Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sherryl's Sacrament Meeting talk from October 27, 2013

Prayer Changes Things
We have a plaque in the entrance of our home that says “Prayer Changes Things” and I believe it does.

“Prayer is one of the greatest blessings we have while we are here on earth. Through prayer we can communicate with our Heavenly Father and seek His guidance daily.  Prayer is a sincere, heartfelt talk with our Heavenly Father.”  [GospelPrinciples, (2011), 34-38]

  • Do I realize when we pray just who we are speaking to? 
  • Do I realize that our Heavenly Father is God and what that means?

We read in the Bible Dictionary:

“….God created all things and is the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through His Spirit),…”  [God]

Omnipotent:  “having unlimited power, able to do anything”   
Omnipresent:  “present everywhere at the same time”
·        Moses 1:6 “there is gno God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I hknow them all.”
Omniscient:  “knowing everything”
  • 2 Nephi 2:24 “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who aknoweth all things”
  • Matt. 10:29 “Are not two asparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”
  • Alma 18:32 “…he aknows all the thoughts and bintents of the heart”

  • The lesson I learn from these scriptures is that: God cannot be surprised. There is nothing that we can say or do that He didn’t already know about.  There is nothing that can happen that He didn’t know about.  He cannot be surprised!

President Monson recently said  “...your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.”  [President Thomas S. Monson, General Relief Society Conference, October, 2013]

  • THIS IS TO WHOM WE ARE PRAYING!  Our all knowing, all powerful, all loving Father.
WHY PRAY?  “Prayer Changes Things”
President Monson:  “Wherever we are in life, there are times when all of us have challenges and struggles. Although they are different for each, they are common to all.
“Many of the challenges we face exist because we live in this mortal world, populated by all manner of individuals. …There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.
“When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer.”  [President Thomas S. Monson, General Relief Society Conference, October, 2013]
·          “Prayer Changes Things!”  However, we need to keep in mind:
The Bible Dictionary states:  “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God …

  • Like we think we are telling him something He has overlooked or not considered

“…but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”   

  • We pray to get blessings!  To get help

“Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and
is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”  [prayer]

  • He knows what we want, what we need and what we will do with it but we still need to ask
President Monson: “We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: “Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”4  [President Thomas S. Monson, General Relief Society Conference, October, 2013]

Years ago when I read this definition of prayer from the Bible Dictionary, I had a brief moment when I envisioned buckets. I could see buckets floating in the air around me.  My buckets were old fashioned and wooden with a metal piece around the center and they each were hanging from a metal handle.  On the side of each bucket, a rope was attached that hung down within easy reach.   I understood that these buckets were full of blessings from our Heavenly Father and I thought it wonderful that we could reach up and pull on a rope and have blessings poured out upon ourselves and our family and friends.  Prayer is the appointed means used to pull the rope and obtain the blessings that God has for us.

  • I have learned a few lessons over the years about pulling those ropes!  One of which is that blessings are attached to laws.

D&C 130:21 -22 says:  “There is a alaw, irrevocably decreed in bheaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all cblessings are predicated—And when we obtain any ablessing from God, it is by bobedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

Brigham Young taught:  “Our religion is nothing more or less than the true order of heaven—the system of laws by which the Gods and the angels are governed.  Are they governed by law?  Certainly.  There is no being in all the eternities but what is governed by law.”  [The Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister, p. 300]

  • I have learned, that the same laws have continued in place for everyone on the earth from Adam until now, God cannot make an except for me or for you.
  • Also, I have learned that when I pull my rope through prayer, I need to be keeping the law that governs the bucket if I want the bucket to tip.

“In certain circumstances these gifts are bestowed without any required action on the part of the recipient; in other circumstances the beneficiary must satisfy certain conditions…because the giver will not bestow the gift until certain minimum conditions are satisfied.”  [The Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister, p. 310]

  • Keeping God’s commandments is part of getting answers to prayers.  So what are commandments?

  • His commandments are directions of how we are to act. 
  • Why is that important to us?
  • So we can meet the minimum requirements,
  • Why? So we can pull the rope
  • Why? So we can get the blessings
  •  Why? Because we want things changed.

The very next verse states:
D&C 82:10  “I, the Lord, am abound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no bpromise.”
  • We need to study the scriptures.
President Monson:  “Allied with prayer in helping us cope in our often difficult world is scripture study….As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. We can find answers to our questions. We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us.…As we remember prayer and take time to turn to the scriptures, our lives will be infinitely more blessed and our burdens will be made lighter.”    [President Thomas S. Monson, General Relief Society Conference, October, 2013]

  • Whenever the Lord or his servants ask us to do something….and we do it….we are blessed…with the appointed blessing.  D&C 82:10
  • Here is a promise that I have always loved.

Pres. Marion G. Romney said:  “… The Book of Mormon teaches us truth [and] bears testimony of Christ. … But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life,’ and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. … ‘Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 4–7; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 5–7; quoting Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1980, 90; or Ensign, May 1980, 67).

Another promise that I love is found in  James 1:5  If any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that cgiveth to all men liberally, and dupbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

  • It doesn’t say if you lack wisdom about which church to join Though that is what Joseph Smith needed help with.
  • If just says “if any of you lack wisdom” and I find myself in that situation quite often
  • This promise doesn’t work if I really know what to do but don’t want to do it!

Do you know what the next verse says?

James 1:6 But let him aask in bfaith, nothing cwavering.”
  • Asking God in faith is not just asking for a second opinion—since we have asked everyone else that we know.
  • We need to ask if faith….with the intent to do as we are instructed
  • God knows our hearts.  He knows us.  He knows if we are serious. 
  • If we aren’t serious, why should He bother to answer our question?

James 1:6 But let him aask in bfaith, nothing cwavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
James 1:7:   “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

  • Even though I know that “Prayer Changes Things” 
  • I also know that we are on earth to be tried and tested.  [Abraham 3:25]

President Packer once said:  “Some frustrations we must endure without really solving the problem. Some things that ought to be put in order are not put in order because we cannot control them. Things we cannot solve, we must survive.” [Elder Boyd. K. Packer, “Balm of Gilead,” Ensign, October, 1987]
President Monson:  “As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone. I promise you that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you”    [President Thomas S. Monson, General Relief Society Conference, October, 2013]

I love my Heavenly Father.  I love His son, Jesus Christ to whom I am eternally in debt for the sacrifice He made for me.  I am so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide me through this life.  I know “Prayer Changes Things.”  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Paul's Sacrament Meeting talk from October 27, 2013

Strengthening Your Testimony

Good afternoon.  I’m glad to be here, and thanks to so many of you who have come to be with us today.  I love to hear and sing with the wonderful choir whose participation we have just experienced.  What a thought – that Jesus may be in this very room with us.

We have been asked to speak today about “Strengthening testimony through humility, faith, obedience, study, and prayer.”

First, regarding our choice and call to serve a mission: 
For years I have planned to retire from Church employment in October 2015. About the beginning of this year an early retirement incentive was offered and it felt like the right thing to do to accept it.  I had also planned to go on a mission the summer following that retirement.  But as we considered our options, it seemed like the right thing to do to go on a mission now.  How well various things fell into place, it was amazing and confirmation to us that we were on the right path.  In May we turned in our electronic application and by early July we had our call.  We indicated no preference for type of service and that we would go for up to the maximum allowed for Seniors – of 23 months.  Sherryl really wanted a temple mission and I thought it would be ok – maybe better for a subsequent mission after we are older.  Tampico was in my mission as a young elder and there was a branch of the church there.  I did not serve there but I’m glad to see that a couple of mission companions who did serve there are here today - but it was considered one of the more desirable assignments.

I learned from the internet that the temperature there has been less than 100° for the past year.  Between October and April (the cool season) the daily high is 80-85° and the low is about 60-65°, with high humidity.

To quote an email from one of my companions who did serve in Tampico, “Tampico Mexico Temple mission?  Are you kidding?  Some guys get all the luck!  Congratulations!”   So we are both pleased with a call to the Tampico Mexico Temple.

A Testimony:

What is a Testimony?  Does it need strengthened?  Why?
In the church we talk a lot about testimonies – but do we know what one is?

A testimony of one thing is a basic unit of understanding the gospel or a relationship.

According to Elder Ballard of the twelve:
“A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed uponindividual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost, whose primaryministry is to testify of truth, particularly as it relates to the Father and the Son.”  (October 2004 general conf)

A testimony, like faith, is – the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)  
It can grow, if fed and nourished; or shrink to disappear completely, if not attended to.  (Alma 12:10-11)
It is a living thing, but not tangible.

One can have a testimony of many things –
Please reflect on your personal testimony of each of these for a moment:
The scriptures are truthful;
The Church is true;
A prophet is the Lord’s spokesman, or representative on the earth;
          A bishop, or scout master, or stake president, or primary teacher is called of God;
As we continue through this thought process, consider – HOW do I know what I know, or feel what I feel?
The Lord knows that I am going through a difficult time now and will strengthen me;
          The Savior is indeed our Savior;
          The Savior is MY savior;
The atonement is real;
Prayer has real power,
          The God of the universe knows my name;
          God created this world, the rest of the galaxy, and the rest of the universe;
          God loves me;
God loves you;
America was established as a free nation by the power of God;
          And there are many other facets of life, relationships, and the gospel.  Of each of these we can have a testimony.

Considering each or these things –
How do we strengthen a testimony, or an understanding or witness of each one? 

Can we do them all at once?

No.  Occasionally there are bursts of knowledge that will bear witness to several things at once, but generally we must build a testimony of one facet of the Lords work at a time.

Live the gospel – be obedient to prophetic and apostolic teachings – and the spirit: 
I have selected 3 facets of this that are part of MY testimony.
1.    Music:
Elder Packer, in a general conference talk on how reverence invites the spirit of revelation into our lives said – “I have noticed that an increasing number of our leaders and members do not sing the congregational songs. Perhaps they do not know them or there are not enough hymnbooks. We should sing the songs of Zion—they are an essential part of our worship. We must not neglect the hymns nor the exalted anthems of the Restoration. ” (October 1991 Gen Conf)

I participate in our ward choir – not because it is a good choir but because of the goodness that I feel the following week having the songs and music we have drilled on, fill my soul during the rest of the week. Today in choir in addition to “In This Very Room” we sang “One by One”, and several Christmas songs.  I encourage you to participate.
2.    Temple attendance:
In the early to mid 1990’s when the Bountiful temple was being built our stake presidency issued an invitation to us to individually consider what sacrifice of our time we would make, because we no longer participate with either a monetary assessment for residents of the temple district or physical labor in the construction of the temple.  Sherryl and I discussed the situation and committed to attend the temple every week.  We have done that now for well over 15 years – missing only about 2 or 3 times a year.  The real change resulting from temple attendance is not in the number of ordinances we have done, but in the change inside us.  Paraphrasing our current stake president Welch, you can go through the temple, or you can have the temple go through you.

So we are very much pleased with the opportunity to be called to spend more time in the temple – a great place where we are comfortable to be.

3.    Family Home evening:
Soon after we were married, we were invited to participate with our elders quorum presidency in a weekly home evening (Ted and Lydia Gibbons, Alan and Lisa Oleole, Paul and Bonnie Thornley).  One or two of them had one or two small children.  I think that simple invitation helped us get on the right path of having weekly Home Evenings.  Our children know that it wasn’t always easy, because they would each do a part - either of two songs, two prayers, a lesson, an activity, or refreshments.  We hoped the example of obedience to our children somehow found its way into their lives.  And 20 years later, I think we can safely say that it did.

The church also printed each year a new FHE manual – with essentially one lesson or more for each of 52 weeks.  Now, there is a family resource guide, and the Ensign magazine includes a small section each month with suggestions for weekly Family Home Evenings.

[As an aside to that, I like to think that it is a result of a suggestion I made in one of the few job interview/applications I made at the Church.  The Director of the priesthood department asked us two finalists to write a memo suggesting how the Church magazines could be improved, and that was my key suggestion – about 2 years later that small section started to show up in the magazine – even though I didn’t get the job and stayed in Welfare for 10+ more years.  Seeing how the Lord works, the suggestion likely came from at least 2 or 3 sources, but I like to think it was mine.]

Share the gospel and your testimony: 
Elders Ballard and Packer have said in essence, if you want to strengthen your testimony – bear it.   Like so many other things you need to step forward into the dimness (or even darkness) ahead of you and then you will discover that the light moves ahead of you – as you bear a testimony, the spirit will witness to YOU that what you are saying is true.  We need to press forward with faith.  One of the best ways I have learned to determine if a lesson I am giving is consistent with truth is that I learn things from the words out of my own mouth.  Speaking “Whatsoever things the Lord put into [your] heart,” as the Lord told the prophet Samuel when prophesying to the Nephites.

On the same talk by Elder Packer I cited earlier he also said:

I conclude by asking: 
1. What are the components of YOUR testimony?
          2.  What are you doing to help it grow?

My testimony includes the understanding that God lives and He, the creator of this world and the universe, is our father.  His gospel and plan of salvation have been revealed in these latter days through the prophet Joseph Smith and his successors, and apostles who have His priesthood authority.  In the temples we make covenants, which if honored will keep us safely on the path to eternal life and exaltation in His Celestial kingdom.  Of this I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our Retirement Trip

Before leaving for our mission, we decided to go on a retirement trip. 

During our three fun weeks of travel, we spent time with Ryan and Jen and their kids  in the Dallas, TX area.


We then hopped over to the Houston area to enjoy being with Alan and Holly and their family.

Then we flew into San Antonio for a fun time with Andy and Heidi and their family.

It was our first time to fly into Atlanta.  Angi and Nate and their family moved to Georgia this summer and we spent time visiting with them.

 We had such a good time and have decided that  this "retired" life isn't so bad after all!