Sunday, January 31, 2016

What AM I Doing Wrong?

I recently listened to the Face to Face with Elder Rasband and other youth leaders that was broadcast on January 20th 2016 on The Face to Face programs are live broadcasts with the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the youth of the church. There is a live audience and it is broadcast over the Internet to thousands of youth all over the world. The youth can ask questions of the leaders that are there with them. Most questions are submitted through Facebook and Twitter prior to the event and the leaders answer the questions live on the broadcast.

On this Face to Face meeting Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Sister Bonnie L. Ocarson, Young Women’s general president, and Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men’s general president were the leaders that answered the youth’s questions. The questions they were asked covered topics such as prayer, keeping the commandments, how to stand up for what you believe in today’s world, and how to help family members that are struggling with their faith. I was impressed with the love and encouragement that all three of the leaders when they responded to the questions. Their answers were inspiring and uplifting.

Two of the questions have caused me to wonder how I would have responded. One youth asked: “When I pray I don’t know if the answers I am getting are just my thoughts or if it really is the Lord’s and many times I don’t feel that he answers me at all. What am I doing wrong?” The other question was “When I go to church on Sunday I feel strongly that I want to do the right things and keep the commandments, but when I get to school and around others it is hard to keep those feelings. What is wrong with me?”

While I loved the answers that were given, I would have liked to have said: “There is nothing wrong with you” or “you are not doing anything wrong”. I think sometimes our youth feel that when answers to their prayers don’t come when they want them that they are not praying hard enough, with enough faith, or that they are doing something wrong. We need to remind them that they are doing the right things by continuing to pray. Don’t give up, keep praying until the answers come.

Everyone has a different experience when it comes to the spirit and how we receive answers to our prayers. Some may hear a voice or have the “burning in our bosom” experience, but most of us just feel right or confused when the answers come. We all have to learn to recognize the spirit when he speaks to us. I believe that when we do our answer can be one of three responses. 1-Yes, 2-No, and 3-No answer. If it is the first one, the Lord confirms our decision is correct and we can on with faith we are doing the right thing. In the second He is telling us no, our decision is not right and we need to study and ponder some more. The third response is the most difficult to recognize and understand; that is when we receive no answer.

When we receive no answer the Lord could be telling us one of three things; first it could mean that we are not asking the right question or we have not put enough study and pondering into it. The second reason is that He trusts us to make the right decision. It may not matter what we choose, but He knows that whatever we decide will be right for us. The Lord might also be saying you decide and then go forth in faith. If it is right, then the confirmation comes or if it is wrong then the confusion and stupor of thoughts come that tell us to stop and evaluate what we are doing.

Elder James B. Martino of the Seventy speaking receiving answers to our prayers gave this advice:

“These personal religious habits—obedience, scripture study, prayer, and fasting—strengthened the sons of Mosiah. The lack of these same personal religious habits was a major reason that Laman and Lemuel were left vulnerable to the temptation to murmur and doubt.

If you have been tempted to murmur, if you have had doubt that leads to unbelief, if trials seem more than you can bear, turn to Him. If you are one who has turned away or rationalized your behavior, turn to Him. Can you remember when He did “speak peace to your mind … ? What greater witness can you have than from God?”20 Ask yourself, “Am I as close to living like Christ now as I was before?” Please, turn to Him.” (“Turn to Him and Answers Will Come”, James B. Martino, General Conference, October 2015)

For the second youth that was having a hard time keeping the spirit during the week I would loved to have said: “There is nothing wrong with you, these experiences and feelings are normal and we all go through them.”

The purpose of this life is to be tested and to prove to ourselves and to the Lord that we can keep the commandments and return and live with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and our families. We are part of a fallen world and are put in situations where we must make the choice between the Lord and Satan. If we are making incorrect choices and giving in to Satan’s temptations, we do have a need to stop and ask “what is wrong” or “why am I doing this?” Once we recognize that we are on the wrong path, we must turn around and get back on the straight and narrow path that leads us to Christ and his forgiveness.

If we strive each day to stay on the path and hold to the “Iron Rod” we do not need to feel inadequate or that there is something wrong with us. Last week I talked about “staying on the bus” even when we do make mistakes, as long as we stay on the bus it is moving in the right direction, home where we belong.

So to the youth of the church and anyone that is asking “what is wrong with me?” or “what am I doing wrong?”; my answer is unless you are not keeping the commandments of God and doing the things you know to be right, there is nothing wrong with you. Keep doing what you know to be right, stand up for truth, continue setting the example and you will be blessed to know you are on the right path. You will receive the answers to your prayers. God loves you and trusts you and has sent you here at this time because he knows you can handle the difficult times and will prove yourself worthy to return to him.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I Hope You Dance

One of Lee Ann Womack’s hit songs is one called “I Hope You Dance” some of the words include:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
GOD forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.

I like the message of that song – don’t let your fears keep you from achieving your goals, just go out there and dance. It doesn’t matter what people think. Go for your dreams and have fun doing it.

When I was at BYU I was a member of the BYU International Folk Dancers. There was never a show that we did not have several dancers making mistakes, it is almost impossible to do it perfectly. Our director, Mary B. Jenson, always would tell us not to worry about mistakes. No one will ever know if we made a mistake unless we do something that would focus on the mistake. We were supposed to just get over it and get back in the rhythm of the dance and go on. The Book of Mormon Prophet Alma taught:

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. (Alma 34:32)

The purpose of this life is to learn through by our experiences. We need to realize it is ok to make mistakes, but when we do we need to learn from them and then not repeat the mistake. Our eleven-year-old grandson played football for the first time last fall. In one of his games he missed a tackle and the player scored a touchdown. He came off the field crying because it was his fault the opponent scored. I tried to console him and tell him it was ok. On the ride home we talked about it. I asked Nathan if he was the only one to miss the tackle and he said no. Nathan was playing in the secondary so he was the last chance to make the tackle but everyone else also missed him before he missed. Then I tried to help him understand that it is through our mistakes that we learn and get better. I asked what he could have done different so he would have made the tackle and we talked about learning and getting better. I also reminded him that he was only ten (he was ten at the time) and the purpose of football at his age is to learn and gain skills so when he is older he won’t make those mistakes later.

Brad Wilcox, in a BYU-Idaho devotional told the students of a high school game they would play on the bus while coming home from debate competitions. The game was called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They would be slapping their knees and clapping their hands in rhythm as they called out someone’s name. that person would have to repeat all the names and then call out someone else’s name without breaking the rhythm or making a mistake. If they made a mistake they would have to go to the back of the bus and start working their way up to the front again. He said:

“What I realize now is that wherever I was sitting on the bus, the bus was still continually taking me toward home.

“In the Book of Mormon, we read about people who loved God so much they had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”10Does this mean they were never enticed again? Surely not, since that would have limited their agency. Does this mean they never made another mistake or had another bad day? No. They probably messed up just like we do, since they were living in the same fallen world where we live. The issue isn’t whether or not they slipped, but that they didn’t want to slip. The renewed people of King Benjamin probably sinned again (moved to the back of the bus), but they most certainly recognized the mistakes they had made, repented quickly, and kept trying. They lived in a constant spirit of repentance—continually renewing their covenants. In other words, they stayed on the bus as it moved steadily toward its destination. Enduring to the end does not mean living without errors. Enduring to the end means enduring in the covenant despite errors—remaining in the bus and continuing to play the game no matter where we currently sit, or how many times we are taken to the back.” (“The Law of the Gospel”, Brad Wilcox, BYU-Idaho Devotional, July 31, 2015)

I remember playing games like this and we always would laugh and taunt anyone that would make a mistake and go to the back of the bus. One thing we must remember when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are all moving in different directions on the bus and we must never be critical of someone for making a mistake and moving to the back of the bus. We especially need to take care of how we treat someone that has chosen to get off the bus for a time.

Sometimes we might wonder if we are not worthy to be in church or go to the temple, or even partake of the sacrament. Bro. Wilcox said:

“I’m not worthy,” “I’m not worthy to pray,” “I’m not worthy to go to church,” “I’m not worthy to partake of the sacrament,” “I’m not worthy to go on a mission,” “I’m not worthy to go to the temple.” We don’t partake of the sacrament because we are worthy, we partake of the sacrament because we are willing to become worthy. We don’t go to church because we are perfect, we go because we are willing to be perfected, and we certainly don’t go on a mission, or to the temple because we’ve “made it” in our Mormon culture. We go to these sacred environments because it is there that the Lord is making us. It is there that we allow him to continue to shape, and mold, and guide, and help us. As we renew our covenants, we are committing not to be perfect like Christ immediately, but to be willing to be perfected in Christ over time.” (“The Law of the Gospel”, Brad Wilcox, BYU-Idaho Devotional, July 31, 2015)

In a conference talk this past October, Elder Willord W. Andersen gave a talk titled “The Music of the Gospel”. He tells of an old Native American that walked into the hospital and a young doctor asked if he could help the man. The old man did not respond and the doctor finally said: “I cannot help you if you don’t speak to me,”. The old man looked at him and said, “Do you dance?” The doctor realizing the old man was probably a tribal medicine man who healed through song and dance said, “I don’t dance, could you teach me?” The old man responded, “I can teach you to dance, but you have to hear the music.” Elder Andersen continues:

“Sometimes in our homes, we successfully teach the dance steps but are not as successful in helping our family members to hear the music. And as the old medicine man well knew, it is hard to dance without music. Dancing without music is awkward and unfulfilling—even embarrassing. Have you ever tried it?

“In section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord taught Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (verse 2). We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts. The dance steps of the gospel are the things we do; the music of the gospel is the joyful spiritual feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. It brings a change of heart and is the source of all righteous desires. The dance steps require discipline, but the joy of the dance will be experienced only when we come to hear the music.

“The challenge for all of us who seek to teach the gospel is to expand the curriculum beyond just the dance steps. Our children’s happiness depends on their ability to hear and love the beautiful music of the gospel.” (“The Music of the Gospel”, Elder Willford W. Anderson, General Conference, October 2015)

How do we learn to hear the music of the gospel and the dance steps that will allow us to perform with confidence? Practice; it takes practice. We live the gospel principles, keep the commandments, and serve each other. We learn to stay on the bus when we make mistakes and get sent to the back. Most of all we learn to get over our mistakes through repentance and the atonement of Jesus Christ. But most of all we need to realize that others will not know when we make mistakes unless we tell them.

Another thing to remember is even when others know we have made mistakes and they are saying that we should give up, we must stay on the bus and keep dancing. Last night after USU lost their basketball game, the guys on the radio were saying that some of the players should give up on the three point shots. You never give up, just keep shooting until you get your game back. Just keep dancing, even if others are not hearing and feeling the music.

We must not ever think that we are not worth of the Lord’s love. If we don’t feel worthy enough to pray, pray until we feel worthy. Go to the temple and drink in the spirit of the Lord’s House. Remember the sacrament is meant to help us repent. Unless someone that holds priesthood keys has instructed you not to partake of the sacrament, you are worthy. In 3 Nephi the Lord was talking to the 12 disciples who were the leaders of the church when he said that they should not allow anyone who is unworthy to partake of the sacrament; he was not talking to the general membership. It is those who hold the priesthood keys that are responsible for determining worthiness to partake of the sacrament.

Remember what Professor Dumbledore once said to me, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, p 214). So if you have the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance, I hope you dance.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

From Ashes to a House of the Lord

The public has a rare opportunity to see a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Provo City Center Temple’s open house opened to the public this past Friday, January 15th and goes through March 5th. Tickets are free and you can get them here. Tickets must be in high demand because when I went there there were no tickets available. The web site promises that more will be available soon so if you want to go you need to check often. They do allow a limited number of visitors that do not have tickets to wait in a different line for a tour, so it is possible to go without a ticket. I remember going to the tabernacle on a few occasions when I was a student at BYU and loved the detail and beauty of the building.

December 17, 2010 was a devastating day for those that live in Provo or for anyone that had lived there in the past. The tabernacle was gutted by fire and it was a total loss – except for the outer walls.

Provo Tabernacle before the fire

Built in 1883 the Provo tabernacle was one of the oldest buildings in Utah. For 127 years many church meetings were held there and even a few presidents of the United States visited and spoke in the tabernacle. In the October 2011 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced that the gutted tabernacle would be rebuilt as a temple. Construction began on May 12, 2012. An article about the reconstruction of the tabernacle to a temple described the work that it took to preserve what was left of the building:

“In the early hours following the fire, contractors were able to execute an engineering feat that had never been done before to preserve what was left of the tabernacle. An innovative lattice structure was created to stabilize the building.

"That in itself was miraculous," described Roberts. "Nothing had ever been designed that way. They built it and designed it at the same time."

“Over several weeks we removed 14 tons of debris from the site,” Dickamore said.
Once the project got the green light, the building was strengthened by removing two of five layers of brick from the interior and securing the remaining layers with steel ties. A two-layered grid of rebar was then installed inside the perimeter and filled with concrete.” (“Provo City Center Temple Ready for Public Tours”)

The following are a few pictures of the Provo Tabernacle fire, the reconstruction and the finished temple. The pictures of the fire are from a Deseret News article published the day after the fire. The pictures of the completed temple are published by the LDS Church and can be found here. At the end of the blog is a seven-minute video clip published by the LDS church of the fire and reconstruction project. It is well worth the time to watch it. It is a blessing for those living in the Provo area to have the church preserve the original look of the building and have it stand as the House of the Lord for the next millennia.

All that is left of the Provo Tabernacle are the outer walls

Inside of the wall have a cement face to preserve the walls

Construction begins on the new temple of the Lord

The Provo City Center Temple Completed

Ordinance Room

Stairs in the completed Provo City Center Temple

Celestial Room