Sunday, September 25, 2016

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

I was watching three different football games yesterday, one youth football game that my grandson was playing in and two college games. My eleven-year-old grandson plays wide receiver. He caught one pass and dropped another one that should have been an easy catch. I can say that as a grandparent on the sideline not having ever played football. The catch he made was with fairly good coverage for eleven-year-olds so it showed he had the skills to make catches under pressure. The catch he dropped he was open and had beaten his defender. Had he caught that pass he would have run for a touchdown.

The two college games I watched were USU against the Air Force and BYU against West Virginia. Both games were close and exciting. There were many plays that resulted in spectacular plays from all the teams and there were plays that had players on the stands and those watching on TV screaming, how could you miss that catch? Why is it that receivers seem to be able to make the catches while defenders are hanging all over them but drop the passes when they are open and there is nothing between them and the goal? I think the answer is that they took their eyes off the ball and were already thinking of heading for the easy touchdown.

When they catch the difficult passes while covered it is because they are focused on the ball and not the defenders, they don’t lose focus on the goal to catch the ball. When coverage is not there or the pass is easy and they lose focus and are thinking of where they are going next, to score a touchdown or get a first down, they forget to catch the ball. I heard one of the coaches during a pregame interview say that every offensive play they have, except for one or two, is designed to end in scoring points. If you think about it that is true. There are a few exceptions like spiking the ball to stop the clock, punting on 4th down, taking the knee to run out the clock. Why would a play be designed to do anything else but score? So why don’t plays always end up scoring? Things don’t always go the way they plan; someone fails to do their part in executing the play or the defense may have done a better job in doing what they were supposed to do, keep the offense from scoring.

Football teams have many short and long term goals. Some short term goals focus on getting a first down, scoring a touchdown or field goal. Defenders have goals to stop the next run, sacking the quarterback, Intercepting a pass. There are also other goals to win this game, the next game to have a winning season, to win the conference championship, or go to and win a bowl game. But their focus is on the next play or this game. Whenever the media ask a coach about a game that is one or two games away the coach always responds that they are focusing on the next game, not one later.

Life is like this in many ways. Our lives are busy and we have many goals that we are trying to achieve. The members of my LDS ward are all students at Utah State University and all of them hope to graduate and get their dream job. Because our ward is for married students, all of them have achieved the goal to find someone they love and that love them and get married.  Now they are focused on the classes they are taking this semester with the end goal in mind to graduate.
For many students the goal of graduating and getting that full-time job is the end goal. It is hard to think past that. Those of us that are looking back realize that graduating is just the beginning, there are many more exciting things to look forward to. But for now it is important for these students to focus on the short term goals and not just the end of the game.

No matter where we are in our lives, students, parents, empty nesters, retirees we all need short and long term goals. We focus on the short term knowing the long term ones will be achieved if the short term goals are taking us in the direction we need to go to achieve our long term goals.

Keeping our eyes on the ball, our short term goals, will ensure we don’t drop the easy passes. There will be times that even when it seems that it is an easy pass we will drop the ball. What do we do? We get up admit we made a mistake and try harder to catch the next one.

During one of the pregame interviews they were interviewing a senior and he was talking about during football season it never seems to end but it quickly does and then all of a sudden four years has gone and they are playing in their final season and they don’t want it to end. But it eventually does and they graduate and move on.

So it is with our lives. We focus on daily goals, yearly goals, career goals, etc. and then all too soon you are looking back and wondering what happened? Where will you be in 40-50 years? Are the goals you have set and are focusing on going to take you to where you want to be at that time of your life?

Remember to keep your eye on the ball, don’t lose focus of those things that are important right now in your life. But also make sure that the goals you are working for will eventually help you achieve the ultimate goal we all should have, that is to have eternal families, keep God’s commandments, be cleansed of all our sins, and be worthy to return to live as families with our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Today the bishopric of our married student ward spoke in sacrament meeting. I was a special meeting because the first counselor was released and a new counselor was sustained. It is hard to see these couples graduate and move on but that is the purpose of student wards. Serving as a bishop of a married student wards has many rewards and blessings but it is still hard to say goodbye when students leave the ward. I wanted to share the talk that I gave in our sacrament meeting today.

Becoming Followers of Righteousness

While Abraham was living in his father’s house he saw how his father had turned from following God’s commandments and began worshiping idols and making human sacrifices. At one time his father tried to offer Abraham as a sacrifice. Abraham said that “it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence”. I guess if my father tried to offer me as a sacrifice to idols I would want to move out on my own too. Abraham said:

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. (Abraham 1:2)

If we, like Abraham, want to be a greater followers of righteousness what do we need to do? We live in a time of false Gods, where many are sacrificing all they have to worldly idols. If we and our families are to be in the world but not of the world, we need to be better followers of righteousness. I believe there are at least four things that we need to do:

1.     Receive and keep temple covenants
2.     Live the law of consecration
3.     Love God and our fellow men
4.     Understand and follow The Family – A Proclamation to the World

First receive and keep temple covenants. One of the most important steps in our eternal progression is to go to the temple and receive the sacred ordinances that are offered there. Without the sealing ordinances of the temple there is no progression beyond this life. Just as a damn holds back the waters of a reservoir so to without the ordinances that can only be obtained in the temple we have no hope of living as families after this life. However, going to the temple one time to receive the ordinances and not returning or not keeping the covenants made in the temple would be worse than not going at all. We learn in the temple that those who make covenants with the Lord and don’t keep them will face eternal consequences because God will not be mocked.

Once we make temple covenants we need to return as often as we can so that we can provide the same covenants for those who have died without the opportunity of going for themselves. We should be doing family history research and searching out members of our family who have not had the blessing of living at the time the gospel was on the earth. While I was preparing for this talk I went to family and clicked on the temple menu and looked at the opportunities for my wife and I and there were six individuals that have not had any of their temple ordinances performed. Because my wife is a convert I know that there are unlimited opportunities for us to search out our ancestors and go to the temple for them.

Going to the temple often will help keep the covenants we make fresh in our minds and it will give us the strength to resist temptations when they come.

Second – live the law of consecration. One of the covenants that we make in the temple is the law of consecration. While we are not required to live the full law of consecration as the saints in the New Testament or the Saint of the early church in this dispensation. We covenant that we give all of our time, talents and everything that the Lord has given us to the Church. It does not mean that we will serve only if we like the calling, or if we have time, or when we don’t go home to visit our families. It does not mean that we do our home or visiting teaching if our families happen to be home the last day of the month, but we start early in the month and don’t stop until we have visited 100% of our family each and every month. The law of consecration is not something we try to do it is a way of life, it is a covenant that is binding on every member that has made temple covenants. We willingly pay 10% of our income to the Lord as well as a generous fast offering. We also have the opportunity to contribute to other things such as missionary funds, humanitarian funds and as well as other worthy non-profit organizations. It also means that we attend our sacrament and other meetings in the ward we live in and not always going home or to friend’s wards. The law of consecration is the law of the celestial kingdom. How can we expect to qualify to live in the celestial kingdom if we cannot live the law of consecration here in mortality? Speaking of the quality of life among the Nephites after the Savior’s visit to the Americas, Elder Victor L. Brown said:

Wouldn’t it be a glorious experience to live in such a society? In actual fact, this is the society to which those will belong who are prepared to live the law of consecration when the Lord sees fit to ask it of us. Some would say that this is fantasy, considering that human beings are what they are. Perhaps this is true. Nevertheless, it is also a fact that, when we reach the point of self-mastery and become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ sufficiently to keep all of his commandments, we will reach a plane of human happiness and peace which does not exist in the world today. (“The Law of Consecration”, BYU Devotional, November 1976)

The third principle is an extension of living the law of consecration. We are to love God with all our hearts, might mind and strength and then to love our fellow men as ourselves. How can we live the law of consecration if we do not love God and have a respect for all of Heavenly Father’s children? Christ said that all of the rest of the commandments rested on these two principles.

To love God, we need to have a testimony of him, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We need to have a testimony of and take advantage of the atonement of Jesus Christ. We cannot truly love God if we do not have a testimony of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. This testimony also means that we sustain President Thomas S. Monson as the Lord’s prophet today along with all the Apostles, the other general authorities and the local authorities of the Church. The Lord has chosen all of these brothers and sisters to lead his church and if we don’t sustain them we are not showing that we love God as we should be.

The fourth principle we need to do if we are to be better followers of righteousness is to understand and live the teachings found in “The Family – A Proclamation to the World”. To do that I suggest that you attend the Institute Class that is held every Wednesday in this chapel. I know there are many from our ward that are attending. But I invite all of our members to make the sacrifice if you can to attend. I promise that your marriages and quality of life will be better by coming to this class and living the principles you learn there. This past week Bro. Hunsaker taught that the Proclamation on the Family should not be something that we frame and hang on our wall, we need to do that, but we also need to as the scriptures say “have it written on the fleshy tables of our hearts” (1 Cor. 3:3). In other words, we must study it, gain a testimony of it, live it, and teach it to our children. Bro. Hunsaker also said that you are the first generation to raise your children under the teachings of that proclamation. When our children were young we did not have that inspired document to guide us as we tried to raise our children in the gospel.

We live in a time of great opportunity because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but we also live in a time where wickedness is spreading and our freedom of religious worship is being threatened. Both Mormon and Moroni warned that they had seen our day and know of our doing. They put the things in the Book of Mormon that we need to help us know what we need to do to be worthy of having the Holy Ghost with us. They warned us not to fall into the traps of pride and wickedness that the people of their day did. They warned us that if we did we would be destroyed just as the Nephites and the Jaradites were destroyed.

One other principle Bro. Hunsaker taught was that if we did not have a testimony of the principles that I have been teaching today, then certainly our children won’t have a testimony of them either. It seemed in the Book of Mormon, that it was the rising generation that rejected their father’s teachings and became stumbling blocks to the church. We do not want our children, who are the rising generation today, to be stumbling blocks to the progress of the gospel. We want them to be greater followers of righteousness than we are. The ones that live the law of consecration more fully, love God and others unselfishly, believe in and live the teachings found in The Family – A Proclamation to the world. And finally we want them to go to the temple to make and keep the covenants that bind us to them and them to their children.

I wish to leave you a blessing and a warning. I bless you that if you will take these teachings and discuss them with your spouse and decide to do your best to be followers of righteousness then you will have the blessings of the fathers as your blessings. You will finish your degrees and find that job you dream of. I bless you that if you will server in whatever calling you are given faithfully, then you will find joy in your fellowship with the saints. I bless you that if you repent and take full advantage of the atonement of Jesus Christ that you will be found spotless at the last day. I promise you that if you will teach these principles to your children by your examples, they will follow you as saints in Zion and they will be a blessed people.

I warn you that if you do not make these principles a priority in your life though you may find wealth and short term happiness, you will not obtain a fullness of joy as eternal families in this world nor in the eternities.

I testify that God and Christ live, that this is the Church of Jesus Christ today. I testify that the Church and Priesthood of God have been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s Prophet to the world today. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. I testify of the blessings of the temple and that the principles found in the “The Family – A Proclamation to the World” are true.

I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.