husband was always President Hinckley, who was a scholar with a great mind, but could build or fix just about anything. He was accomplished in both ways, mind work and hand work. I have great admiration for the many craftsmen and tradesmen who keep our world running and beautiful.

Elder Maxwell said, "Young men, your individual mix of work will vary, understandably, by season and circumstances as between the hours spent on homework and family work and Church work, part-time work, and work on service projects. Each form of work can stretch your talents. . . . Whatever the mix of work, the hardest work you and I will ever do is to put off our selfishness. It is heavy lifting."

What I've learned over the years of mothering is that you can't tell the end from the beginning. The son who was the laziest has turned out to be the most disciplined and hardworking. The son with the best work ethic as a youngster has struggled to keep a job as an adult. It is amazing to see. We treated them all the same!

Elder Maxwell also gave this interesting observation: "When the time comes, young men, make your career choices. Know that whether one is a neuro-surgeon, forest ranger, mechanic, farmer, or teacher is a matter of preference, not of principle. While those career choices are clearly very important, these do not mark your real career path. Instead, brethren, you are sojourning sons of God who have been invited to take the path that leads home. There, morticians will find theirs is not the only occupation to become obsolete. But the capacity to work and work wisely will never become obsolete. And neither will the ability to learn. Meanwhile, my young brethren, I have not seen any perspiration-free shortcuts to the celestial kingdom; there is no easy escalator to take us there."

When I was a child I didn't understand my grandmother's love of doing the dishes. I do now. There is satisfaction is working to make home a clean and lovely place for myself and my family. There is joy in working, even at something that will need to be done again tomorrow!

02 August 2022

Treasure Nuggets

I wish I could focus on only one talk--but that doesn't work. There are just too many little nuggets from each talk that can be shared.

What I really found interesting this week is the many references to the terrible, troubled times we live in. In 1998! Here's my theory about that. We each begin life at a certain point in time and as children we are innocent and don't notice the outside world too much. Only as we mature do we see the evil around us, and as we get older it really does get worse, and we, if we are striving for eternal life, see and feel the division between good and evil more acutely. Therefore, the elderly general authorities are much more aware and feel it more deeply. 

What President Hinckley said in his opening remarks certainly bears repeating. He talked about religious disagreements, such as some not understanding or thinking we are not Christians, and said, "I hope we do not argue over this matter. There is no reason to debate it. We simply, quietly, and without apology testify that God has revealed Himself and His Beloved Son in opening this full and final dispensation of His work. . . . Let us be true disciples of the Christ, observing the Golden Rule, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us strengthen our own faith and that of our children while being gracious to those who are not of our faith. Love and respect will overcome every element of animosity. Our kindness may be the most persuasive argument for that which we believe."

Elder David B. Haight ended his address with this sweet testimony, "Brothers and sisters, live the commandments. Do what is right. Take advantage of this great opportunity in your life to live it well, to be good, to have good works, and to influence other people for good. The gospel is true. I hope that every day of my life I might be able to do some good and to encourage somebody to live a better life and to understand what has been restored to the earth."

Sister Anne G. Wirthlin of the General Primary Presidency gave us this little gem, "Pondering is more than reading words; it is searching for meanings that will help us as we relate to one another and as we make choices in our lives. It is allowing the word to move from our minds to our hearts."

Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric also talked about being misunderstood by other Christians, but he decided that it didn't matter what others think. "So, if we, even in our weak and stumbling way, are earnestly striving to live a Christlike life, how others choose to characterize us should be of little consequence. The responsibility for our Christianity is ours. Others may characterize us as they will, but the true and righteous Judge will judge us as we are. Our discipleship is for us to determine, not someone else. . . . As a Church we are individual Christians, trying to prove our discipleship to the Savior. It is not an institutional matter, it is a personal matter." 

When I was about fourteen I had the question in my heart, 'What is the purpose of life?' One day as our family read the Book of Mormon we came to Alma 34:32, "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." It was one of those Joseph Smith moments where this verse entered into my heart with great power. 

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin spoke about this subject. I love the analogy he gave, "We might compare our eternal journey to a race of three laps around the track. We have completed the first lap successfully and have made wonderful progress. We have started on the second lap. Can you imagine a world-class runner stopping along the track at this point to pick flowers or chase a rabbit that crossed his path? Yet this is what we are doing when we occupy our time with worldly pursuits that do not move us closer to the third lap toward eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God."

Another gem from Elder Wirthlin could be called a great explanation of ministering. "Once we understand that we are all literally brothers and sisters in the family of God, we should feel an obligation for one another's welfare and show our love through deeds of kindness and concern. . . . As we progress and become more like the Savior, we can strengthen every group with whom we associate, including families and friends. The Lord places us in these communities of Saints where we can learn and apply gospel principles to our everyday lives. These groups are at the same time both a school, a proving ground, and a laboratory where we both learn and do as we practice living the gospel."

President James E. Faust spoke of ordinances and covenants. I love hearing his voice! Among other things, he said, "In our society many sacred values have been eroded in the name of freedom of expression. The vulgar and the obscene are protected in the name of freedom of speech. The mainstream of society has become more tolerant, even accepting, of conduct that Jesus, Moses, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and other prophets have warned against since the beginning of human history. We should not allow our personal values to erode, even if others think we are peculiar. We have always been regarded as a peculiar people. However, being spiritually correct is much better than being politically correct. Of course, as individuals and as a people we want to be liked and respected. But we cannot be in the mainstream of society if it means abandoning those righteous principles which thundered down from Sinai, later refined by the Savior, and subsequently taught by modern prophets. We should only fear offending God and His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the head of this Church." 

I think I appreciate these talks now more than I did then. At the time of this conference I was two months from having our fifth child. That baby boy is getting married this Friday, August 5. I have grown and matured a lot since my optimistic and hopeful days as a mother of young children. I've endured the harsh realities of life while I've clung to the iron rod and pressed forward. Life has not turned out like I thought it would, and I have shed many, many tears. I'm really grateful that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been my foundation and anchor. I don't know how others make it through life without Him.