Sunday, January 26, 2014

Families Are Essential

There is a primary song that our children have grown up singing it is titled “Families Can Be Together Forever”. They sang it at church, in our family home evenings and many other times. Our children are grown now and have families of their own and now our grandchildren are singing the same song. The words are:

Families Can Be Together Forever
1. I have a fam'ly here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all eternity.
2. While I am in my early years,
I'll prepare most carefully,
So I can marry in God's temple for eternity.
Fam'lies can be together forever
Through Heav'nly Father's plan.
I always want to be with my own family,
And the Lord has shown me how I can.
The Lord has shown me how I can.
What a wonderful message that song has; families are eternal and continue on after this life is over. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are taught that families are an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan for his children. Elder Jeffry R. Holland once said: “of all the titles God has chosen for Himself, Father is the one He favors most…” (“Personal Purity”, General Conference, October 1998). That title of “Father” testifies that we all are part of his family and are His children. In The Family: A Proclamation To The World it says:

“We, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

“ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

“IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”

In those thee short paragraphs we learn some important truths about ourselves and our families:

1.              Marriage between a man and a women is ordained of God.
2.              We are all created in the image of God and are his children.
3.              Gender is not something that can be changed if we don’t like it, but is an eternal characteristic of who we are and always will be.
4.              We were part of an eternal family before we were born and families can endure beyond this mortal experience we find ourselves in.

These are eternal truths that will remain true in spite of all the posturing by politicians, popular opinion, activists, or learned individuals. They are unchangeable and eternal and man with his limited wisdom and understanding of divine laws cannot alter them nor comprehend them. In a 1998 general conference address, Elder W. Eugene Hansen had this to say about the impact of social reform through government programs:

“These are sobering words, particularly in light of the adversary’s continuing assault on traditional values and the impact it is having upon the family. It becomes obvious that much needs to be done to reverse trends that continue to place the family at risk.
“In desperation, society turns to the secular. Social programs are spawned. Government agencies are enlisted to provide public funding and programs in an attempt to change the destructive trends. While some spotty successes are observed, general trends remain alarming. I submit that if real and lasting change is to occur, it will come only as we return to our spiritual moorings. We need to be listening to the counsel of the prophets.” (“Children and the Family”, General Conference, April 1998)
The foundation of the family continues to be eroded as we use government funding to fix the problems of society. The answer is not in public programs, but in returning to the fundamentals contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and obedience to the commandments of God. Strong families, with a father and a mother that are committed to righteous principles are essential to the survival of any nation. Anyone that honestly seeks to study fallen societies of the past will see their destruction begins with the undermining of the family as the foundation of that society.

The only place where the sacred responsibility of brining children into this world is by a man and women that is married. As God’s children we are to live chaste lives before marriage and then after we are married we are to be totally committed to our spouse and lives based on fidelity. The scriptures say that we are to leave our fathers and mothers and cleave unto each other become one. (Genesis 2:24). Again we see this principle taught in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”:

“THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

“WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

Families that have a mother and a father is the ideal family; however, as it said above through death, disability, or other circumstances families are not always ideal and we must be willing to help those families who are not “ideal”. In families where one of he spouses is missing others can provide assistance where needed. Home/visiting teachers, primary leaders, young women leaders, priesthood leaders, and neighbors can help single parents when they need us. There are also many families that only have one parent where that parent is able to provide all that the family needs and does not necessarily need our “help”. We must respect them and be there if they ask. Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke of growing up in a family without his father:

“The theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints centers on the family. Our relationship to God and the purpose of earth life are explained in terms of the family. We are the spirit children of heavenly parents. The gospel plan is implemented through earthly families, and our highest aspiration is to perpetuate those family relationships throughout eternity. The ultimate mission of our Savior’s Church is to help us achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom, and that can only be accomplished in a family relationship.
“No wonder our Church is known as a family-centered church. No wonder we are distressed at the current legal and cultural deteriorations in the position of marriage and childbearing. At a time when the world seems to be losing its understanding of the purpose of marriage and the value of childbearing, it is vital that Latter-day Saints have no confusion about these matters.
“The faithful widowed mother who raised us had no confusion about the eternal nature of the family. She always honored the position of our deceased father. She made him a presence in our home. She spoke of the eternal duration of their temple marriage. She often reminded us of what our father would like us to do so we could realize the Savior’s promise that we could be a family forever.” (“Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church”, General Conference, October 2005)
The proclamation concludes with this challenge to us all:

“WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

To read the full text of “The Family: A Proclamation To The World” go to:

You comments and questions are welcome. If there is no comment box, click on the “No comments link below.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We Are All Beggars

We have all seen them – the dirty, tired person on the side of the road with a sign that says that they will work for food. Are you like me that as soon as you see them, you look away so you don’t have to make eye contact? Do you think that he probably makes more money than you do sitting there? That is what happens to me most of the time. I heard a story today about a women that had such an experience.

The Tattooed Homeless Man

He was scary. He sat on the grass with… his cardboard sign, his dog (actually his dog was adorable) and tattoos running up and down both arms and even on his neck. His sign proclaimed him to be “stuck and hungry” and to please help.
I’m a sucker for anyone needing help. My husband both loves and hates this quality in me. It often makes him nervous, and I knew if he saw me right now, he’d be nervous. But he wasn’t with me right now.
I pulled the van over and in my rear-view mirror, contemplated this man, tattoos and all. He was youngish, maybe forty. He wore one of those bandannas tied over his head, biker/pirate style. Anyone could see he was dirty and had a scraggly beard. But if you looked closer, you could see that he had neatly tucked in the black T-shirt, and his things were in a small, tidy bundle. Nobody was stopping for him. I could see the other drivers take one look and immediately focus on something else – anything else.
It was so hot out. I could see in the man’s very blue eyes how dejected and tired and worn-out he felt. The sweat was trickling down his face. As I sat with the air-conditioning blowing, the scripture suddenly popped into my head. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, so ye have done it unto me.”
I reached down into my purse and extracted a ten-dollar bill. My twelve-year old son, Nick knew right away what I was doing. “Can I take it to him, Mom?”
“Be careful, honey.” I warned and handed him the money. I watched in the mirror as he rushed over to the man, and with a shy smile, handed it to him. I saw the man, startled, stand up and take the money, putting it into his back pocket. “Good,” I thought to myself, “now he will at least have a hot meal tonight.” I felt satisfied, proud of myself. I had made a sacrifice and now I could go on with my errands.
When Nick got back into the car, he looked at me with sad, pleading eyes. “Mom, his dog looks so hot and the man is really nice.” I knew I had to do more.
“Go back and tell him to stay there, that we will be back in fifteen minutes,” I told Nick. He bounded out of the car and ran to tell the tattooed stranger. I could see the man was surprised, but nodded his agreement. From my car, my heart did a little flip-flop of excitement.
We then ran to the nearest store and bought our gifts carefully. “It can’t be too heavy,” I explained to the children. “He has to be able to carry it around with him.” We finally settled on our purchases. A bag of “Ol’ Roy” (I hoped it was good – it looked good enough for me to eat! How do they make dog food look that way?); a flavored chew-toy shaped like a bone; a water dish, bacon flavored snacks (for the dog); two bottles of water (one for the dog, one for Mr. Tattoos); and some people snacks for the man.
We rushed back to the spot where we had left him, and there he was, still waiting. And still nobody else was stopping for him. With hands shaking, I grabbed our bags and climbed out of the car, all four of my children following me, each carrying gifts. As we walked up to him, I had a fleeting moment of fear, hoping he wasn’t a serial killer.
I looked into his eyes and saw something that startled me and made me ashamed of my judgment. I saw tears. He was fighting like a little boy to hold back his tears. How long had it been since someone showed this man kindness? I told him I hoped it wasn’t too heavy for him to carry and showed him what we had brought. He stood there, like a child at Christmas, and I felt like my small contributions were so inadequate. When I took out the water dish, he snatched it out of my hands as if it were solid gold and told me he had had no way to give his dog water. He gingerly set it down, filled it with the bottled water we brought, and stood up to look directly into my eyes. His were so blue, so intense and my own filled with tears as he said “Ma’am, I don’t know what to say.” He then put both hands on his bandanna-clad head and just started to cry. This man, this “scary” man, was so gentle, so sweet, so humble.
I smiled through my tears and said “Don’t say anything.” Then I noticed the tattoo on his neck. It said “Mama tried.”
As we all piled into the van and drove away, he was on his knees, arms around his dog, kissing his nose and smiling. I waved cheerfully and then fully broke down in tears.
I have so much. My worries seem so trivial and petty now. I have a home, a loving husband, four beautiful children. I have a bed. I wondered where he would sleep tonight.
My step-daughter, Brandie turned to me and said in the sweetest little-girl voice, “I feel so good.”
Although it seemed as if we had helped him, the man with the tattoos gave us a gift that I will never forget. He taught that no matter what the outside looks like, inside each of us is a human being deserving of kindness, of compassion, of acceptance. He opened my heart. (By Susan Fahncke, Utah)
What a wonderful experience and a lesson to me that we should not judge a person. How do we know if the person is truly needy or not. Is it our place to judge or should we lend a helping hand knowing that the person will be blessed through our kindness and that we will also be blessed for giving of the bounty the Lord has blessed us with.
In the scriptures we read that King Benjamin said we are all beggars and depend on God for all we have and we need to impart of our substance to others.

 16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

 17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

 18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

 19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

 20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

 21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another. (Mosiah 14:16-19)

That is a hard lesson we all need to learn. Everything we have been given comes from God to us to be stewards. How can we say to ourselves when we see someone in need that they don’t need our help? Will we try to justify it away saying we are in a hurry, I don’t have any cash, or we will cause traffic problems if we stop to help? President Gordon B. Hinckley, 12th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave this counsel in October 1990:

Let us be more merciful. Let us get the arrogance out of our lives, the conceit, the egotism. Let us be more compassionate, gentler, filled with forbearance and patience and a greater measure of respect one for another. In so doing, our very example will cause others to be more merciful, and we shall have greater claim upon the mercy of God who in His love will be generous toward us. (“Blessed Are the Merciful”, Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, April 1990)
In James chapter 1 verse 27 we read:

 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To bvisit thecfatherless and dwidows in their eaffliction, and to keep himself funspotted from gthehworld.
What a great challenge to us. To become unspotted from the world we need to minister to the needs of those who are suffering. We are not the ones to judge if they need our help or not, we just need to be willing to provide the help and leave it to the Lord to determine if it was right.

Will I stop for every person I see with that sign asking for food, probably not I have a long way to go but I will start carrying more cash and when I see someone, hopefully I will be more open to the spirit to direct me to those who need my help and when the spirit prompts I will stop and serve Heavenly Father’s children.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lovest Thou Me, More Than These?

We are all familiar with the exchange that Peter had with the resurrected Savior on the Shore were Peter had been fishing. After the Savior was crucified, Peter and several of the other disciples went fishing. They fished all night without catching anything. A man standing on the shore called to them and asked if they had caught anything. They called back that they had not so the man told them to cast their nets on the right side and they will find some. They did and their nets were so full they could not draw the nets in. They then recognized the man was Jesus Christ and Peter dove in and swam to the shore to meet him where the following exchange happened:

15 ¶So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon,son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (Johm 21:15-17)

I wrote about this before from the perspective of developing our faith (July 28, 2013 “Pathways to Faith). This time I would like to discuss it from the perspective of the sheep and the lambs and what the Savior expects us to do when he says that we should feed them.

First – who are the sheep and the lambs the Savior was referring to? Elder Ben Banks in a conference address given October 1999 spoke of the lambs and the sheep:

“Twas a sheep not a lamb that strayed away
In the parable Jesus told,
A grown-up sheep that strayed away
From the ninety and nine in the fold.
And why for the sheep should we seek
And earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger when sheep go wrong;
They lead the lambs astray.
Lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray.
When sheep go wrong, it won’t take long
Til the lambs are as wrong as they.
And so with the sheep we earnestly plead
For the sake of the lambs today,
For when sheep are lost, what a terrible cost
The lambs will have to pay!

In this example the sheep are mature grown individuals that have wandered and the lambs are those that are young (or young in the gospel) and follow the example of their friends or parents as they wander from gospel paths and are lost as well. The sheep and lambs do not only refer to those who have wandered or are lost. The Savior often spoke of his sheep. His sheep were his followers and the shepherds were their priesthood leaders. Christ spoke of the true shepherd’s feeling for his sheep when he said:

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

What are we willing to do for the Lord’s sheep and lambs, not just those that are lost but also for those that are faithful? President James E. Faust spoke of the responsibility of priesthood leaders in the Lord’s church. He was speaking in the April 1995 General Conference soon after being sustained as the second counselor in the First Presidency, he said:

Tonight I would like to speak to the priesthood of God in their capacity as the Lord’s shepherds. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated: “Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety [meaning the salvation] of his sheep.”  The bearers of the priesthood have this great responsibility, whether it is father, grandfather, home teacher, elders quorum president, bishop, stake president, or other Church calling. (“Responsibility of Shepherds”, James E. Faust, General Conference, April 1995).

He was speaking in the priesthood session of conference when he said that it was their priesthood duty. He could have included the mothers, grandmothers, visiting teachers, Relief Society Presidents, Young Women Presidents and Primary Presidents as well because no matter who we are, we have a responsibility to care for others. The Lord made that clear when he taught of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of the importance of shepherding the Lord’s flock, when he said:

“There are so many young people who wander aimlessly and walk the tragic trail of drugs, gangs, immorality, and the whole brood of ills that accompany these things. There are widows who long for friendly voices and that spirit of anxious concern which speaks of love. There are those who were once warm in the faith, but whose faith has grown cold. Many of them wish to come back but do not know quite how to do it. They need friendly hands reaching out to them. With a little effort, many of them can be brought back to feast again at the table of the Lord.
“My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray, that each of us … would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives” (“Reach with a Rescuing Hand,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 86).

Are we willing to sacrifice our time to help our family, our neighbors, co-workers or strangers that need our help? President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, gave another example of what a true shepherd is in a 1984 General Conference talk. In his parable he talked of a ward that was planning a picnic for the ward. The day came for the picnic and the weather was great, the food looked good and the tables all set beautifully. Just as they were about to begin, a noisy car came into the grounds and stopped with smoke pouring out of the engine. Several hungry dirty children piled out of the car and the mother brought a few leftovers to a nearby table. Then one of the children sees the table full of delicious food and comes over to stare at it. Elder Packer said that there were at least three possibilities that the ward members could take:

“First, you could insist the intruders keep their children quiet while we have the blessing. Thereafter we ignore them. After all, we reserved the place.
“I doubt that you would do that. Could you choke down a feast before hungry children? Surely we are better than that! That is not the answer.
“The next choice. There is that extra table. And we do have too much of some things. We could take a little of this and a little of that and lure the little children back to their own table. Then we could enjoy our feast without interruption. After all, we earned what we have. Did we not “obtain it by [our own] industry,” as the Book of Mormon says? (See Alma 4:6.)

“I hope you would not do that. There is a better answer. You already know what it is.
“We should go out to them and invite them to come and join us. You could slide that way, and I could slide this way, and the little girl could sit between us. They could all fit in somewhere to share our feast. Afterward, we will fix their car and provide something for their journey.
“Could there be more pure enjoyment than seeing how much we could get those hungry children to eat? Could there be more satisfaction than to interrupt our festivities to help our mechanic fix their car?” (“Feed My Sheep”, Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, April 1984)
Who are the Lord’s shepherds? We should not sit back and say that the shepherds are the priesthood leaders and it is their responsibility to watch over the flock. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I am one of his shepherds, we all are. We all must be willing to share the burden of shepherding the flock. As parents, neighbors and family members we must watch for those who are in need of our help. We should pray to know who we can serve today and then when we see someone at home, work, in the store wherever it may be we should ask: “Is this the person that needs my help?” and then we must be willing to use our talents, time and means to provide the help they need, even to the point of binding up their wounds, providing the care they need and paying the “in-keeper” for their care and promising to come back and reimburse them for whatever they need. If we are willing to do this and more, then we are truly the Lord’s Shepherds and can answer in the affirmative when the Lord asks us: “Lovest thou me, more than these”.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.