Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You Matter to Him

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

You Matter to Him, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Comparisons and contrasts are important in helping us understand certain concepts, yet they can be confusing in other situations. It may be helpful to understand how much money $1 trillion is, but being told how high a stack of $100 bills would go until $1 trillion were reached—while impressive—isn't entirely enlightening. Would it reach the moon? Does it really matter? (You can read more about here.)

Similarly, lying on your back under a clear night sky can make you feel incredibly small. You may even conclude that "man is nothing" (see Moses 1:10 for reference). But don't let knowing that your relative size compared to the universe is insignificant keep you from getting out of bed in the morning! Just because you are nothing (comparatively speaking) doesn't mean that you have nothing to contribute.

Or that you have nothing to aspire to.

Or that someone smaller than you doesn't think you're great!

I enjoyed the observation that "the number of stars within range of our telescopes is 10 times greater than all the grains of sand on the world’s beaches and deserts" here's the link to the article).

This observation reminds me of something I heard once. Regarding the Abrahamic covenant and the promise that his seed would be as "as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore," (see Gen. 22:17) it was said that the number is as the sand, but the quality is as the stars!

I wonder if President Uchtdorf was thinking something similar; speaking of the whole "man is nothing" thing, he said:

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.

Okay. This was all from the introduction to President Uchtdorf's larger address, but it's the part that hooked me; I'm still geeking out about it!

There are times when we feel small—even incredibly small. However, it's comforting to know that even if "man is nothing; yet we are everything to God." I'll let President Uchtdorf summarize powerfully:

In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

Did you get that? As I put it in my conference notes, "The universe was created for me!" Well, for you too, I guess. And for everyone else as well.

But I know I matter to the One who created it all!

Small as I am in comparison to the universe, I matter to Him.

And, yes, you do too!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Counsel to Youth

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Counsel to Youth, by Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I have difficulty trusting others to do things the best way—or at least the way I think they should be. I guess I have organizational obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Here's an example:

My eldest son just turned eight and is being baptized this weekend! Where we lived before, each child had their own baptismal program where the family had the opportunity to make the various choices and assignments related to the program; however, here there are monthly baptisms where multiple children may be baptized. As a result, the planning process is subdivided, introducing more uncertainty that I'm usually comfortable with, but especially more than I like in an event that I've planned in my mind for years.

Luckily, the other family whose son is being baptized at the same time are friends of ours, so there is much less to worry about.

Nevertheless, I worry.

For example, we were instructed to ask those who were chosen to give talks to remember to cater their remarks to eight-yr-olds' level of understanding (and attention span). "Five minutes, tops!" we were told to pass on, so that the actual talk would be under ten minutes.

We got to choose who would give the talk on the Gift of the Holy Ghost. My son chose a great speaker, but I couldn't help worrying. There are many avenues that one could traverse when giving such a talk, and I had certain things that I wanted conveyed, but I didn't want to force my ideas on others (but really I did).

In his talk, President Packer boldly told the youth—like my son—"you young people are being raised in enemy territory." I saw the guidance available from the Holy Ghost as a central theme in his counsel to the youth. He even shared part of his patriarchal blessing:

You shall be guided through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and you shall be warned of dangers. If you heed those warnings, our Heavenly Father will bless you.

He then focused on that little word with a big meaning: if.

As I think of my son and the big step he will be taking this weekend, I want him to understand that if.

This weekend, my children helped me clear some tree branches from an area where we were hanging a tree swing. In addition to seeing that they are a lot more eager to help with chores when there is fun attached to the end, I had the chance to talk with them about whatever came up. Entirely organically, my son asked me questions about his upcoming baptism and receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

While loading branches and leaves into the compost bin, I realized that I didn't have to worry about what someone else said in a five-minute talk on the Gift of the Holy Ghost—I was being given the opportunity to say what I wanted to say! However, I didn't want to launch into lecture-mode, so I did something rare for me: I didn't worry.

After a quickly offered prayer, I did something that President Packer counseled and decided to "trust in the Lord with all [my] heart" (Prov. 3:5). Setting my long-prepared talk aside, I had a real, natural conversation with my son—whom I love—about something that means a lot to me, and will mean a lot to him: the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

We talked about the if situations.

We talked about how many will talk about the Gift of the Holy Ghost as if it is mostly few-and-far-between promptings, whereas it can be an all-the-time way of living.

We talked about what the Holy Ghost feels like—sharing real examples from both of our lives.

After our talk, I'm ready to trust my son to make good decisions—he already knew all the answers in our talk!—but I still want to be there to help him when needed.

I may have trouble trusting others (remember the organizational OCD?), but I love that great things happen when I "trust in the Lord with all [my] heart."

I'm trying to trust others; I really am! But I still insisted that I be in charge of printing the program for this weekend's baptism.

Certain things just have to be right.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time, without Delay

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time, without Delay, by José L. Alonso
Of the Seventy

My one-yr-old is quite the crawler. Almost daily, I'll be keeping an eye on him while I do some chore, and the next thing I know, he's gone! He seems to love the most dangerous parts of the house (the bathroom, climbing on beds or the couch), so every time he disappears, I experience a moment of panic as I rush off to find him somewhere, smiling up at me, unaware of the increased heart rate he caused.

Elder Alonso told a story of a family trip he took to Mexico City where one of his sons became missing. This is a different situation from the one I shared entirely; my son was "lost" in our house, their son was lost in a city of millions! When they realized the son was missing, the quickly mobilized, using many approaches to find their son: looking, calling out to him, praying.

They found him "innocently looking at toys through a store window." Elder Alonso shared the reflection he had after hugs and kisses were shared:

We learned that in order to go to our son’s rescue, we did not need planning meetings. We simply acted, going out in search of the one who had been lost. We also learned that our son never even realized that he was lost.

Contrast the feelings that parents experience when a child goes missing with what a child must feel who doesn't know he's lost!

I'm sure there are some people I know who are lost, who likewise don't realize they're lost.

I'm not talking about people looking at toys through store windows, of course. Elder Alonso seems to be referring to those who have been separated from the blessings of the gospel and activity in the Church. They may have become distracted by life and were subsequently left behind. We can also help "find" those who are "blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, . . . who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" (D&C 123:12).

This discussion is too general, though. Because of the examples shared above, I can't stop thinking of my own children. I want them to know that I'm committed to watching over them (and watching out for them) in love, and that I don't want them to be left behind or otherwise lost. I want them to feel safe and comfortable in our family so they don't become distracted by outside influences, wander off, and become lost. Instead, I want them safe with me, helping to find others who may be lost.

It's better to help and encourage fellow rescuers than be in need of rescue yourself.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Time Shall Come

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Time Shall Come, by L. Whitney Clayton
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

I enjoyed the account of a then-young Elder Clayton (as a missionary) wondering about the interior of the Government Palace as he tried to teach people in the plaza outside. Later, he toured the interior if that very building as a representative of the Church, and his "young missionary wonderings about the palace were fulfilled in a way that [he] would never have dreamed possible."

I don't have experiences of wanting to go inside of palatial buildings as a representative of the Lord from my mission to Idaho, but I did think about and ponder some of the accounts that Elder Clayton shared as he recounted the impressive growth of the Church. Before interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar's impressive and revelatory dream about the gospel filling the whole earth, Daniel testified:

There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days (Dan. 2:28).

More often, though, I would think about the experience that Wilford Woodruff recounted from 1934 where Joseph smith, a modern prophet, testified:

I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. . . It is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.

Hearing of growth is exciting. Being an active participant in that growth is even better! After telling of the growth of the Church in South America, Elder Clayton said, "Every year the Church spreads farther and farther across the globe."

I'm often lean to the side of the visual learners, so here are two videos that help me get excited about the growth of the Church:

This one was done by the Church and shows Church growth by stake through time. (It uses the creation of new stakes to illustrate the growing Kingdom of God.)

I made this one after seeing the previous one using stakes; it shows the same growth, but as a function of the number of temples.

Can you feel the excitement of this fantastic growth? My family has moved across the country a couple of times, and we've seen varying degrees of establishment of the Church. We went from Utah where it felt like members of the Church were a majority—many of which were lifelong members, to Texas where there were more recent converts and Church members were noticeably fewer and farther between, to Florida where it seems that the majority of Church members were not raised as Church members.

I'm not satisfied, though. I want to see even more growth!

I just need to work on having the courage to be more active in pushing that stone that King Nebuchadnezzer dreamed of around the world!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Personal Revelation and Testimony

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Personal Revelation and Testimony, by Barbara Thompson
Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency

Growing up, my family had a general conference story that was sometimes shared. We were watching conference at home on the television, the story goes, when one of my then-young sisters suddenly stood up, walked to the TV, and turned it off. After asking why she had done that, we learned that she had felt something very strongly inside, didn't know what it was, determined it was because of what we were watching, and decided to turn off the TV.

This is an interesting story that demonstrates how the feelings of the Spirit need in order to be understood to be benefited from.

Sister Thompson shared a related story, but she was older—in college—and knew what the Spirit was telling her:

The Holy Spirit confirmed to my soul that he had spoken the truth. At that moment I had no doubt that the Savior lives. I also had no doubt that I was experiencing personal revelation.

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately. My eldest son just turned eight and is eligible for baptism! Here's a picture of our dapper eight-year-old.

I can remember my own baptism, and have interesting memories: I remember being excited because I would get to pull the plug in the font after I was baptized because I was last in a list of children, but then was a bit sad when I learned that someone had arrived late, so they would get that chance. On the other hand, I remember receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and feeling so light and almost disconnected from gravity during the ordinance.

As I help my son prepare for baptism, I want him to have memories that he will recall with fondness, but even more, I want him to know more than I knew—so he's not surprised by the feelings of the Spirit that will be there, and that he will experience at other times in life.

I want my son to know that the Spirit does speak, but I also want him to know, as Sister Thompson shared, that "the Spirit speaks in many ways."

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (D&C 8:2).

This is a fun time for me to be a parent. At this important stage of life, my son frequently reminds me by his actions that he is kind, loving, and trying in so many ways to be like Jesus. It's true that I want him to be better than I was when I was baptized—also better than I am now—but most of all, I want him to have the personal revelation experiences and testimony that he will need to grow, to be an example, and to be happy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Power of Scripture

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Power of Scripture, by Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I value the friendships that I share with people from the wide spectrum of belief. Some of my friends can't understand why I believe in a loving God when so much pain and suffering exists in the world; others believe in a loving God, but can't understand why I believe in modern prophets and apostles when the Bible is all they say they need. As I reviewed Elder Scott's words (he's one of the modern apostles) on the power of scripture, I thought of other friends I have who are harder to classify in the belief spectrum.

I started a thread on a religious forum asking about agency that somehow transformed to a discussion on Trinitarianism (Christians who believe in the Trinity) compared with the LDS view of a Godhead (where Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are united in purpose, but separate entities). The virtues and power of the Bible were expressed from both sides, but the non-LDS participants united in saying that there is no communication from heaven after the Bible's recorded words because there is no need. The heavens, they say, are closed with regard to prophets—but can be "opened" when receiving instruction from Bible passages.

When I consider the idea of heavenly silence, I can't help but think of darkness and confusion. Elder Scott shared insight that is helpful here:

Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high.

You may say, "But others in your 'closed heaven' camp likewise find light in the scriptures." True, but Elder Scott continued and illustrated the bigger picture for me:

They [the scriptures] can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
. . . Pondering a passage of scripture can be a key to unlock revelation and the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

As we turn to the scriptures and ponder what God has said to others—or see how His hand has influenced others' lives—we can align ourselves to receive direct, personal revelation to bless our lives.

We rightly seek advice from friends in times of need. Elder Scott spoke of the scriptures as being our friends:

Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world.

I'm grateful for all my friends—even those who don't agree with me religiously (but I don't usually keep them in a filing cabinet). The social media explosion where so many are reconnecting with friends from the past is an example of how much society values friendship.

If scriptures are like friends, then I should spend more time reading their status updates. If scriptures are like friends, then I shouldn't leave them sitting on the shelf when a crisis presents itself. If scriptures are like friends, then I should introduce them to people I meet.

I like the idea of scriptures being friends. But where do you think they sit on the belief spectrum...?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

As We Meet Again

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

As We Meet Again, by Thomas S. Monson
President, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Which is the most important of all the Church-owned or Church-built facilities, and why? (e.g. meetinghouses, temples, ranches/farms, packing plants)

Here's President Monson's answer:

No Church-built facility is more important than a temple. Temples are places where relationships are sealed together to last through the eternities. We are grateful for all the many temples across the world and for the blessing they are in the lives of our members.

I'm grateful for temples. While our current temple is farther away than anywhere else we've lived as a family, we still excitedly go each month! (But we're very excited that a new temple is being built a couple of hours closer in Ft. Lauderdale.)

Yes, I love the temple, but I'm more pleased that my children love the temple and don't complain about the day full of driving associated with our monthly temple trips. We're learning and regularly re-learning the benefits of temples and regular temple attendance, together.