One of the little perks of being Bishop is that you can decide when I’m going to speak. I usually feel inspired to speak on a certain topic and when I have some fully developed thoughts, I pick a date. This time was a little different. I knew that I needed to speak, but I didn’t know on what. I picked today as the date, and waited for the thoughts to come. I have a few things to say today that might seem a little random, but these are the thoughts that came. I pray that I have been in tune enough to the Spirit, that one of the things that I say will touch even one of you and help you. You might say that the topic of my talk is called “Things to Remember”.
The first thing to remember is that the gospel is all about you. Yes, you! No the person beside you, in front of you, me, Don, or Mike. It’s about you. By that I mean that the purpose of the gospel is for you to learn, implement what you learn, and to receive the saving ordinances. The scriptures plainly teach us two related principles. In one of his final messages before the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni said:
O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
Earlier on in the Book of Mormon, Nephi taught a similar principle:
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
We need to work out our own salvation, by doing all we can do. At that point we receive the saving grace we need. I know we don’t live in a vacuum. Other people do affect us, but there are so many things we can do to help ourselves. I’m talking about the “doing all we can do”. There are obvious things such as reading and praying. I don’t mean to skip over those basic, yet important things, but I wanted to mention a few other things. The Church is amazing in so many ways, but one of the ways that amazes me most is the incredible resources that are available to us. Over the history of the Church much time and money has been spent on these resources to help us. Some underappreciated resources are the Church magazines. Do you subscribe? There are a surprising number of people who don’t. A year or more ago I received a list from Church Distribution indicating which members were getting which Church magazines. Sister Wright recently helped us survey the members to update the list and these were the results.
- About 36 families receive the Ensign. There are approximately 70 families you might expect would receive the Ensign
- About 4 families receive the Friend. There are currently 36 children in Primary
- About 5 families receive the New Era. We have about 20 active youth.
Now, the difference between the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdom is NOT going to come down to a question of whether or not you subscribe to a magazine, but why not take advantage of these inexpensive tools, especially for our children and youth. Whatever the magazine, there are articles by Church leaders, art, poetry, activities and more that are so much better for us than what we find in the main stream media. The Church has many other resources that are available to us as well. Participate in as much as you can. At a certain age, the Primary children have Activity Days. The youth should be attending seminary, and the weekly Mutual activities. Adults should be involved in their callings and in home or visiting teachings.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
Again, any one of these things may not be enough to jeopardize our salvation, but collectively they may. We need to do all we can before the grace of God will save us. I don’t think we can afford to leave some off this to chance.
Another thing that will help you work your salivation is bearing testimony. Hopefully we have opportunities every day to bear our testimony in a way to our friends and colleagues. But one of the best ways to get practice is to bear your testimony here, either in a talk or in a testimony meeting. As I said in the beginning, this is about you. Sure, agreeing to speak helps Don or Mike, but ultimately, you are the one that will benefit. Study the topic, plan well, and testify of the principles. You will feel the Spirit in new ways that will enrich your life. With regards to our testimony meetings, it worries me that we don’t have more people bearing testimony. We have a ward full of variety and experience. Share a short faith0promoting experience and testing of the underlying principles. Testify. Go ahead and tell us of what you hope and feel, but testify of what you know. If you are concerned about not having a testimony worthy of sharing, consider what Boyd K. Packer has said. He spoke of those who say or wonder:
“How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?”
Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!
As you testify, the principles will be confirmed in you. If you are concerned about not being eloquent enough, or afraid that you don’t know what to say, consider what Brigham Young said:
I would rather hear men tell their own experiences, and testify that Joseph was a Prophet of the Lord, and that the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and other revelations of God, are true; that they know it by the gift and power of God… than hear any kind of preaching that ever saluted my ears.
Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is another way in which we can help to save ourselves. From the beginning, God has commanded his people to rest on the Sabbath and worship him. This is more than not working on Sunday. The dilemma of working on Sunday has only been around for a relatively short period of time. Even 10 years ago there were very few stores that opened on Sunday. Now, Sunday is just another day of the week for most retailers. But God’s commandment has not changed. Whether stated in the Old Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, or by our current leaders, we are commanded to:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
I think everyone understands that we should not work on Sunday. We have our agency, and based on our circumstances, and after much prayer, we can decide on the job we accept and the hours we are willing to work. But beyond that, there are other things we should not be doing on Sunday. Of course, we should not be shopping or eating out. If we do not want to work, we shouldn’t be requiring others to do so either. We should not be allowing our children to participate in sporting events on Sunday. I know there are those who may think that the values and principles learned and experiences gained are very valuable, and they are, but shouldn’t we be teaching our children about commitment to God and His commandments? A couple of months ago, ESPN had an article about Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and the fact that even during the playoffs, he doesn’t go to the games. The author spent a Sunday afternoon with him and reported the following:
He said we were going for “a drive.” This is what he usually does on those rare times that the NBA and the networks schedule a Jazz regular-season or playoff game on a Sunday. He goes to church from 9 a.m. to noon, returns home, changes clothes, has a bite to eat, gets back in the car, and drives in a Jazz-free zone until the game is finished.
Miller has been skipping Sunday games for the past 15 years or so. It just feels right to him.
…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
We often justify that since we aren’t working or shopping, whatever else we do on Sunday is fine. This is not right. The Sabbath is supposed to be a day to “rest from [our] labors, and pay [our] devotions unto the Most High”. We can reflect on the week, attend our Sacrament and other meetings, and spend time together as a family. We can visit extended family, visit the sick, write our missionaries, prepare for upcoming lessons, and do many other positive and uplifting things. I recognize that I am not perfect in this area, but I am trying. I would invite you to consider your own activities on Sunday, and discuss as a family how you can work together to do better at keeping the Sabbath holy. Our promise from the Lord for doing so, is that “the fullness of the earth is [ours].”
Now, in contrast to the thought that it is all about you, I have to contradict myself. It isn’t really about you at all. It’s about everyone else! King Benjamin described it beautifully when he said:
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?
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.
Our substance can be in the form of time, possessions or money. Do you pay a generous fast offering? I know that finances are a little tighter these days, but our fast offering contributions, both in quantity and value have dropped more than would have been expected. Remember the words of Marion G. Romney:
One of the important things the Lord has told us to do is to be liberal in our payment of fast offerings. I would like you to know that there are great rewards for so doing—both spiritual and temporal rewards. The Lord says that the efficacy of our prayers depends upon our liberality to the poor.
Do you faithfully do your home and visiting teaching? This is perhaps the easiest, most direct way to help other people. Every active adult should be a home or visiting teacher. Each companionship has people assigned to them. What do you do with your list? Is it stuck on your fridge or put into your scriptures and then forgotten about? Do you just add it to that sometimes long list of things that you just don’t have time to do? I hope not. This is different. This is about people. If it takes a while to get some home or yard improvements done, that can be frustrating and inconvenient, but that’s all it is. If we put off our responsibilities to help others, we are letting them down, and letting the Lord down. John Taylor said:
God will hold us responsible to the people we might have saved, had we done our duty.
If there is one message I wish I could get across to you all, it would be that forgetting yourself and caring for others is the solution to much of life’s problems. First of all, it gives us perspective. No that we find any joy in it, but there is always someone worse off than us. By reaching out to others, we see the pain and suffering others have and can appreciate our own circumstances a little more. Secondly, as we serve others, we learn more about charity, and our hearts are changed. We become better people, and are more able to deal with our own problems. We all need to understand this better.
Another thing we need to remember is that miracles are still happening around us every day. Moroni taught that:
And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
The fact that God is a God of miracles has been reaffirmed to me recently as we’ve dealt with the sudden illness of my mother. Through the faith, prayers, and fasting of so many people, and through the Priesthood blessings she received, my Mom is alive. She’s had 4 different doctors tell her she’s lucky to be alive. A couple of them seem astounded that she has made it through. When we think of miracles, this is often the sort of thing that we think of, but miracles are happening around us every day. These are good things that happen, however improbably they may seem. Families are reunited. Love is kindled. A baby is born. We take for granted many of the wonderful things in life. Lisa and I were talking about the miracles in our lives and we thought of a few.
- Having a child is truly miraculous, and seeing how uniquely different they are, how healthy they are, and watching them learn and grow is something we are grateful for every day. What did I ever do to deserve the life that I have?
- Of course scriptures contain many accounts of miracles happening, but Lisa commented about how miraculous it is that reading the scriptures can affect our lives and offering prayers can give us such unexpected, but needed answers.
- I like to garden, and I’m in awe of how the building blocks of life are contained in a small seed.
I’m sure if you thought about it, you could come up any number of ways that you have experienced miracles, both great and small. Recognize them. Be grateful for them. The word “miracle” is never used in the hymn, but “Count Your Many Blessings” says it well:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
To summarize, there are some things to remember:
- The gospel is all about you – do all you can to work out your own salvation, and rely on the grace of God to do the rest
- The gospel is all about the other – lose yourself in the service of others, and both their life and your life will be enriched because of it
- Miracles happen every day – look for them; recognize them; be grateful for them
As I said in the beginning, I’m not sure who these things were to be said to, but I hope you have felt the truthfulness of my words and the Spirit in which they are given. Let’s look ahead to even brighter days than we’ve had.
Astronaut Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon. That happened in 1972, before I was born. It’s hard to believe that in this technologically advanced society we live in, no one has stepped foot on the moon in 36 years. In 1972 as he stepped foot on the moon, he said, “and there was the Earth in all of its splendor and all of its beauty.” He was recently in Buffalo and spoke with a local radio station. The host asked if he ever looks up at the moon and think about the fact he was the last person to go there. I loved his answer:
No, hardly ever… I’m one of those people who don’t live in the past. I’ve got to live for the future… What I’ve done, I’ve done. I live with it. I hope my grandkids are proud of it some day, but I can’t go around with a sign around my neck saying, “Hey World, I went to the moon!” I don’t live that way. I live for what happens today and what I’m going to help make happen tomorrow. That’s what it’s all about.
Brother and Sisters, we are making tremendous progress. We have almost a hundred people serving in some way in the ward. We have 4 YM serving missions. We consistently have more people attending sacrament meeting. Life is good. But we must always be looking ahead at what lies tomorrow. Satan will increase his efforts to bring us down, so we must strengthen our efforts to withstand him. If we remember the things I talked about today, we will be better prepared to do so, I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 51
 Discourses of Brigham Young, p.335, 1:89
 Gene Wojciechowski, Utah owner Miller won’t listen to Jazz on the Sabbath, http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?id=3391439
 Marion G. Romney, “Fundamental Welfare Services,” Ensign, May 1979, 94
 John Taylor, as quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, “When the World Will Be Converted,” pp. 5, 7
 31243, Hymns, Count Your Blessings, no. 241
 April 23, 2008, Astronaut Gene Cernan Reflects on Moon Walk during Earth Day Appearance in Buffalo, Mark Scott, accessed 20080425 10:40 am http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wbfo/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1264887§ionID=1