Sunday, April 26, 2015

Today was the last Sunday many of the members of the student ward that i serve as Bishop will be in our meetings. This next week is graduation and over the next couple of months about half our ward will be moving and going on to graduate school, getting jobs and beginning their lives all around the world. I spoke in sacrament meeting and would like to share the talk I gave. I hope you can learn from it as well. I invite your comments and questions.

Preparing for the Final Final

About half of our ward will be moving from the ward during the next month or more. Many of you are graduating and now will be looking for employment and an opportunity to really begin your lives together somewhere in the world. This is something you have been looking forward to for you entire lives and it is finally here. Next week are your finals all of the cramming for those exams is about done. If you have been diligent in attending your classes, taking notes and fulfilling all the class requirements you will do well because you are prepared. The Lord said: “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). There maybe some test that you do not feel prepared for and you do fear; however, in almost every case you will be ok. You will complete your classes and graduate. You will eventually, be accepted to the graduate program or find the job that you want and will be able to provide for your families.

Our mortal lives are similar to your time here at USU. You know what your goal is and what you need to do to succeed. Everyone here will eventually die and stand before the judgment bar to be judged of our works here in this life - the final final. While here at the university, most of you knew when you would be finished and graduate; however, none of us know when we be called home and face that ultimate final exam so we must live prepared to stand before the Savior at any time. When you take a class here at the university, you are given a syllabus and are told what you need to do to pass the class. Throughout the semester you have a teacher, teacher’s aides, study groups and a text to help you learn everything you need to succeed in the class. Our lives are similar. The scriptures are the syllabus and the church leaders are our teachers that guide us through this mortal class. Some of the teachers include the Prophets and Apostles, the Stake Presidency, the Bishop, Quorum or Relief Society President, Home & Visiting Teachers and Instructors. Each of these individual have special callings to help us understand how to live and what we need to do to be prepared for that final exam.

I would like to suggest four things that will help us prepare for that judgment day and at the same time provide you and your family a rich and abundant life.

1.              Understanding and following “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”
2.              Loyalty to the brethren
3.              Making and keeping temple covenants
4.              Personalizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ

First – Understanding and following “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. Every time I read this inspired document it increases my testimony that we have living prophets here to show us the way and warn us when we stray off the gospel path. When President Hinckley presented that document to the Relief Society in 1995, the family was still regarded as an important part of a successful society. Now governments, the philosophies of men, and society, are threatening the family in general. The world is trying to teach women that they are worthless unless they have a career, that men are not important or even needed, that children are a burden that is no longer valued and that traditional marriage is not important or even necessary. Satan is using everything he can to destroy the family because that is the way he intends to destroy us and make us as miserable as he is.

As members of The Church we must understand and live the principles taught in that proclamation. We must defend it in our legislatures, in congress and in the courts. We must not allow these sacred principles to be defeated and we will be held accountable at that final final for the way we have honored God’s pattern for marriage and the family.

Second – Loyalty to the Brethren. We must be loyal towards the leaders of the church, from our quorum presidents, auxiliary presidents, bishops, stake leaders and general authorities. We should not speak out against the brethren either in public or in private conversations. I am not suggesting that we blindly follow our leaders and never question things. Questioning is good if it is for the intent of gaining a testimony of something or trying to understand what they are teaching. Asking the right questions and seeking to understand is the very foundation of the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation.

When we question we should not do it in a way that criticizes or disrespects the Lord’s anointed. When we seek answers to our questions we should always turn to the scriptures and the writing of the brethren and not to the groups that are trying to tear down the church or turn us away from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We must be careful when posting comments on social media that in any way disagrees with established doctrines and church policies. Keep your comments to yourself. Be careful not to align yourselves with any person or group that is in opposition to the brethren and the church. The first step on the road to apostasy is criticizing our leaders.

I want to make sure you understand what I am saying. There is nothing wrong with questioning what our leaders are asking us to do. But you need to go to the scriptures, the writings of the brethren and to the Lord. If you ask with real intent the Lord will tell you what the brethren are doing is right. He will never tell you to go against them. He has called them and they are his representatives here on the earth.

The third principle is to make and keep temple covenants. Before we can go to the temple and make the covenants there we must be worthy. To be worthy of a temple recommend we must keep God’s commandments to pay a full tithe, and keep ourselves pure and clean. We must sustain the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the other general authorities and our local leaders. Those individuals that opposed the sustaining of the general authorities this past general conference (April 2015) are no longer worthy of a temple recommend and have broken the covenants that they have made in the temple if they have made them.

Once we have made those temple covenants, we must live each day to be worthy of entering the temple. We must be totally faithful to our spouse and never put ourselves in any situation that would compromise those sacred covenants. Brethren you must be constantly on guard against the temptations of the world and Satan to enslave you with pornography or any thing else that would have you break those covenants and destroy your family. This is a daily choice that we need to make and it will always come down to the choices in what we watch on TV, the Internet and the movies we go to. It will be in the choices we make in our music and other entertainment. It will determine the character that will govern our lives each day.

I encourage you to make attending the temple as often as you can a priority in your lives. Attending the temple at least once a month is the minimum and more often is the goal that we should all strive for. Where ever you live, especially in the U.S., you should be close enough to a temple to go once a month. The more you go to the temple the better chance you have of keeping those covenants and living a life that will always qualify you for a temple recommend and you will have peace and harmony in your home. As your children see the value of the temple in your lives, they will want to live lives that would qualify them to go and receive the covenants for themselves.

The fourth principle is to personalize the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is not a group thing, but is done by developing a one on one relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. We will never live lives that are perfect so that we do not need the atonement. We all sin and we do it many times. Simply acknowledging our need or dependence on the Savior does not save us, nor are we saved by working our way into heaven. The scriptures teach that “it is by grace that we are save, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25 23).

What does this scripture mean? To be saved by grace means that there is nothing that we can personally do that will save us. We can keep the commandments the best we can all our lives; we can serve in every calling, do our home and visiting teaching, and even attend the temple every day and yet this would not be enough to overcome our sins.  We must individually go before the Savior and acknowledge our weakness and inability to overcome our sins without him. Like Alma the Younger, we must cry out “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.” (Alma 36:18) Once we do that we will be “harrowed up by the memory of our sins no more” and we will be filled with the marvelous light of forgiveness. (Alma 36:19-20). Jesus Christ has already paid the price for anything and everything that we could possibly do to commit sin that is the grace of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Once we feel that exquisite joy of forgiveness, we live our lives according to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We keep the commandments, not because it elevates us to a higher degree of righteousness, but because we love God and choose to keep his commandments. We want to live our lives so that we will be worthy of the Kingdom of God here on earth and in heaven and feel comfortable to live among others that are striving for the same thing. We set ourselves apart from the world while living in the world. We are clean from the blood and sins of this generation.

As we adopt these four principles and do the best we can to follow them, we will live “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27) that Nephi described. Our children will see the joy the gospel brings and want to be followers of righteousness (Abraham 1:2) and have the blessings of the fathers in their lives as well. I am not saying life will be easy, it is not intended to be. You will have difficulties and challenges that will test you to your limits. I can testify that if you keep the commandments and your temple covenants you can get through anything that Satan will throw at you.

Sisters remember there is no nobler calling that you will ever have than that of a mother. I encourage you to talk to your husbands about when you should have children and when they come where possible stay home and nurture and teach them to love the Lord and his prophets. There is no day care or other family member that can do what you have to offer them. Get as much education as you can so that you can teach your children in all things. There maybe situations that do not allow mothers to stay home with your children, but that should be the exception. Brethren provide for your families and live so that your wives are able to be home with your children. I am not talking about times where your wives may need to work while you are finishing your degree, but when you are finished make sure you talk about these things and find a way for your wife to be home. When you should have children is between you and the Lord, but we have heard our prophets and apostles talk about the blessings of having children even while still in school. I encourage you to make this a matter of prayer and do all things in faith.

I testify that these things are true, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restore Church, that Joseph Smith did see God the Father and Jesus Christ, he did translate the Book of Mormon, Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet on the earth today. God is our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ is our Savior and God and Christ live today. I leave you my blessing that if you follow these principles you will be blessed and if you will strive to do all the Lord asks of you, you will prosper and be blessed with everything you need to provide a comfortable living for your families.

I ask that Heavenly Father will bless you all, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

From Darkness Into the Light

This past week the weather treated us to an amazing experience. On Tuesday morning the temperatures were 65 degrees, later that day the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. At first the rains came and then the snow began. It snowed all night and all the next day. By the time it was over we had almost 6 inches of snow on our deck. The weather the week before was warm and sunny and our fruit trees were in blossom. Then the snow came and the trees were covered in a blanket of snow. Many tender branches could not bear the weight of the snow and broke.

April Snow in Cache Valley, Utah
Some trees were stronger and they did not give into the cold and heavy snow. The night after the snow stopped, the clouds broke and the temperatures dropped. We were afraid that the blossoms would not survive and the trees would not bear fruit, but the blanket of snow on the trees kept the blossoms from freezing. The next day the sun came out and the blossoms on the trees were still there and as beautiful as ever.

Cherry Tree Blossoms

Two weeks ago was Easter Sunday, when we paused to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. We also remember what he went through in the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest, trial, flogging and eventually the cross on Calvary as he went through the atonement for each of us.

Our winter storm this week, is similar to the last week that Jesus Christ spent in mortality. He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the people hailed him as the Messiah; these are like the warm sunny days that we experienced here in Cache Valley this week. Then the temperatures in Jerusalem changed as the Jewish Priests conspired against him, Judas betrayed him and Jesus was left alone to be judged and crucified by the men that the night before he had suffered for and bled for.

Early in the week here in Cache Valley, Utah the weather was warm, the grass was green and the trees were coming back to life after the death that winter brings. Things can change quickly here in the spring. In one day we can have warm spring weather and then have the cold snow of winter again. Our lives are similar; one day we can feel the warmth of the Spirit in our lives and then because of a wrong choice or something we did not have control over, the spirit is gone and we are left alone and are covered with a blanket of cold darkness.

If we apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives that cold darkness can be changed to the warmth of forgiveness of the Son of God and we can blossom again. Some people break under the weight of sin, others bend to the breaking point but manage to spring back as the atonement brings warmth and forgiveness to our souls.

I liken the Savior’s death and burial in the tomb for three days to the blanket of snow that covered our trees. The blossoms were there but unseen, shrouded in the cold snow. After the crucifixion, Jesus’s body was placed in the cold dark tomb where his body remained for three days. On Easter morning the sun rose and just as the snow melted from the trees, our Savior’s spirit reunited with his body and he was resurrected with a perfect glorified body. He first showed himself to Mary, then the Apostles and then to hundreds of others in Jerusalem. He also visited thousands of people living here in the Americas. They also became witnesses of his resurrection.

Because of his resurrection, we too will be resurrected after we die. We too will have the experience of the cold dark snow melting away and we will be reborn with the warmth of the resurrection. Two weeks prior to his death, Bruce R. McConkie bore his testimony of the reality of the atonement and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. He said:

“And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.

“I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.

“But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.” (“The Purifying Power of the Atonement”, Bruce R. McConkie, General Conference, April 1985)

As surly as our trees were temporarily covered by the cold of a winter’s snow and the next day the sun came out and melted away the blanket of snow and revealed the blossoms on our fruit trees; so too will we have the blanket of mortality and the darkness of the grave melt away and we will be raised up with glorious immortal bodies and become perfect through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We will be brought out of the darkness into the light from the cold of winter into the warmth of the newborn spring.

Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Your comments and questions are welcome.