Thursday, April 05, 2007

April 15th - Talk on Fellowshipping

Last night I got a call from Brother White. I'm giving a talk in church on April 15th. The topic is Fellowshipping. I'll capture my preparation for my talk on this blog.

Ten Tips for Terrific Talks

Gordon B. Hinckley, “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 104 (BASIS)

Dallin H. Oaks, “The Role of Members in Conversion,” Ensign, Mar 2003, 52–58

Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Perfect Brightness of Hope: To New Members of the Church,” Ensign, Oct 2006, 2–5

Jeffrey R. Holland, “What I Wish Every New Member Knew—and Every Longtime Member Remembered,” Ensign, Oct 2006, 10–16

Dallin H. Oaks, “Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 7 ... some parts useful

M. Russell Ballard, “The Hand of Fellowship,” Ensign, Nov 1988, 28 last few paragraphs ... quote

Here's the full talk ...

Sunday April 15, 2007

I know most of us have young families and it is difficult to listen in church sometimes, but I humbly ask that you listen and prayerfully consider the topic I'll be discussing today.

Personal Story

Over seven years ago, I moved my family and me here to Texas after graduating from college. I had never been to Texas and I had never been a full-time employee … it truly was a challenging time in my life. But I was optimistic and willing to work. One of the first challenges I had was to sit at a desk for over 8 hours a day. I wasn't used to full-time work … I was used to going to class, attending study sessions, working part-time, playing basketball and a variety of activities throughout the day. Taking on a full-time job changed all of that.

The next challenge I had was learning my new job. I had never even heard of some of the technology I was supposed to learn. At times, in those early days of my career, I became discouraged and felt lost in a sea of IT analysts.

But all of that changed with time and with help from my colleagues. I was assigned a mentor … someone to show me the ropes and teach me my new job. His name was Tim. Tim was patient and willing to work with me. He taught me, showed me how to perform my duties and often liked to "chew the fat" with me. A few months into my new job and many mistakes later, I felt a renewed commitment to tackle my assignment. Soon I was given more liberties in my job and I was no longer a weight on Tim and my other team mates. I was an asset and I was productive.

Why have I told you this story? I've told you this story because I was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or in other words, I am not a convert. I told you this story because I do not know what it is like to be a convert in the Church. I have tried to imagine what it would be like and the closest thing I could think of was my experience at the beginning of my career.

If you are still confused, let me read you a quote from President Hinckley from a talk he delivered back in 1999. He said,

I received the other day a very interesting letter. It was written by a woman who joined the Church a year ago. She writes:

“My journey into the Church was unique and quite challenging. This past year has been the hardest year that I have ever lived in my life. It has also been the most rewarding. As a new member, I continue to be challenged every day.”

She goes on to say that when she joined the Church she did not feel support from the
leadership in her ward. Her bishop seemed indifferent to her as a new member. Rebuffed, as she felt, she turned back to her mission president, who opened opportunities for her.

She states that “Church members don’t know what it is like to be a new member of the Church. Therefore, it’s almost impossible for them to know how to support us.”

(President Hinckley goes on to say,)

I challenge you, my brothers and sisters, that if you do not know what it is like, you try to imagine what it is like. It can be terribly lonely. It can be disappointing. It can be frightening. We of this Church are far more different from the world than we are prone to think we are. This woman goes on: “When we as investigators become members of the Church, we are surprised to discover that we have entered into a completely foreign world, a world that has its own traditions, culture, and language. We discover that there is no one person or no one place of reference that we can turn to for guidance in our trip into this new world. At first the trip is exciting, our
mistakes even amusing, then it becomes frustrating and eventually, the frustration turns into anger. And it’s at these stages of frustration and anger that we leave. We go back to the world from which we came, where we knew who we were, where we contributed, and where we could speak the language.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 104)

In his talk, President Hinckley went on to remind us that every new convert needs three things:

1. A friend in the Church to whom he can constantly turn, who will walk beside him, who will answer questions who will understand his problems.

2. An assignment

3. To be nourished by the good word of God or in other words to become affiliated with a priesthood quorum or the Relief Society or the Young Women or Young Men or the Sunday School or the Primary.

Today I wish to speak of the first and the last things to which President Hinckley refers. I wish to speak of fellowshipping.

Examples From the Book of Mormon

I would like to share with you today some examples of fellowshipping in the scriptures.

The People of Alma

In Mosiah we read of the story of Alma and his rebellion against the wicked King Noah. He taught the gospel to those would listen. Alma and his followers gathered themselves together near the waters of Mormon. There, near the waters of Mormon in the forest of Mormon, Alma taught them about fellowshipping.

Listen to what he taught them, "And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and love one towards another." (Mosiah 18:21)

He further instructed them, "And there was one day in every week that was set apart that they should gather themselves together to teach the people, and to worship the Lord their God, and also, as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." (Mosiah 18:25)

As a ward and stake, are our hearts "knit together in unity and love one towards another?" How can we knit our hearts in unity without getting to know each other and serving our brothers and sisters?

Do we "gather" not only our own families to church, but those families we home and visit teach? Do we extend invitations to our families to come to church to be taught and to worship?

Alma and Amulek

Many years later, the son of Alma whose name was also Alma re-entered the wicked city of Ammonihah. He had been fasting many days. He asked a man he encountered to give him some food. This man's name was Amulek. Amulek took Alma into his home and gave him food. Thus began a friendship that would last many years.

Alma "tarried many days with Amulek before he began to preach unto the people. (Alma 8:27) During this time, Alma blessed and taught Amulek and his family.

The time came to leave Amulek's home and go out and preach to the people. Alma and Amulek experienced harsh persecution. Eventually they were bound with strong cords, cast into prison, stripped of their clothes and physically abused. They were also forced to watch those precious converts whom they had taught be thrown into a raging fire … along with their records and scriptures (Alma 14:8). Amulek tried to persuade Alma to let him and Alma "exercise the power of God" to save these people, but Alma responded that the Spirit constrained him from doing so. Elder Eyring suggested once that perhaps some of these women and children burning in this fire were a part of Amulek's family.

Alma and Amulek are miraculously delivered from captivity by the hand of the Lord and here is what is significant about this friendship … Alma and Amulek's friendship did not end after these horrific events occured. Listen to these insightful verses. "Amulek having forsaken all his gold, and silver, and his precious things, which were in the land of Ammonihah, for the word of the God, he being rejected by those who were once his friends and also by his father and kindred … Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations and strengthened him in the Lord (Alma 15:16, 18).

Do we not have brothers and sisters in our ward and stake who have forsaken all for the word of God? Does not your heart go out to those who feel alone and need and yearn for someone to take them in?

We Must Be a True Friend

Being a true friend to someone who needs our friendship is sometimes not easy. We ought not to treat those whom we home teach as merely objects of our duty. Elder Oaks learned this lesson:

I was assigned to visit a less-active member, a successful professional many years older than I. Looking back on my actions, I realize that I had very little loving concern for the man I visited. I acted out of duty, with a desire to report 100 percent on my home teaching. One evening, close to the end of a month, I phoned to ask if my companion and I could come right over and visit him. His chastening reply taught me an unforgettable lesson.

“No, I don’t believe I want you to come over this evening,” he said. “I’m tired. I’ve
already dressed for bed. I am reading, and I am just not willing to be interrupted so that you can report 100 percent on your home teaching this month.” That reply still stings me because I knew he had sensed my selfish motivation. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 7)

The standard we must aim for is the Lord. Our Father in Heaven loves us and wants us to come unto him. If at any time you begin to forget that you are your brother's keeper and that your love for him is waning, then remember these words of Elder Holland's. In teaching us about the nature of God, Elder Holland said,

Looking out on the events of almost any day, God replies: “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands. … I gave unto them … [a]commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me,
their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. … Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7:29-33, 37)

That single, riveting scene does more to teach the true nature of God than any theological treatise could ever convey. It also helps us understand much more emphatically that vivid moment in the Book of Mormon allegory of the olive tree, when after digging and dunging, watering and weeding, trimming, pruning, transplanting, and grafting, the great Lord of the vineyard throws down his spade and his pruning shears and weeps, crying out to any who would listen, “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (Jacob 5:41; see also Jacob 5:47, 49)

What to Do

Now, I'm not going to provide a list of things you can do to fellowship in our ward and stake and in our missionary efforts. My only suggestion for us all is found in Moroni 7:45-47. Please get your scriptures and look up Moroni 7:45-47 and read these powerful verses with me (WAIT FOR EVERYONE TO FIND IT). Go ahead, I'll wait for everyone to find it.

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not
in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all
things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."

If you and I can strive to be charitable and if we earnestly pray for it every time we kneel in prayer individually and with our families and prayerfully consider the needs of our brothers and sisters in our ward, then we will make strides in genuine fellowshipping.


In conclusion, I would encourage you to do two things today, tomorrow and the rest of the week.

First, prayerfully study Moroni 7:45-47. Study it during your personal scripture time. Study it as a family. Think of ways you can make charity your strength in terms of fellowshipping.

Second, in those quite moments when you are praying and meditating each day, please consider the counsel President Hinckley offered to put yourself in the shoes of new converts. And I would extend that to say, put yourself in the shoes of those whom you home and visit teach as well as other members in our ward who need our friendship and love.

As we do these things in "wisdom and order" we will be blessed, our families will be blessed and the work in building up the kingdom of God on the earth will move forward.

I know that the things that I have shared with you today are true. I know the Book of Mormon is true and that it truly is another testament of Jesus Christ. I know that our prophet Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God and I am thankful for him. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.