Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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.

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