Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teaching in the Home

Here is my talk I gave December 26 in Sacrament Meeting:

Good afternoon everyone! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, especially if you were able to spend it with family. And how appropriate that we can talk about families during this wonderful time of year.

Opening Quote

In 1995 in the April General Conference, President Packer said:

“Our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.

“The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.

“It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.

“In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis” (Boyd K. Packer, "“The Shield of Faith”", Ensign, May 1995, 7)

To develop this unique shield of faith for each of our children, we must consecrate our time to the raising and teaching of our children these precious principals. Working together, the mother and the father can forge strong shields of faith for their children. They forge those strong shields by constantly teaching their children in the home.

The Role of the Church in Teaching in the Home

The Church and the family strengthen each other. Neither can thrive without the other. Parents need the Church in order to maintain strong faith and to learn what they must teach their children.

The Home and the Church

In reading the recently updated Church Handbook, I came across this passage:

"In the teachings and practices of the restored gospel, the family and the Church help and strengthen each other. To qualify for the blessings of eternal life, families need to learn the doctrines and receive the priesthood ordinances that are available only through the Church. To be a strong and vital organization, the Church needs righteous families.

"God has revealed a pattern of spiritual progress for individuals and families through ordinances, teaching, programs, and activities that are home centered and Church supported. Church organizations and programs exist to bless individuals and families and are not ends in themselves. Priesthood and auxiliary leaders and teachers seek to assist parents, not to supersede or replace them.

"Priesthood and auxiliary leaders must endeavor to strengthen the sacredness of the home by ensuring that all Church activities support the lives of individuals and families. Church leaders need to be careful not to overwhelm families with too many Church responsibilities. Parents and Church leaders work together to help individuals and families return to our Father in Heaven by following Jesus Christ." (Handbook 2)

Less Church Time, More Family Time

To add a finer light on that passage, let me share with you a quote from Elder Oaks from his classic talk Good, Better, Best:

"Stake presidencies and bishoprics need to exercise their authority to weed out the excessive and ineffective busyness that is sometimes required of the members of their stakes or wards. Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their “divinely appointed duties.”

"But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time. Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth. Surfing the Internet is not better than serving the Lord or strengthening the family. Some young men and women are skipping Church youth activities or cutting family time in order to participate in soccer leagues or to pursue various entertainments. Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death." (Dallin H. Oaks, "Good, Better, Best", Ensign, Nov. 2007, 104–8)

In another quote, the First Presidency gave clear and direct counsel about where we are to place our priorities.

“We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility.

“We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform” (First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999).

Those are some very strong quotes from today’s prophets. I share them today to serve as a reminder of how best to spend our time. Time, it seems, is more precious than gold. It is possible to acquire more gold once it’s been spent, but once you spend time, you never get it back.

What Fathers Can Do to Teach in the Home

Besides these critical fundamentals of family prayer and scripture study, there are many other ways that we all can improve our time and quality of teaching with our children. In preparing for this talk, I came across two articles by Ezra Taft Benson. In the first, he directed his counsel to fathers; and in the second to mothers. In each of them, he cites 10 ways fathers and mothers can teach in the home and provide spiritual leadership for their families.

As I read through the list to the fathers, I thought of examples from my life that have demonstrated each point.

“1. Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.

One of my favorite traditions we have is the Sunday before the start of the new school year father’s blessing. At the beginning of each school year, we formally gather as a family and I give each of our children and Jill a blessing. Each time, we feel the Spirit strongly. I learned how to bless my children and wife from my father. The last beginning-of-the-school-year father’s blessing I received was in September of 2004. I had just started MBA School. Over the Labor Day break, I received a phone call from my sister telling me my grandmother had just passed away. I flew out to Utah to attend the funeral. Just before I was to fly back to Texas, I asked my father and brother for a blessing. It is a memory I hold dearly and I still draw strength every time I think of that blessing.

“2. Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.

Let me add to this second point … let your children see you study the scriptures personally. How wonderful an example for our children to see us practicing what we preach. It was on a cold winter day with dark gray clouds overhead outside and a blazing warm fire inside when I stepped into the quiet living room in our home in Oregon and I saw my dad sitting in his chair with his scriptures in his lap. The memory is so vivid that I can close my eyes and see all the details of that scene instantly. What made that impression so strong? I believe it was the power of the Holy Ghost.

And as a side comment – don’t be discouraged if you think your children are not learning from your example. I often find myself reflecting on my parents’ life when I have problems to face. Their examples have probably taught me more than anything else.

“3. Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.

Again, this 3rd point strengthens the point that the family needs the Church and the Church needs the family.

“4. Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there makes all the difference.

We are always supporting each other in our events. Especially at this time of year when the kids participate in Christmas programs and choir recitals. Jill is always keen on making these events special for the children. When Emma had a special part in her Nutcracker play, Jill’s mom gave her a Clara nutcracker. This year Ben played Santa Clause in his school play and Jill gave him a Mr & Mrs Clause nutcracker set. There is no doubt in my mind, that when Emma and Ben look on those nutcrackers when they are parents, they will tell their children the story of when they participated in their school concerts and their children will laugh and their love will increase.

“5. Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.

Everyone loves vacations and trips. I can recall every trip and vacation our family has taken. The first trip we took was at the end of May in 2001. We drove from Dallas to St. George – it was just Jill, Emma and me. We drove 19 straight hours to get there – arriving at 7:00am in the morning. We loved seeing west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. We also loved spending time with my parents. The last trip we took was up to Arkansas to visit Jill’s family during Thanksgiving. I know Ben made at least one memory there when we took him with us to the turkey bowl. We played in the freezing rain. Although I may look back on that experience with a bit of a chill, I think Ben looks at it with warmness.

“6. Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.

I have tried many times to make one-on-one visits formal and regular. But I’ve found that there are countless opportunities to have one-on-one visits with my kids over the course of a week. When I pick Emma up from Activity Days, I ask her questions and try to engage in conversation with her. She usually has a funny story to tell me. With Ben, we usually talk while playing a game of chess or throwing the football outside. One day a week, I get to pick up Erick from the bus stop. As we walk home I get to ask him how his day went and what he learned at school. It is always fun asking him questions and getting a really thoughtful six year old opinion. Camille will usually come into my office early in the morning and give me a hug and sit on my lap. She also always has a story to tell me. At bedtime, Jill and I will always spend a few more minutes talking to them before kissing them goodnight.

“7. Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal.

There are many opportunities to teach children how to work. Both manual labor and mental exertion are considered work. At home, children learn how to work by diligently finishing homework, cleaning their rooms, helping clean the house, folding clothes, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, weeding the garden, trimming bushes, walking the dog and even by reading good books. Extracurricular activities such as playing sports, singing in the choir or participating in a school play can teach children how to be diligent and focused in order to achieve a goal. As children grow older, they can get a job to begin earning money for a mission or college.

“8. Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.

Learning the hymns both at home and at church helps children to learn to love singing. Having classical and uplifting music playing in the home invites the Spirit. Exposing children to good books and infecting them with a love of reading will last a lifetime. My love of music came from my Mom and her family. She would always encourage me to sing and enjoy music. She involved me in singing groups, take me to choir practice, she would play the piano and teach my sisters to play the piano. Our home was full of music. Both my grandparents were beautiful singers. My love of classical music began in earnest when we visited my uncle’s home. He would always pipe classical music through his home’s speaker system – I loved it. I loved it so much, I wrote a letter to him asking what music he was playing. He dubbed a cassette tape of his favorite music and sent it to me.

“9. As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.

Temple attendance is one of those things you teach your children by example. I learned to love the temple first by seeing my parents attend and serve in the temple. When Jill and I attend, we make it a point to tell the kids we’re leaving to go to the temple.

“10. Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom”

Again, like temple attendance, children learn best to serve when they see their parents serve. I see this in Jill’s family. Jill’s parents are always serving. Jill has told me of the many, many examples of the times her mom would serve others. And who can’t doubt the example of Jill’s mom when they see Jill. It seems that Jill is always baking a dinner for a family in the ward or a neighbor in need. And I regularly come home from work to see other people’s kids who she is watching while their mom is attending to an emergency. Jill is the most thoughtful, kindest person I know and thanks be to her and her mother!

(Ezra Taft Benson, "To the Fathers in Israel", Ensign, Nov. 1987, 48)

What Mothers Can do to Teach in the Home
President Benson wrote a similar top ten list for mothers with regard to teaching in the home. I’d like to briefly share this list with you and then share with you a few personal stories of mothers teaching in the home.

1. Be at the crossroads.

2. Be a real friend.

3. Read to your children.

4. Pray with your children.

5. Have weekly home evenings.

6. Be together at mealtimes.

7. Read scriptures daily.

8. Do things as a family.

9. Teach your children.

10. Truly love your children.

(President Ezra Taft Benson Address given at a Fireside for Parents, 22 February 1987)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Let There be Light"

The Information Age is great ain't it?  I never heard of Vera Lynn until Elder Cook told the story about how he was named.  So I go to YouTube and search for Vera Lynn and find some really neat, goose-bump-creating videos of her songs.

Here is "The White Cliffs of Dover" playing in the background to Spitfires flying.

Here is a video of her singing "When The Lights Go On Again"

Watching these videos helped me appreciate Elder Cook's talk a bit more.  In fact, I got a lump in my throat and tears welled in my eyes listening to "When the Lights Go On Again" ... I think it is fitting to watch these videos on a day we celebrate our brave veterans and remember their sacrifices.

Elder Cook's talk was excellent.  It could be summarized with an often-heard quote "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." I did a little research on this - although the quote is attributed to Edmund Burke, he never said it (see here).  But the idea is still relevant.

We as LDS are to actively stand up and defend what is good and wholsome.  We are to actively practice our religious freedoms.  There are unabashed forces acting in this world for both good and evil.  We must engage.

I really thought this quote from Elder Cook was spot on; "Let me be clear that all voices need to be heard in the public square.  Neither religious nor secular voices should be silenced.  Furthermore, we should not expect that because some of our views emanate from religious principals, they will automatically be accepted or given preferential status.  But is is also clear such views and values are entitled to be reviewed on their merits."

I firmly believe that when both good and evil cases are presented, the good will win out.  I agree with Elder Cook's sentiment that most people believe in God and support moral values.  The rub is that we need to actively participate and defend our principals ... by living them and speaking up for them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Things that Matter Most"

we can learn about life by studying nature
 Going back to the minimalism theme - as I read President Uchtdorf's talk this morning, various statements and quotes he made drove home the idea that less is indeed more.  This is a subject I am very keen and sensitive about.  I really think that people are happier when they stop and think about what is important in their lives and then direct their focus on those specific things and ignore the rest.

President Uchtdorf's talk does a fantastic job summarizing what we should all be doing.

Here are a few of the quotes that stood out as I read his talk.

it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.

focus on the things that matter most.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in a recent general conference, taught, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families."

There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.

Leonardo da Vinci is quoted as saying that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

He then teaches us four things that should be at the top of our list - the things that matter most.

We should develop our relationship with: 1) God & Jesus Christ, 2) Our families, 3) Our fellow-men and 4) Ourselves

The wonderful thing about the Church is that it is set up so that we can focus on these 4 things that matter most. If we read our scriptures and pray every day as we've been counseled and commanded time and time again, we will develop our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. If we hold FHE and eat dinner together and play games and spend time with our spouse, children and extended family, we will develop our relationship with our families. If we perform our hometeaching duties and we participate in church activities, we will develop better relationships with our fellow-men. And if we find and develop the talents God has given us, we will develop the relationship with ourself.

I center my goals around these areas and then I try to work on each of these areas a little bit every day. As I focus my energy on these areas, I find joy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Voice of the Spirit

I watched this video on lds.org this week.  It is one of the most touching and powerful videos I've ever seen or listened to.

After watching it several times, I tried finding the entire talk on the General Conference page, but I didn't find it there. I expanded my search using Google and eventually found it at BYU's speeches site.  The audio of the video was taken from a talk President Faust gave at BYU on September 5, 1993.

You can find the text of that entire talk here: The Voice of the Spirit

Additionally, you can listen to the entire talk (something I highly recommend) by clicking here.

When I read this talk, I had one of those 'wow!-this-is-a-prophet-of-God' moments.  This is the part of his talk when my eyes went wide open and my heart skipped a beat:

In your generation you will be barraged by multitudes of voices telling you how to live, how to gratify your passions, how to have it all. You will have up to five hundred television channels at your fingertips. There will be all sorts of software, interactive computer modems, databases, and bulletin boards; there will be desktop publishing, satellite receivers, and communications networks that will suffocate you with information. Local cable news networks will cover only local news. Everyone will be under more scrutiny. There will be fewer places of refuge and serenity. You will be bombarded with evil and wickedness like no other generation. As I contemplate this prospect, I am reminded of T. S. Eliot's words, "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" (The Rock [1934], I).

He gave this talk in 1993!  True - the World Wide Web had just been born two years previous, but it was broadly unknown.  It wasn't until 1996 that the real explosion of the information highway took place.  Ever since then, we have indeed been overloaded with "voices."  Read that paragraph over and over again.  It was as if he wrote that in 2003 and not 1993.

Follow the prophets.  Follow the voice of the Spirit.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Work and Glory

One of my goals is to memorize both the reference and the text of the scriptures found in the Seminary Scripture Mastery lists.  It may be a bit of a daunting task, but if I can memorize section 121 and Mosiah 14 and the Articles of Faith, I see no reason why I can't memorize 100 scriptures.

As I study and memorize them, I'll post some thoughts, applications and citations about them.

Moses 1:39 is perhaps one of the most widely cited and known scriptures of all chapters and verses.  At the BYU LDS Citation Index, it shows that it has been cited well over 300 times - and that citation index is not exhaustive - compared to 1 Nephi 3:7 which as been cited about 90 times.

Moses 1:39 is one of those bedrock scriptures upon which so much of our theology rests.  It gives our life and purpose much meaning and direction.

One of the aspects of our religion that many other religions take exception to is that of working out our salvation.  We believe in doing.  At least in my mind, I tend to believe that religion is pretty useless if it doesn't have applicability and bear true fruit.  The most important fruit a religion can bear is good works - good actions - service.  We can have all the wonderful doctrine and grace in the world, but if we aren't a people of good works, then what is it all worth?

Specifically speaking about work, Neal A. Maxwell said the following, "Our Heavenly Father has described His vast plan for His children by saying, 'Behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' (Moses 1:39; emphasis added). Consider the significance of the Lord’s use of the word work. What He is doing so lovingly and redemptively is, nevertheless, work—even for Him! We, likewise, speak of “working out our salvation,” of the “law of the harvest,” and of the “sweat of the brow” (see Moses 5:1; see also Inspired Version, Gen. 4:1). These are not idle phrases. Instead, they underscore the importance of work. In fact, brethren, work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity. (Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel’,” Ensign, May 1998, 37)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Gospel Principles: Prophets of God

Sunday May 9, 2010
"Chapter 9: Prophets of God,” Gospel Principles, (2009), 39-43


Goal of the Lesson

To develop an understanding of the roles of prophets and to strengthen our testimonies of the living oracles of God.


1. Prophets Are God’s Representatives on the Earth
2. Through the Ages God Has Called Prophets to Lead Mankind
3. We Have a Living Prophet on the Earth Today
4. We Should Sustain the Lord’s Prophet
5. Great Blessings Follow Obedience to the Prophet


Prophets Are God’s Representatives on the Earth

What powers and gifts does a prophet have?

From “The Guide to the Scriptures” under Prophet, “A person who has been called by and speaks for God. As a messenger of God, a prophet receives commandments, prophecies, and revelations from God. His responsibility is to make known God’s will and true character to mankind and to show the meaning of his dealings with them. A prophet denounces sin and foretells its consequences. He is a preacher of righteousness. On occasion, prophets may be inspired to foretell the future for the benefit of mankind. His primary responsibility, however, is to bear witness of Christ. The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s prophet on earth today. Members of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators.”

Ninth Article of Faith: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

Through the Ages God Has Called Prophets to Lead Mankind

In what ways have prophets guided God’s children in the past?

Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt.
Lehi and Nephi started a civilization.
Mormon compiled the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith restored the Gospel.
John the Baptist prepared the people for Jesus Christ.

What have you learned from the lives and teachings of prophets?

Personally, as I’ve read the Book of Mormon recently, I’ve been greatly impressed with the urgency the prophets of the Book of Mormon taught the people about Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is indeed another testament of Jesus Christ.

We Have a Living Prophet on the Earth Today

Why do we need a living prophet today?

D&C 43:25 says, “How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!”

The missionaries recently visited us for dinner. Elder Clove and Lybbert gave a great spiritual thought. We were sitting in the living room. In the little hall at our entrance hangs a picture of Jesus Christ. Elder Clove had Erick stand in that hallway. As we sat in the living room, we could not see the picture of Jesus, but Erick could. Elder Clove taught us that just as Erick could see Jesus and tell us that the picture was there, so can the prophets tell us that Jesus lives and they can tell us the will of the Lord.

The living prophet knows the will of the Lord and as such he is the one person who has the right to receive revelation for the Church.

We depend on the prophet for that revelation. He can steer us in ways we cannot. We need that guidance if we want to be happy and return our Heavenly Fathers.

President Eyring said, “Looking for the path to safety in the counsel of prophets makes sense to those with strong faith. When a prophet speaks, those with little faith may think that they hear only a wise man giving good advice. Then if his counsel seems comfortable and reasonable, squaring with what they want to do, they take it. If it does not, they either consider it faulty advice or they see their circumstances as justifying their being an exception to the counsel. Those without faith may think that they hear only men seeking to exert influence for some selfish motive. They may mock and deride, as did a man named Korihor, with these words recorded in the Book of Mormon: “And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges” (Alma 30:27).”

“Korihor was arguing, as men and women have falsely argued from the beginning of time, that to take counsel from the servants of God is to surrender God-given rights of independence. But the argument is false because it misrepresents reality. When we reject the counsel that comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence. We reject the protection of a perfectly loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Father in Heaven, whose whole purpose, as that of His Beloved Son, is to give us eternal life, to give us all that He has, and to bring us home again in families to the arms of His love. In rejecting His counsel, we choose the influence of another power, whose purpose is to make us miserable and whose motive is hatred. We have moral agency as a gift of God. Rather than the right to choose to be free of influence, it is the inalienable right to submit ourselves to whichever of those powers we choose.”(Henry B. Eyring, “Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, Jun 2008, 4–9)

In what ways has the living prophet influenced the Church?

At least in my lifetime, it seems that each of the prophets has a “theme” they wish to teach the Church. President Kimball was the prophet when I was born. I remember listening to him at General Conference. When he died, it felt a little shocking. President Benson became the prophet. He seems to be remembered for his teaching of the Book of Mormon and his talks on pride. President Hunter was prophet for a mere nine months. I was called as a missionary under President Hunter. His theme from the very beginning was for all the saints to attend and love the temple. When he passed away, President Hinckley became the prophet. In his first press conference, he said his theme would be to “carry on.” Indeed he carried on by presiding over an explosion of temple building. In 1998, there were only 51 temples. He set a goal to have 100 temples in operation by 2001. There were 102 temples built before 2001. Under his direction, the number of temples grew from 47 to 124.

Now President Monson is the prophet. What do you think his “theme” is?

We Should Sustain the Lord’s Prophet

President Uchtdorf said, “Only a few years ago, in a First Presidency Message, President Thomas S. Monson said: “The problems of our day loom ominously before us. Surrounded by the sophistication of modern living, we look heavenward for that unfailing sense of direction, that we might chart and follow a wise and proper course. He whom we call our Heavenly Father will not leave our sincere petition unanswered.”

“We have a living prophet on the face of the earth again, even President Thomas S. Monson. He knows our challenges and fears. He has inspired answers. There is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can each be an influence for good in this world by following the commandments of God and relying on true repentance, the power of the Atonement, and the miracle of forgiveness.

“The prophets speak to us in the name of the Lord and in divine plainness. As the Book of Mormon confirms, “For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).

“It is our responsibility not only to listen but also to act upon His word that we may claim the blessings of the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel. He said, “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).

“There may be times when we feel overwhelmed, hurt, or on the edge of discouragement as we are trying so hard to be perfect members of the Church. Be assured, there is balm in Gilead. Let us listen to the prophets of our day as they help us to focus on the things that are central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The Lord knows us, He loves us, He wants us to succeed, and He encourages us by saying: “And see that all … things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [men or women] should run faster than [they have] strength. … [But] it is expedient that [they] should be diligent” (Mosiah 4:27)” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Heeding the Voice of the Prophets,” Ensign, Jul 2008, 4–7)

As a side note, it is interesting that in June 2008, President Eyring spoke of prophets and then in July 2008, President Uchtdorf wrote on the same topic.

What can we do to follow and sustain the prophet?

We should pray for him.

We should study his words.

We should follow his inspired teachings completely.

What has the President of the Church taught or emphasized recently?

In the Priesthood session in the April conference last month, he taught that we should consider our callings, reflect on our responsibilities and that we should follow Christ. In the Sunday morning session, he taught about the resurrected Christ.

Great Blessings follow Obedience to the Prophet

What experiences have you had when you have obeyed the counsel of the prophet?

President Eyring said, “Every time in my life when I have chosen to delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm’s way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety. Along the path, I have found that the way had been prepared for me and the rough places made smooth. God led me to safety along a path that was prepared with loving care, sometimes prepared long before.” (June 2008)

President Eyring recounts a story of a man who followed the counsel of the prophet. “An example from Church history is that of Reddick Newton Allred. He was one of the rescue party sent out by President Brigham Young (1801–77) to bring in the Willie and Martin handcart companies. At the Sweetwater River near South Pass, Captain George Grant asked Reddick Allred to remain there with a few men and wagons and be ready to help when the rescuers returned with the handcart pioneers.

“The rescuers found the Willie company mired in the snow, freezing, starving, and dying. Some of the rescuers continued to search for the Martin company, while the others helped the Willie company make that heartrending pull up and over Rocky Ridge. Soon after they made camp, Reddick Allred and his men came to deliver essential assistance and supplies.

“Allred then waited for Captain Grant to return with the Martin company. Week after week passed with no sign of them. As blizzards howled and the weather became life threatening, two of the men decided it was foolish to stay. They thought the Martin company had either wintered over somewhere or perished. They decided to return to the Salt Lake Valley and tried to persuade everyone else to do the same. Allred refused to budge. President Young had sent them out, and Captain Grant, Reddick Allred’s priesthood leader, had told him to wait there.

“Those who returned took several wagons, filled with needed supplies, and started back to the Salt Lake Valley. Even more tragic, they turned back 77 wagons that were coming from the valley to help. Some of these wagons returned all the way to Big Mountain before messengers sent by President Young met them and turned them back around.

“Finally, more than three weeks after Reddick Allred had assisted the Willie company, Captain Grant arrived with the Martin company. These pioneers were even more destitute and had suffered dozens of deaths. Captain Grant’s rescue team was small and low on provisions—and still more than 200 miles (320 km) from the Salt Lake Valley. Once again, because Reddick Allred had stayed true to his assignment, even in the most trying circumstances, he was able to provide life-sustaining assistance and supplies.” (June 2008)


Bear testimony of the importance of prophets.

Personally speaking, the time President Hinckley and Elder Nelson came to Guatemala stands out foremost in my mind. Both missionaries and members travelled from all over the country to Guatemala City to listen to the prophet speak. I remember getting up early in the morning to board a charter bus to drive to the capital. The bus was so full, I ended up sitting on the floor. When we got there, it was a beautiful day. As all of us missionaries entered the stake center, the feeling of overwhelming joy came over me. I felt immensely happy. Then 600 missionaries all sang at once, “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.” I had Goosebumps all over. The Spirit was strong and I doubt I’ll ever forget the feelings I felt that day.  (Read article of his visit on the Church News website.)

I know the living prophets are indeed prophets of God and they will lead us to salvation.

One of the neatest things about the Internet is being able to hear a prophet testify to you directly at any time of the day.

Here is a precious video of President Hinckley speaking to the British saints. Watching this brought tears to my eyes. I'm sure it will do the same to you.

Watch this video of President Monson share his testimony from the recent General Conference.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gospel Principles: The Holy Ghost

Sunday April 11, 2010
"Chapter 7: The Holy Ghost,” Gospel Principles, (2009), 31-33

Goal of the Lesson
To learn of the mission of the Holy Ghost and how He works in our lives.

1. The Holy Ghost Came to Adam and Eve
2. Attributes of the Holy Ghost
3. The Mission of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost Came to Adam and Eve
Why did Adam and Eve need the guidance of the Holy Ghost?
• They would need to be led and guided in their life.
• Their children would need to be led and guided.

How is our need for guidance from the Holy Ghost similar to that of Adam and Eve?
• No Father would send His children off to a distant, dangerous land for a lifetime of testing where Lucifer was known to roam free without first providing them with a personal power of protection. He would also supply them with means to communicate with Him from Father to child and from child to Father. Every child of our Father sent to earth is provided with the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Christ. We are, none of us, left here alone without hope of guidance and redemption. (Boyd K. Packer, “Prayer and Promptings,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 43–46)
     o What is difference between Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost?

• Throughout the ages, many have obtained guidance helpful to resolve challenges in their lives by following the example of respected individuals who resolved similar problems. Today, world conditions change so rapidly that such a course of action is often not available to us. Personally, I rejoice in that reality because it creates a condition where we, of necessity, are more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life. Therefore, we are led to seek personal inspiration in life’s important decisions. (Richard G. Scott, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 6–9)

Attributes of the Holy Ghost
How does the Holy Ghost differ from the Father and the Son?
• His is a spirit (he has no body)
• He has a unique mission as a member of the Godhead

Why is that difference important to us?
• From the book, “the Holy Ghost is the revealer and testifier of all truth.”
• From the book, “the Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Father’s messenger and is a special gift to us.”
• Joseph Smith said, “There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him. [See Acts 10:1–48.] (“Chapter 7: Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),88–100)

The Mission of the Holy Ghost
What are some of the truths that the Holy Ghost reveals to us?
• He bears witness of Jesus Christ in all ages (D&C 20:25-27)
• He reveals to us that we are children of God and that we can become like Him (Romans 8:16-17)
• He reveals the truth of all things to us (Moroni 10:5)

The Holy Ghost bears a special witness in a way that we cannot deny it.

From the book: “When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into to soul and are more difficult to erase.” (p. 33 emphasis added)

Commentary: I've never heard this quote before, and when I read it, I was a bit taken back.  So powerful (and important) is the Holy Ghost, that even a visit from Jesus Christ is not as powerful as impressions from the Holy Ghost.  Do we really understand how powerful a gift we have?  What are we doing to use that precious gift?  Jesus understood how powerful the Holy Ghost is as well. Read 3 Nephi 19:9-22.

“Now, if you have the Holy Ghost with you—and every one ought to have—I can say unto you that there is no greater gift, there is no greater blessing, there is no greater testimony given to any man on earth. You may have the administration of angels; you may see many miracles; you may see many wonders in the earth; but I claim that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man. It is by this power that we have performed that which we have. It is this that sustains us through all the persecutions, trials and tribulations that come upon us.” (“Chapter 5: The Holy Ghost and Personal Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 46)

From the book, “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we should make ourselves worthy to receive this special messenger and witness of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”

“You can know of things you need to know. Pray that you will learn to receive that inspiration and remain worthy to receive it. Keep that channel – your mind – clean and free from the clutter of the world.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Prayer and Promptings,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 43–46)

Share some times the Holy Ghost has helped you grow in your testimony.

Read of a personal experience I had after praying about the Book of Mormon.  The Holy Ghost bore a powerful witness to me as I prayed.
Invite others to share times the Holy Ghost has helped them.

Bear testimony of the singular mission of the Holy Ghost and how we have the most important gift anyone could have.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gospel Principles: The Fall of Adam and Eve

Sunday March 21, 2010
"Chapter 6: The Fall of Adam and Eve,” Gospel Principles, (2009), 26–30

Goal of the Lesson

To develop an appreciation and gratitude for Adam and Eve for choosing to commence mortality for the rest of humankind.

1.      Adam and Eve Were the First to Come to Earth
2.      The Garden of Eden
3.      Adam and Eve's Separation from God
4.      Great Blessings Resulted from the Transgression

Adam and Eve Were the First to Come to Earth

What evidence helps us know that Adam and Eve were valiant spirits?

  • They were pioneers (Moses 1:34, 4:26) and generally speaking, you would have to be valiant and faithful to be a pioneer.  They were to “set the tone” for the rest of us.
  • Adam was Michael the archangel who led the battle against Satan and a third of the hosts of heaven (see D&C 27:11 and Revelation 12:7-9)
What can we learn from the examples of Adam and Eve?

The Garden of Eden

Under what conditions did Adam and Even live in the Garden of Eden?

From the book “When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. In this state, “they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23). There was no death. They had physical life because their spirits were housed in physical bodies made from the dust of the earth (see Moses 6:59; Abraham 5:7). They had spiritual life because they were in the presence of God. They had not yet made a choice between good and evil.

God commanded them to have children. He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over … every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Moses 2:28). God told them they could freely eat of every tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree God said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17).

Satan, not knowing the mind of God but seeking to destroy God’s plan, came to Eve in the Garden of Eden. He tempted her to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He assured her that she and Adam would not die, but that they would “be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Moses 4:11). Eve yielded to the temptation and ate the fruit. When Adam learned what had happened, he chose to partake also. The changes that came upon Adam and Eve because they ate the fruit are called the Fall.”

Adam and Eve's Separation from God

What physical and spiritual changes occurred in Adam and Even as a result of their transgression?
  • Physically, they became mortal – subject to death. 
  • Spiritually, they were separated from the presence of God.
  • Because of these two changes, they had “fallen.”
Great Blessings Resulted from the Transgression

How does the Fall provide opportunities for us to become like Heavenly Father?

Joseph Fielding Smith said, "When Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, he was in the presence of God our Eternal Father. He talked with the Father and the Father with him. But something happened, and it had to happen: Adam partook of certain fruit. My Bible, the King James Version, [speaks in a commentator’s note] of Adam’s Fall [as] “man’s shameful fall.” Well, it wasn’t a shameful fall at all.

Adam came here to bring mortality upon the earth, and that resulted in the shutting out from the presence of the Eternal Father of both Adam and Eve and their posterity. The Son of God comes upon the scene from that time henceforth as our Redeemer. … It is the Savior who stands between mankind and our Heavenly Father. … The Son is the mediator between mankind and the Eternal Father. You seldom hear a prayer that isn’t offered to our Heavenly Father in the name of His Beloved Son, and that’s right. Christ came into this world to represent His Father. He came into this world to teach mankind who His Father is, why we should worship Him, how we should worship Him. He performed the greatest work that was ever performed in this mortal world by the shedding of His blood, which paid a debt that mankind owes to the Eternal Father, and which debt we inherited after the Fall of Adam.

They Opened the Door

Adam did only what he had to do. He partook of that fruit for one good reason, and that was to open the door to bring you and me and everyone else into this world, for Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden of Eden; they could have been there to this day, if Eve hadn’t done something.

One of these days, if I ever get to where I can speak to Mother Eve, I want to thank her for tempting Adam to partake of the fruit. He accepted the temptation, with the result that children came into this world. … If she hadn't had that influence over Adam, and if Adam had done according to the commandment first given to him, they would still be in the Garden of Eden and we would not be here at all. We wouldn’t have come into this world. So the commentators made a great mistake when they put in the Bible … “man’s shameful fall.”

Well, that was what the Lord expected Adam to do, because that opened the door to mortality; and we came here into this mortal world to receive a training in mortality that we could not get anywhere else or in any other way. We came here into this world to partake of all the vicissitudes, to receive the lessons that we receive in mortality from or in a mortal world. And so we become subject to pain, to sickness. We are blessed for keeping the commandments of the Lord with all that He has given us, which, if we will follow and be true and faithful, will bring us back again into the presence of God our Eternal Father, as sons and daughters of God, entitled to the fulness of celestial glory.

Privileged to Be Mortal

That great blessing of celestial glory could never have come to us without a period of time in mortality, and so we came here in this mortal world. We are in school, the mortal school, to gain the experiences, the training, the joys, and the sufferings that we partake of, that we might be educated in all these things and be prepared, if we are faithful and true to the commandments of the Lord, to become sons and daughters of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ; and in His presence to go on to a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever, and perhaps through our faithfulness to have the opportunity of building worlds and peopling them.

Brethren and sisters, let’s thank the Lord, when we pray, for Adam. If it hadn’t been for Adam, I wouldn’t be here; you wouldn’t be here; we would be waiting in the heavens as spirits pleading for somebody … to pass through a certain condition that brought upon us mortality.

We are in the mortal life to get an experience, a training, that we couldn’t get any other way. And in order [for us] to become gods, it is necessary for us to know something about pain, about sickness, and about the other things that we partake of in this school of mortality.

So don’t let us, brethren and sisters, complain about Adam and wish he hadn’t done something that he did. I want to thank him. I am glad to have the privilege of being here and going through mortality, and if I will be true and faithful to the covenants and obligations that are upon me as a member of the Church and in the kingdom of God, I may have the privilege of coming back into the presence of the Eternal Father; and that will come to you as it will to me, sons and daughters of God entitled to the fulness of celestial glory. (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Adam’s Role in Bringing Us Mortality,” Ensign, Jan 2006, 52–53)

From the June 2006 Ensign …

Most Christian churches teach that the Fall was a tragedy, that if Adam and Eve had not partaken of the forbidden fruit, they and all their posterity could now be living in immortal bliss in the Garden of Eden. But truth revealed to latter-day prophets teaches that the Fall was not a tragedy—without it Adam and Eve would have had no posterity. Thus, the Fall was a necessary step in Heavenly Father’s plan to bring about the eternal happiness of His children.

No Death, No Posterity, No Progress

“If Adam had not transgressed,” Lehi taught his son Jacob, “he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. …

“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:22–25).

After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened, and Eve expressed gladness at the opportunity their transgression made possible: “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 5:11).

Partaking of the fruit brought mortality, with its many opportunities to choose between good and evil, and enabled Adam and Eve to have children. Thus the Fall opened the door for Heavenly Father’s children to come into the world, obtain physical bodies, and participate in “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8). “Therefore this life became a probationary state,” a time to learn and grow, to repent and overcome weakness, “a time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24).

Transgression, Not Sin

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” 1

Regarding this distinction, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed: “This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: ‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression’ (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall.” 2

Even though Adam and Eve had not sinned, because of their transgression they had to face certain consequences, two of which were spiritual death and physical death. Physical death came to Adam and Eve at the end of their earthly lives, but spiritual death occurred as they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, being cut off from the presence of God (see Alma 42:9).

Original Sin

The result of our first parents’ transgression, explained President Smith, “was banishment from the presence of God and bringing … physical death into the world. The majority … [of Christians] maintain that every child born into this world is tainted with ‘original sin,’ or partakes of Adam’s transgression in his birth. The second Article of Faith contradicts this foolish and erroneous doctrine.” 3 All descendants of Adam and Eve inherit certain effects from the Fall, but because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we are held accountable only for our own sins. Children who die before the age of accountability are “alive in Christ” (Moro. 8:12) and have no need of repentance or baptism (see Moro. 8:8–11).

Commandments in the Garden

The Lord gave Adam and Eve commandments in the Garden of Eden, two of which were to multiply and replenish the earth (see Gen. 1:28) and to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (see Gen. 2:17). These two commandments were designed to place Adam and Eve in a position where they had to make a choice. President Smith taught: “The Lord said to Adam that if he wished to remain as he was in the garden, then he was not to eat the fruit, but if he desired to eat it and partake of death he was at liberty to do so.” 4 Faced with this dilemma, Adam and Eve chose death—both physical and spiritual—which opened the door for themselves and their posterity to gain knowledge and experience and to participate in the Father’s plan of happiness leading to eternal life. ("The Fulness of the Gospel: The Fall of Adam and Eve,” Ensign, Jun 2006, 48–49)


Bear testimony of the importance of the Fall.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Spiritual Guidance and Earthquakes

Last Sunday, I taught a lesson in Elder Quorum about spiritual guidance.  The lesson was based on two talks from General Conference.  I spent most of the time discussing Elder Scott's talk.

Richard G. Scott, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 6–9
Russell M. Nelson, “Ask, Seek, Knock,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 81–84

The day before I gave that lesson, I watched the news reports on Chile being the latest nation impacted from a string of powerful earthquakes that have rocked many nations including Haiti, Japan, Taiwan.

The 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, however, has brought about a very powerful faith-promoting story.  Here is the link to the story found on the Meridian Magazine website.  It is interesting to note, after reading Elder Scott's talk above, that of all the things he could have taught this mission president and his wife, he chose to council them on spiritual promptings.  I'm sure we'll hear more of this story in General Conference next month.

Editor’s Note: President Larry Laycock and his wife, Sister Lisa Laycock head the Santiago Chile East Mission and had spent the two weeks prior to the 8.8 earthquake visiting each missionary apartment and preparing them for an earthquake. They brought specific instructions on what to do, supplied water purification bottles for the missionaries, told them how to create a 36-hour kit for emergencies and how to stay in communication should an earthquake strike. They prayed with each missionary and dedicated their apartments. Why? Because of a special experience that alerted them to what was coming. They told their missionaries, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”

They have 171 full-time proselyting missionaries in this mission.

Special thanks to the Laycocks for allowing Meridian to publish this letter that Sister Laycock sent to her family shortly after the earthquake sharing their remarkable experience of kindness from the Lord. They are in Chile with their son, Landon.

Dear Everyone,

I am writing to let you all know how very grateful we are for your prayers, concern, and love. Please keep praying! We need the Lord's help and guidance in order to do all He would have us do to learn what He would have us learn from this earth quake tragedy, and to minister in the way He would have us minister.

During the past few days, we have witnessed many events which serve to remind us that the Lord is in charge and that as missionaries and members of His church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are performing His work, and as President Monson teaches, "When we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to His help." I want to share with you a few miracles that will help you to understand our profound feelings of gratitude.

When we were set apart for this calling, Elder Scott of the Council of the Twelve Apostles taught us many important lessons. He spoke from personal experience when he was a mission president in Argentina. One message that he shared with us is this: "At times, during your mission, you will be awakened in the middle of the night or the early morning hours with thoughts of specific things you should do for certain missionaries. Do not ignore these thoughts. They are promptings from the Holy Ghost who will communicate with you in the stillness of the night or the peace of the early morning hours. He will speak to you then because that is when you are still enough to hear."

Elder Scott further instructed us to keep a notebook beside our bed so that we could record these precious promptings. He said that by the next morning, we would be likely to forget the promptings if we didn't write them down.

We have been astonished at the fulfillment of Elder Scott's prophetic words. We have received many promptings in the exact manner that Elder Scott described. We are so thankful that Elder Scott taught us how to recognize and act upon these precious promptings. Had he not taught us, we may not have given these promptings the attention they require.

Nearly two-and-one-half weeks ago, I was awakened at around 4:00 AM by just such a prompting. I did not hear a voice, but the thought was as clear as if it had been in the form of spoken words: "There is going to be an earthquake. Prepare your missionaries." I sat up in bed and immediately remembered Elder Scott's counsel. That morning I told Larry what had happened. He immediately set to work organizing our missionaries to prepare for an earthquake.

In talking with our office missionaries to arrange for them to put together a list of everything we would need to prepare...in both Spanish and English...we discovered that the Lord had also let two of our office missionaries know of the possibility of an earthquake (in the form of dreams) and the need to prepare our mission.

We set a goal and arranged our schedule so that we could visit every apartment in the mission to check for safety and to review with our missionaries what to do in case of an earth quake. What a wonderful experience we have had as we have met with them and shared scriptures with them about being spiritually and physically prepared. "...if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" (D&C 38:30).

We instructed every missionary to have a "go-bag" (36 hour kit). We reviewed our emergency action plan with them of where to go and what to do if they had phone service and in case they did not. We gave everyone a paper with all instructions in English and Spanish, and we reminded them that "this life is the time to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32-34). We shared with them our thoughts and feelings about the need for spiritual and physical safety.

Some of them became frightened and asked us if we knew something they didn't know. We smiled and repeated "...if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." We didn't want to unduly alarm them, but we did want to impress upon them the need to be prepared. We tearfully reminded them of our recent transfer conference where we had shared our feelings about our dear Elder McKay Burrows who was unexpectedly called home in January while serving his mission in Romania...how he was prepared in every way to meet God. We reissued our challenge to "be prepared" in every way. Then we knelt with them in their apartment and dedicated each apartment, asking for a blessing of safety and security to be upon every apartment.

When the earthquake came, we were prepared. We did not experience the panic that many felt. We knew we were prepared. Because of the words of the Lord's chosen Apostle, Elder Scott, we had listened and heeded the quiet, but clear promptings of the Holy Ghost. We were blessed with peace in the midst of chaos. We learned an important lesson: our preparation helped us to avoid panic and fear, but the Lord, in His wisdom, allowed us to experience enough discomfort to know that He has all power. He is in charge. We are nothing without Him. We are dependent upon Him for every breath we take. Only He can save us from death and destruction. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is our perfect example. If we follow Him, we will be saved through obedience to the laws and ordinances of His Gospel.

As the earthquake became more violent, the mission home groaned and wailed. The power died, so the whole city was black. The windows made a hideous screeching sound, and flying objects banged against swaying walls. The printer/fax machine, books, book ends, and fifty-pound television burst from the entertainment center and crashed to the floor, cabinets emptied, drawers flew open, the refrigerator moved, water sloshed out of the toilets, the floor jolted up and down as we ran across it trying to hold onto the walls to keep from falling down, and the piano toppled over like a small toy. As we made our way to the back yard, I remember thinking, "God is all-powerful. He is our only refuge from this horrible mess." I prayed and prayed for Him to still the earth.

When we reached the back yard, we watched in terror. By the light of the moon we could see the swimming pool water form giant waves and crash out onto the rocks. House and car alarms screamed into the night...some from being crushed by falling debris and others, I guess, from the bizarre movement of the earth. I am not sure if the intense rumbling sounds came from the earth itself or from everything else that was shaking so violently. Finally, it stopped.

When the calm came, we had to sit down because our legs were weak and unstable. My legs stayed wobbly all day and night yesterday. Today the muscles in my legs hurt like I ran a marathon. The aftershocks have been extremely unsettling. Each one begins like the one last night started. We just close our eyes and wait to see if it escalates or dies down. .I have never experienced anything like this!

We were awakened this morning by a very strong after shock. Larry jumped out of bed and yelled, "Welcome to another glorious day in Chile!" We just had to laugh. We moved a mattress into the floor in our bedroom and made Landon sleep in our room. He was in his room with the door locked the night before and we couldn't wake him up. He never locks his door, but he was playing a joke on Larry because every morning Larry wakes him at 5:30 AM for seminary by tickling him unmercifully. So Landon had decided to stop him.

When we couldn't open his door, in the middle of the quake, we thought he was trapped, so we screamed and banged. Landon thought that everything was falling off the walls because we were banging so hard on the door. I think we scared him more than the earthquake did!

Today, we attended a strong ward where Larry was invited to speak. The entire chapel and beyond was filled. People were so humble and so teachable. Larry taught the importance of doing the small things. He taught about Jesus Christ and the opportunity we have to love one another and to share what we have with others.

It was a great blessing for us to be with these beautiful Chilean people. Some have lost their homes...or at least parts of their homes. But they are strong and they want to serve the Lord. He taught of the scripture in Luke 21:11,13 which says, "and great earthquakes shall be in divers places...and it shall turn to you for a testimony." He also welcomed the sweet young woman who was in the congregation with the missionaries...her first time attending church...and then he invited her to be baptized from the pulpit. He asked her to please invite us to her baptism, and she said, "I will." The Lord always knows what His people need.

Landon was reading in Alma 15:17 today. He said, Mom listen to this. This is what is happening here in Chile just like in happened in Ammonihah. The people were humbled and "checked as to the pride of their hearts and began to humble themselves before God, watching and praying continually that they might be delivered from Satan, and from death, and from destruction."

Our hearts are filled to the brim with gratitude for all of the blessings we have received in the Chile Santiago East Mission. We see miracles every day. In the midst of great pain and suffering, we can always find our Savior. He stands with His arms open, pleading for all of us to humble ourselves and come unto Him. He loves us. He invites us to accept His gift...the atonement. He invites us to repent. He wants us to love one another and to serve one another. He wants us to bring our families and those we love to Him. We can do it. We can do all that He asks, no matter how difficult it may seem. "With God all things are possible"

We are having a devotional tomorrow for all of our missionaries to talk about the last week of Christ's life in preparation for Easter. We want to remind our missionaries to teach and preach with increased vigor of Christ. Last Monday in our office meeting, Larry suddenly stopped in the middle, and said, "During the prayer, I had a very strong impression that March 2010 is going to be our best baptizing month we have ever had in this mission."

Now we know why he received that feeling. We are going to prepare to bring many souls to the waters of baptism in March. Please continue to pray for us and for the people of Chile. Please pray for the missionaries to have strength and courage to do all that is being required of them, even in difficult times.

We are so thankful that the tsunami did not turn out badly in Hawaii. Who would ever think that an earthquake in Chile could threaten the shores of Hawaii? Thankfully, the Lord is in charge. He is the one to whom we must turn for refuge from every storm. He has the power to save us.

Editor’s Note:
The letter ends here, but President and Sister Laycock told us:
“We’ve never experienced anything like the earthquake. We have had 90 aftershocks, some stronger than others. Our legs are wobbly. It is a scary feeling to experience an aftershock because it brings back all the feelings we had during the earthquake.

“We love being with our missionaries. Because they were prepared, they were immediately able to turn their attention to helping others. They were never concerned about themselves. They were concerned with those who need help and by mid-morning the day of the earthquake, we were able to dispatch them to help others. We told them to investigate the needs of their neighbors and help in any way they could.

President Laycock noted, “The Spanish translation of Luke 21:13 says that there will be earthquakes in many places, and it will give you the occasion to bear testimony. We met with 10 sisters this morning, and one of them mentioned a neighbor next door whom they always asked if she would have time to speak with them, and she always said no. Yet in the crescendo of the toll of the earthquake, she was speechless with fear and not prepared. When the sisters said, ‘Could we pray with you?’, she answered, ‘I have time to pray with you.’ It opened the door to a teaching opportunity to share the gospel.

President and Sister Laycock said, “Everyone we talk to has been so willing to talk about Christ and God’s power. We’ve been sharing God’s love with them. We are seeing God’s love everywhere. People are reaching out to one another. They are serving one another. The news reports looting. We are seeing a different side. We are seeing people who want to communicate with God, who are sincerely looking for the truth.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Romans 8:38-39

Romans 8:38-39 ~ For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If ever I was feeling that God did not love me or that I was worth less in his sight, I would open the scriptures to Romans and read these verses. Heavenly Father will do all that he can to help us enter His presence again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gospel Principals: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior

"Chapter 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior," Gospel Principals, (2009, 13-16)


Goal of the Lesson

The lesson should give an opportunity to all to briefly recall the Plan of Salvation and then to understand the critical role Jesus Christ plays in that plan.

2 Nephi 25:23-26

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

"And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.

"For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.

"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."


1. A Savior and Leader Was Needed
2. Jesus Christ Became Our Chosen Leader and Savior
3. The War in Heaven
4. We Have the Savior's Teachings to Follow


A Savior and Leader Was Needed

Rough outline of Plan of Salvation with Savior playing critical role in the plan

Why did we need to leave Heavenly Father's presence?

"The object of our earthly existence is that we may have a fulness of joy, and that we may become the sons and daughters of God, in the fullest sense of the word, being heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ [see Romans 8:14–17], to be kings and priests unto God, to inherit glory, dominion, exaltation, thrones and every power and attribute developed and possessed by our Heavenly Father. This is the object of our being on this earth. In order to attain unto this exalted position, it is necessary that we go through this mortal experience, or probation, by which we may prove ourselves worthy, through the aid of our elder brother Jesus.

The object of our being here is to do the will of the Father as it is done in heaven, to work righteousness in the earth, to subdue wickedness and put it under our feet, to conquer sin and the adversary of our souls, to rise above the imperfections and weaknesses of poor, fallen humanity, by the inspiration of Almighty God and his power made manifest, and thus become indeed the saints and servants of the Lord in the earth." (“Chapter 17: The Great Plan of Life and Salvation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 147)

Why do we need a Savoir?

All of us will fall short of perfection.

"For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made." (Alma 34:9 emphasis added)

"When Adam intentionally and wisely partook of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he brought upon all of us, his descendants, two deaths—the physical or “mortal death,” and the spiritual death or the banishment from the presence of the Lord.

"In God’s divine plan, provision was made for a redeemer to break the bonds of death and, through the resurrection, make possible the reunion of the spirits and bodies of all persons who had dwelt on earth.

"Jesus of Nazareth was the one who, before the world was created, was chosen to come to earth to perform this service, to conquer mortal death. This voluntary action would atone for the fall of Adam and Eve and permit the spirit of man to recover his body, thereby reuniting body and spirit. (“Chapter 3: Jesus Christ: My Savior, My Lord,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006),22–33)

From the Book

"Jesus was willing to come to the earth, give His life for us, and take upon Himself our sins. He, like our Heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments. He knew we must be free to choose in order to prove ourselves worthy of exaltation. Jesus said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).

"Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, “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). Satan wanted to force us all to do his will. Under his plan, we would not be allowed to choose. He would take away the freedom of choice that our Father had given us. Satan wanted to have all the honor for our salvation. Under his proposal, our purpose in coming to earth would have been frustrated (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay [2003], 207)." (“Chapter 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior,” Gospel Principles, (2009),13–16)

One or Two Plans?

See "Lucifer's Plan"

Jesus Christ Became Our Chosen Leader and Savior

Passage of the Brother of Jared and Jesus Christ.

"And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

"Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters." (Ether 3:13-14)

Jesus declares His mission.

“I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. … And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:38, 40).

The War in Heaven

From the book

"Because our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior, Satan became angry and rebelled. There was war in heaven. Satan and his followers fought against Jesus Christ and His followers. The Savior’s followers “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11)"

President Hinckley discusses this War in Heaven and how it continues today.

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7–9).

"That war, so bitter, so intense, has never ceased. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him. His enemies have used every stratagem in that conflict. They’ve indulged in lying and deceit. They’ve employed money and wealth. They’ve tricked the minds of men. They’ve murdered and destroyed and engaged in every kind of evil practice to thwart the work of Christ."

"Notwithstanding the present strength of the Church, it seems that we are constantly under attack from one quarter or another. But we go on. We must go on. We have gone forward, and we will continue to go forward. In some seasons the issues are major. At other times they are only local skirmishes. But they are all part of a pattern.

"Opposition has been felt in the undying efforts of many, both within and without the Church, to destroy faith, to belittle, to demean, to bear false witness, to tempt and allure and induce our people to practices inconsistent with the teachings and standards of this work of God.

"The war goes on. It is as it was in the beginning. There may not be the intensity, and I am grateful for that. But the principles at issue are the same. The victims who fall are as precious as those who have fallen in the past. It is an ongoing battle. The men of the priesthood, with the daughters of God who are our companions and allies, are all part of the army of the Lord. We must be united. An army that is disorganized will not be victorious. It is imperative that we close ranks, that we march together as one. We cannot have division among us and expect victory. We cannot have disloyalty and expect unity. We cannot be unclean and expect the help of the Almighty." (Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Unending Conflict, a Victory Assured,” Ensign, Jun 2007, 2–7)

We Have the Savior's Teachings to Follow

The War in Heaven continues today and will continue to the end of time. But we have the Savior's teachings to help us.

President Hinckley spoke in the October General Conference in 2001 … just a month after the September 11 attacks. In his closing remarks he said, "Now, brothers and sisters, we must do our duty, whatever that duty might be. Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed. We may be inconvenienced. We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. But God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him. He has declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God.

Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10)."


Bear testimony of the Savior and His mission.