Category Archives: Mormon Sacrament Meeting

The blessings of paying tithing

Original image found at
http://pathtogod.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/tithing-1.jpg

Some people might disagree with me, but I feel that much of the promises extended to faithful Christians are vague. We all have faith that by following commandments and trying to be like Jesus, our eternal reward will be life with God. However, what blessings are in store for me right now?

I feel that one of the clearest description of blessings is associated with paying tithing. The classic scripture in Malachi explains it this way:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Malachi 3: 8-10

I guess you could say that the promised blessings are still vague, but it does seem to indicate that you will be blessed here and now. It’s a very vivid description. You can imagine a waterfall pouring over you and you can’t collect all of the water in the reservoirs you have gathered.

I was thinking about this because this past Sunday during Fast & Testimony Meeting a woman bore her testimony about tithing. She shared a story about how when she was younger she was speaking with someone who said that they couldn’t pay tithing. The member in my ward said that she had judged her friend. She had always thought paying tithing was easy and so judged her. Now, years later, the woman and her husband have had a very tough year. Her husband got laid off right after they bought their first house. During this time, she learned about the sacrifice it truly takes to pay tithing. They have continued to pay their tithing, and they feel they have been blessed for it.

It was one of the most touching testimonies I’ve ever heard in a Fast & Testimony meeting. She spoke of her past experience, compared it to the present situation, and bore testimony. It strengthened my own testimony of tithing, and reminded me of all of the blessings I have received from following this commandment. I truly felt the Spirit.

A couple of comments from Fast & Testimony Meeting recently

Since General Conference as at the beginning of April, the monthly Fast Sunday was on March 25. As is usually the case, there were some testimonies I found to be very touching, and others not so much. That isn’t meant to criticize anyone, it’s just the truth. I’m sure there were people who didn’t appreciate the things I enjoyed, and there were people who did appreciate the things I didn’t.

There were a couple of interesting quotes that I figured I’d share.

One older man said that the word BIBLE stood for Basic Instructions Before Leaving the Earth. I’m sure that wasn’t something he made up, but I’d never heard it before.

My wife stood up and shared a blurb from President Monson at the General Young Women Meeting. She summarized the thought, but I have the benefit of being able to look at the text of the talk. President Monson said:

I have spoken over the years with many individuals who have told me, “I have so many problems, such real concerns. I’m overwhelmed with the challenges of life. What can I do?” I have offered to them, and I now offer to you, this specific suggestion: seek heavenly guidance one day at a time. Life by the yard is hard; by the inch it’s a cinch.

Sacrament Hymn 169 – As Now We Take the Sacrament

I’ve commented before how I love music. I like most of the hymns that we sing in the Church, but there are definitely some that I like more than others. My favourite Sacrament hymn is #169. “As Now We Take the Sacrament” has beautiful music and words to match:

With devotion

1. As now we take the sacrament,
Our thoughts are turned to thee,
Thou Son of God, who lived for us,
Then died on Calvary.
We contemplate thy lasting grace,
Thy boundless charity;
To us the gift of life was giv’n
For all eternity.

2. As now our minds review the past,
We know we must repent;
The way to thee is righteousness—
The way thy life was spent.
Forgiveness is a gift from thee
We seek with pure intent.
With hands now pledged to do thy work,
We take the sacrament.

3. As now we praise thy name with song,
The blessings of this day
Will linger in our thankful hearts,
And silently we pray
For courage to accept thy will,
To listen and obey.
We love thee, Lord; our hearts are full.
We’ll walk thy chosen way.

Text: Lee Tom Perry, b. 1951. © 1985 IRI

Music: Daniel Lyman Carter, b. 1955. © 1985 IRI

Doctrine and Covenants 138:1–4

Doctrine and Covenants 59:8–12

“169: As Now We Take the Sacrament,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 169

Here are a few of the things that touch me:

  • “We contemplate they lasting grace, Thy boundless charity” – So true!
  • “With hands now pledged to do thy work, We take the sacrament.” – What good does it do us if we take upon us the name of Christ, but don’t take any action? We need to commit to do the Lord’s work
  • “The blessings of this day Will linger in our thankful hearts” – I love Church. The meetings aren’t always the best. I don’t always go with a great attitude. But each and every week I leave Church a better person. I feel closer to God, and I’m thankful for the ward family that I have.
  • “…we pray For courage to accept thy will, To listen and obey.” – Most of us have a desire to do what’s right, but we fall short. We should, indeed, pray for courage.

A recent Sacrament Meeting Talk – Conversion and The Ship of Theseus

One of the things that does separate us from other Church’s is the fact that we don’t have the same person giving a sermon each week. Most members are usually given an opportunity to speak in Sacrament Meeting. As bishop, I usually speak 4-6 times a year. A few of those are “big” talks. These are usually at Ward Conference, January (giving kind of a “State of the Ward” address), and September (an anniversary of my call). The rest of smaller ones at Easter, Christmas, or another holiday.

Well, I’ve just passed 5 years as bishop, so it was about that time to give another talk. This is basically what I shared:


Have you ever heard of Theseus[1]? In Greek legends, he was a founder of Athens. His name comes from the Greek word for “institution”. He brought the people together and settled them. Theseus was very brave, and conquered many beasts and foes. At one point, he slayed a Minotaur on the island of Crete. After arriving safely back in Athens, his ship became a kind of monument. It was left at the harbour to be used during a festival. You can imagine that over time, various parts of the ship needed replacing. The shape and form of the ship didn’t change, but the individual parts did. This gave rise to the “Ship of Theseus Paradox”. The Greek historian Plutarch recorded it this way:

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned [from Crete] had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.[2]

In other words, is an object that has had its individual parts replaced, but maintained its original form, still the same object? Philosophers through history and different cultures have used this and similar questions to talk about identity. I like this particular story as it parallels nicely with the way we discuss our conversion to the gospel. As we learn and grow in the gospel, as we overcome our weaknesses and bad habits, as we replace the bad, rotten boards of our ship, we do change. There are those who would say that by giving up certain things (gambling, swearing, Word of Wisdom vices), we are different; definitely not the same. There are those who say that as we replace our rotten boards, we are just fixing up what is there to begin with. Our condition is just returning to that which God wants us to have. Regardless of how you look at it, this process can be quite painful. We recently took apart an old dog kennel in our bag yard. There was a small fenced in area that had a doghouse sitting on a wooden platform. Some of the platform wood was so rotten that you almost fell through as you walked on them. Some of the wood was rotten from end to end and right through the wood. It was easy to lift off the base. Some of the wood was rotten on one end, but still relatively solid on the other end. Obviously the rotten wood was easy to pry up or break off, but the solid wood required more effort. In some cases, when the solid wood was nailed into a solid base with a 6 inch nail, it required a lot of effort.

Again, you can see the similarity here with our own conversion. Some of our bad habits are easy to get rid of, but some of them seem to have taken root and just won’t come out. I’d like to take some time to talk about a few of the things that can damage our boards. These may not all apply to you. Our age, our time in the Church, and just our general life experience will dictate which boards are most damaged. Regardless of what needs fixing up, it is imperative that we do it now, and don’t delay. If we do this, our ship will continue to sail. If we don’t do this in time, we may not complete our journey, and may even sink.

Obedience. Sometimes we hear that word and we think we’re going to hear someone try to guilt us into following our leaders. That is not what obedience is about. If you are obeying a commandment or principle because you have to, you probably aren’t being obedient. Disobedience is what causes the decay in many of our boards. Obedience is about using our will and freely choosing to follow God’s will. Many people come up with many excuses as to why their way is better than God’s way. On the way home from the temple on Thursday night we were talking about the students coming back to university, and some of the activities they have during their first week. I commented on how there are those who claim that following the commandments causes them to lose their freedom. In particular, we were talking about how some students leave home for school and then with their new-found freedom drink to excess. The consequences of their so-called freedom could be not remembering what happened that night, charges for something that they did that they might not even remember doing, physical pain, or in extreme circumstances, even death. Obviously real freedom comes from following the commandments. Our Heavenly Father loves us. He has given us commandments, that when followed will bring us peace. Contrast the student I just mentioned with another student. This other student chooses to abstain from alcohol. There are no hangovers, no drinking and driving, no worries about what was done or said to whom. That’s freedom!

It is clear that engaging in addictive behaviour will eventually cause us to lose our freedom. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography can all bring us down. It is no surprise that our prophets and apostles have warned us about these things. The other day I read a headline from The Church News that said “If it’s on the Prophet’s mind, it matters[3].” My first thought was that seemed a bit strong. Can’t the prophet just talk and it’s just him taking? As I thought about it more, I came to agree with it. Thomas S. Monson is the prophet, seer and revelator, and is the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys[4]. As I say to the youth in our interviews, President Monson is “the Man”! Of course what is on his mind, or what he speaks to us about, matters. Whether by President Monson, President Hinckley, or prophets before them, among other things, we have been encouraged to serve others, warned of the distraction of the Internet, reminded to not let opportunities pass us by, told in no uncertain terms that a member of the Church must not be racist, and warned about the evil, addictive problem of pornography. Are these things important? Absolutely! We need to be obedient to the words of the prophets. Our obedience shouldn’t be a result of pressure. We shouldn’t blindly follow. We are obedient because we love the Lord, we have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel, and we have faith that obedience will bring the promised blessings. Remember these two verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.[5]

I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.[6]

The Lord speaks through his servants, and when we follow, we are blessed. On the other hand, when we do not follow, we have no promise.

I testify that obedience does bring blessings. As we turn away from our bad habits, and align ourselves more with the Lord, His servants and His church, we are able to replace those bad boards with stronger ones.

Another cause of decay in our boards is judgment. Matthew quotes the Saviour in saying “Judge not, that ye be not judged.[7]” Joseph Smith revealed that it should really be “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged.[8]” It seems clear to me what the spirit of this counsel is. Don’t judge something or someone unnecessarily, especially without knowing all of the details. However, we rarely do know all the details, so to me, we still have to be careful with how we judge. Unfortunately, there are those who think since they do or think something, everyone should. Life just isn’t like that. Often, judgment is defined as looking down on someone. That is the problem. Jesus Christ, our perfect example, didn’t just look down on us and comment there was no way we could make it back. He literally came down[9]. He condescended and came to our rescue. He taught, He healed, and He lifted. Always remember that. Our righteous judgment should lead us to better things and to bring us closer together, not to divide us.

Another part of judgment that can cause decay in our boards is how we choose to spend our time. Elder Oaks said it well when he said this:

Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”

In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.

The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.” Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs. There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: What your children really want for dinner is you.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”[10]

That is a long quote, but I couldn’t think of a better way to say it, and couldn’t decide what to leave out. Do the things that matter most with your children. Do the things that will strengthen them and keep the family together. Sports are great, but they shouldn’t take the children away from Church activities. I plead with you to choose activities that will keep your children close to the Church. This is where there is peace and safety. Along with the teachings in the home, this is where they learn standards and values. They will associate with other kids their age who have the same values. They will bear testimony to one another. They will feel the Spirit together, and they will look after one another. Returning to the Ship of Theseus analogy, there are many things we can do which might make the outside of the ship look nice. A coat of paint, a sealant, or other such things can cover up a lot. But if the wood is rotting, it will continue to rot. Don’t just choose things that seem to make your kids happy for the time being. Choose things that will bring lasting value to them and your family.

The final cause of decay I’d like to speak about today is a lack of love. Of course, love underlies all that we do. But I’d like to speak specifically about how we do things. There was a time before we moved to St Catharines where I was the YM President and Lisa was the YW President. We were young, only a few years older than some of the Priests and Laurels, and had no children of our own, so it was quite convenient for us to serve together. Unfortunately, it was not a positive experience for either of us. The group of youth that we had was much different than what we have here. They certainly weren’t bad kids, but there were some strong personalities and attitudes to work with, and many of the families seemed to just be happy that their kids went to Church. There didn’t seem to be other expectations, or at least this is how I felt at the time. We tried to teach them things, but I was sure they weren’t listening. It was terribly frustrating, and was actually kind of a relief to move, as that got us released from our callings. Many times I’ve looked back on that calling and wondered what went wrong. It seems clear to me now that what was wrong was me. They way I was looking at them was wrong. I came to learn that love actually comes in two parts. You do things with love, and you do things because of love. They might be similar, but they are not the same. Let me explain…

When I say that things need to be done with love, I am referring to our outward expressions. This is probably fairly easy for most people. As you speak to people, you are polite. You try to teach people in a way that they will listen. I had a missionary companion who was very good at this. He asked all the right questions (according to the missionary guide, anyway), and tried to commit investigators to certain things at certain times. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem sincere. He seemed almost phony. He was doing things because a book told him what he was supposed to do. In a way, that’s what I was doing with the youth. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I love the Lord, and I love the Church, and I sustain my leaders, therefore I loved the youth. The same goes for my missionary companion. He loved the Lord and his mission, therefore he loved the investigators. Well, love just doesn’t happen. Just because you are trying to do what’s right, doesn’t mean that love is present. In hindsight, the love was only on the surface. I wasn’t really doing things because of the love in my heart. That is where we find true charity. When we are serving in our callings, we shouldn’t just serve in a loving way. Showing a smile and doing what we are supposed to do probably isn’t enough. We really need to have love for others. That is when others feel it. Have you ever been with someone who just radiates love? It’s not just in what they say or how they look; you can really feel that is who they are. I look back with regret on that calling. Thankfully, we didn’t do any damage. In the end, most of the YM went on missions, and there have been temple marriages. I am, however, very grateful for the lesson I learned. This is by means to say that I am a wonderful example of love. I still have much work to do. We’ve all heard the words of Paul in his letter to the believers in Corinth, but it is worth repeating:

though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.[11]

These are only a few of the things that can damage our ship. Just as a ship can have hundreds, or thousands of pieces, we too have many things that can distract us from our purpose and lead us off God’s path. We need to be diligent in caring for these things. Through regular inspection, we can find the defects and replace broken pieces. In the end, I do think we are the same, but new. We are born again as true believers. We are finally becoming the people that God wants us to be. We can be clean and pure and worthy to return to live with Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom.

Once we are on this path, and are safely following it, there is still lots of work to do. You see, it’s not just our own ship that needs work. Everyone around us has the same sorts of problems. As we are busy replacing boards of our own, we have to remember that others are in need as well. The Saviour said to Peter:

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.[12]

There are those around us who do not have the strength to pull out that stubborn board on their own. When we see them struggling, we need to be there to help. Just as Paul said that feeding the poor without charity is worthless, so it is with us. If we are so busy fixing our own ships that those around us are sinking, it profiteth us nothing. This is why we have wards and stakes in the Church. This sense of community is very important. We are all brothers and sisters, and can’t do this alone.

I testify that as we become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and truly live his teachings, we will become new people. Paul said that old things are passed away and all things are become new[13]. As we walk in this newness of life[14], only then are we able to return to live with Heavenly Father. I know this to be true, and testify of it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1] The main information on Theseus and the Ship of Theseus Paradox was from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theseus – Retrieved 20090912.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus – Retrieved 20090912.
Other helpful information was found on
http://www.productiveflourishing.com/the-ship-of-theseus-and-personal-identity/ – Retrieved 20090912.
http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/theseus.html – Retrieved 20090912.

[2] Plutarch. “Theseus”. The Internet Classics Archive. http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/theseus.html – Retrieved 20090912.

[3] http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57803/If-Its-On-the-Prophets-Mind-It-Matters.html – Retrieved 20090912

[4] From a current question in the temple recommend interview (as of September 2009)

[5] D&C 1: 38

[6] D&C 82: 10

[7] Matthew 7: 1-2

[8] JST Matthew 7: 1-2

[9] Abraham 3: 24

[10] Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 104-8

[11] 1 Corinthians 13: 2-8, 13

[12] Luke 22: 32

[13] 2 Corinthians 5: 17

[14] Romans 6:4

Fathers

I know I’m a day late on this one, but I’m not usually on the computer very much on Sundays…

Yesterday our 13-year-old Deacons Quorum President spoke on Fathers. He spoke about his father and his grandfathers and what he has learned from them. He also read a short story about Father’s which was attributed to Erma Bombeck. I usually don’t like these sorts of things, but I thought this one was pretty good.

When God was creating fathers, He started with a tall frame. An angel nearby said, “What kind of father is that? If you’re going to make children so close to the ground, why have you put fathers up so high? He won’t be able to shoot marbles without kneeling, tuck a child in bed without bending, or even kiss a child without a lot of stooping.” God smiled, “Yes, but if I make him child size, who would children have to look up to?” When God made a father’s hands, they were large and sinewy. The angel shook her head sadly and said, “Do You know what You’re doing? Large hands are clumsy. They can’t manage diaper pins, small buttons, or rubber bands on pony tails.” God smiled, “I know, but they’re large enough to hold everything a small boy empties from his pockets at the end of a day…yet small enough to cup a child’s face.” Then God molded long legs and broad shoulders. The angel nearby said “Do You realize You just made a father without a lap? How will he pull a child close to him without the kid falling between his legs?” God smiled, “A mother needs a lap. A father needs strong shoulders to pull a sled, balance a boy on a bicycle or hold a sleepy head on the way home from the circus.” God was in the middle of creating two of the largest feet anyone had ever seen when the angel could contain herself no longer. “Do You honestly think those large boats are going to dig out of bed early in the morning when the baby cries? Or walk through a small birthday party without crushing at least three of the guests?” God smiled, “They’ll support a small child who wants to “ride a horse to Banbury Cross” or scare off mice at the summer cabin, or display shoes that will be a challenge to fill.” God worked through the night, giving the father few words but a firm authoritative voice; eyes that see everything, but remain calm and tolerant. Finally, He added tears, then turned to the angel, “Now are you satisfied that he can love as much as a mother?” The angel was silent.

Our Easter Sacrament Meeting

Here is the program that we used for our Sacrament Meeting on Sunday. Afterward, I’ve made a few notes:


Program Title: I Believe In Christ

Musical Number: Ward Choir—I Know That my Redeemer Lives

Reader#1:

Judith Robinson Walton, “The Mother,” Ensign, Dec. 1982, 49
She went unnoticed.
Amid the angry mob she was
But another witness.
Yet those who knew
Beheld a softly anguished face,
Whose sorrow raged, but silently.
A knowledge that this must be
For a time had steadied her.
And so she watched,
As, taunted, bound, and lifted high,
He stood his pain, and hers, and theirs.
She watched
The thing she could not bear to see.
For a moment
She remembered a time before;
Then, too, He was
About his Father’s business.
Yet, that time,
The parting short and painless.
This …
In new and sudden grief
She bowed her head.
Above the rabid cries of men
Her silent prayer, a plea.
Must this suffering be?
Might not a mother’s hands
Some comfort give?
The son looked down
And kindly drew her eyes to his.
She saw her answer there.
She could not ease these final steps,
And, at length, withdrew her gaze.
Her son, His Son: His will be done.
She turned and walked with John.

Read to add testimony

Congregational Hymn: 191 Behold the Great Redeemer Die

Reader#2

John 20:1-3, 9-17
1 THE afirst day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet bdark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the cstone taken away from the dsepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other adisciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the bLord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must arise again from the bdead.
10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two aangels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and asaw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, aMaster.
17 Jesus saith unto her, aTouch me not; for I am not yet bascended to my cFather: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my dFather, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Read to add testimony of the resurrection

Musical Number: Look on Him and Live

Reader #3:

In April 6, 1985, 13 days before his death, Bruce R McConkie, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ delivered a stirring testimony. I will be reading part of his address.
We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive, the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane. We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him. We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible to suffer, except it be unto death. We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.
As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies- this suffering beyond compare- continued for some three or four hours… he was led away with a rope around his neck, as a common criminal, to be judged… they took him to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate. He was accused, cursed, and smitten. Their foul saliva ran down his face as vicious blows further weakened his pain-engulfed body. With reeds of wrath they rained blows upon his back. Blood ran down his face as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow…But above it all he was scourged, scourged with forty stripes save one, scourged with a multithonged whip into whose leather strands sharp bones and cutting metals were woven. Many died from scourging alone, but he rose from the sufferings of the scourge that he might die an ignominious death upon the cruel cross of Calvary. Then he carried his own cross until he collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.
Finally, on a hill called Calvary…the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross. With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. Then the cross was raised that all might see and gape and curse and deride. This they did, with evil venom, for three hours from 9 A.M. to noon.
The heavens grew black. Darkness covered the land for the space of three hours, as it did among the Nephites. There was a mighty storm, as though the very God of Nature was in agony. And truly he was, for while hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3 P.M., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred. And finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll- when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things- then he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the Ghost

Read to add testimony of Atonement

Congregational Hymn: 136 I Believe in Christ

Bishop:

Elder McConkie continues:
After some thirty-eight or forty hours- three days as the Jews measured time- our Blessed Lord came to the Arimathaean’s tomb, where his partially embalmed body had been placed by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea. Then, in a way incomprehensible to us, he took up that body which had not yet seen corruption and arose in that glorious immortality which made him like his resurrected Father. He appeared unto Mary Magdalene and many others, and ascended into heaven, there to sit down on the right hand of God the Father Almighty and to reign forever in eternal glory. His rising from death on the third day crowned the Atonement. Again, in some way incomprehensible to us, the effects of his resurrection pass upon all men so that all shall rise from the grave.
As Adam brought death, so Christ brought life; as Adam is the father of mortality, so Christ is the father of immortality. And without both, mortality and immortality, man cannot work out his salvation and ascend to those heights beyond the skies where gods and angels dwell in eternal glory.
The Atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood off all our revealed truths.
I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement… We must search the scriptures, accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord
Bruce R McConkie went on to say : 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. God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin.

Bishop will close with own comments)

Closing Hymn: 200 Christ the Lord is Risen Today


  • The meeting turned out excellent. The three readers/speakers before me bore wonderful testimony of the Savior, his mission, life, and atonement. It was very touching
  • The song Look on Him and Live is gorgeous! 4 woman sang it, and I really wanted to applaud when they were done. Bravo!
  • I only had a couple of minutes when I was done, and shared a thought based on the Primary Songbook song This Is My Beloved Son. I just wanted to emphasize that even though we have those who have seen Jesus, and we have the testimonies of our prophets and apostles, we, too, can have a witness.

Overall, it was a very good day!

2009 Ward Conference

This past Sunday was our annual Ward Conference. The stake presidency had decided that the theme of the conferences this year would be from Mosiah 18:21. I think the day went very well. The Primary children sang a couple of songs as prelude music, and did a great job. For the meeting, I was the first speaker, the counselor in the stake presidency over our ward was the second speaker, and the stake president was the concluding speaker. We had 173 people attend, including several non-members, and one couple that hadn’t been to church in years. This is 25-30 more than our average, so we were quite pleased. The combined MP/RS meeting was about bringing the Church out of obscurity. I spoke about missionary work, the stake RS president spoke about services, and the stake Public Affairs person spoke about being involved in the community, and the stake president summarized everything. After Church, we went and visited (prearranged) some members. I havne’t received all reports back yet, but they went also went well. It was a long day, but a good one!

In case you are interested, here is my 10-minute talk from sacrament meeting about contention…


Good morning Brothers and Sisters. It is great to see so many of you out this morning for our ward conference. I, like all of you, look forward to the messages that will be shared with us today.

I thank the Primary for their beautiful singing this morning. My kids love the song Holding hands Around the World. The words of the chorus are:

We are children holding hands around the world,
Like an army with the gospel flag unfurled.
We are led by His light,
And we love truth and right.
We are building the kingdom of God.[1]

What a beautiful message. You can imagine the strength these children will have if they keep that inspiration with them as they grow?!

When I last spoke, I mentioned that the theme of the ward conferences and of the stake this year was taken from Mosiah 18: 21.

And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.[2]

My remarks this morning will focus on the first part of that verse: contention. To contend is to argue or compete over a point; to fight about something. In boxing, the person ranked just below the champion is called the #1 contender. In sports, being in contention is a good thing. It means you are trying your best and you are close to the top. Fans in those cities where teams are in contention are excited and look forward to going to the games. Fans in those cities where teams are not in contention often can’t be bothered to even go to the games. Unfortunately, in most other parts of life, the results of contention are quite the opposite. Christ plainly taught us that:

…he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.[3]

With that as a definition, it seems impossible to come up with a situation where contention would be a good thing. Contention is associated with pride. We contend with people because we are certain we are right and they are wrong. It is also associated with selfishness. We may know we are wrong, but don’t want others to be right. Sometimes we develop a sense of entitlement. Perhaps we have done something for others and feel that they now owe us, and we treat them poorly because of it. This lack of humility can damage our homes, our places of employment, and the Church. The fruits of contention are anger, hatred, yelling, and even violence. Of course, on the other hand, the fruit of the Spirit are

…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith…[4]

When I was a missionary in Taiwan, we’d often hear about a Confucius saying. It was kind of a long thought, but basically it said that if we wanted to improve the country, we have to improve our states (or provinces). If we want to improve our states (or provinces), we have to improve our cities. If we want to improve our cities, we have to improve our families. And if we want to improve our families, we have to improve ourselves.

So, how do we improve ourselves, so that there is less contention in and around us? I like how it is explained in Helaman. Nephi and Lehi were teaching the people of Zarahemla. They had been cast into prison and protected in a variety of ways. The people saw the hand of God, and eventually the people responded. It says that 300 souls were influenced that day. As Nephi and Lehi continued to preach to them, it says of the people of Zarahemla, that:

… as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers.[5]

Reading it just a little differently, it says we need to lay down our weapons, lay down our hatred, and lay down the traditions of our fathers (obviously the unrighteous ones). I think it is pretty easy to visualize someone physically taking their weapons and laying them on the ground. You can imagine the hesitation… that weapon might have saved their life or the lives of their loved ones. It protected them in one way or another, but with courage and faith they put their weapons down. However, as that verse says, we also need to lay down our hatred. Imagine that the hatred and anger you have in you is something that you could actually touch or grasp. Perhaps it has become part of you, and it may hurt physically and emotionally to tear it out. It may be more difficult to rid yourself of this, than of your physical weapons. Just as with physical weapons, our anger and bitterness may have been used as a weapon, as well. We may have used it to cover our weaknesses. It doesn’t really matter how the anger and contention started, we have to take whatever steps necessary to end it. Only then can we truly come unto Christ and partake of his goodness.[6] This may take time, but you will be successful.

One thing that may help is to replace the contention with positive things. Just as “no unclean thing can dwell with God”[7], I’d say that no clean thing can dwell with Satan. Look for the good in others. The other day I heard a report on the radio about a couple of college students who go to a street corner near their school every Wednesday for a couple of hours and give compliments. “Nice shoes. You’ve got great curly hair. I like your sweatpants. I like your smile.” One of the students said,

Days when it’s raining, and days when it’s absolutely frigid out, and people are like, man, thank you for coming out here. We’re not necessarily enjoying our time in the cold, we’re enjoying the responses we get and the interaction we receive with people.[8]

For whatever reason, these young men are trying to bring brighten the day for others. There are those that are still rude to them, but they keep doing it. Remember, just as dealing with someone who is in a bad mood can push us to be in a bad mood, dealing with someone with a bright and optimistic outlet can push us to be the same. It’s contagious!

Once we have taken these steps to improve ourselves, the next step is to improve our families. On our way to the temple on Thursday, Caroline, Marilyn, Lisa and I briefly discussed how it seems to be easier to be nice to strangers and friends than it is to our own families. The amount of time we spend together can be such a blessing, but we also see so many weaknesses and differences. The natural man let’s those differences eat away at us. Don’t let that happen.

Let me share with you one thing that we have done in our family recently. A little more than a month ago we returned from a family vacation in Florida. It was the first time that we had gone away as a family for an extended period of time. It was awesome. Our Family Home Evening lesson on the Monday following our return was about the importance of family and spending time together. We talked about the cost of the trip, and so we made a Family Fun Jar. On pay day and allowance day, we all have a chance to put some money in the jar for our next family vacation. We also discussed the type of relationship we need to have in order to have fun. Our family already had some standard rules about not hitting and listening to others, but we added a rule about not yelling. This rule even applied to Mommy and Daddy. We rarely yelled in true anger, but it definitely would get the kids attention and they would then listen. Of course, when the adults yell, the children yell as well, and we didn’t want. To encourage us to follow this new rule, we decided that our Family Fun Jar would also be a Yelling Jar. Some people have a swearing jar, and whenever they swear, they have to put money in the jar. We don’t swear, but we all would occasionally yell. At first Andrew said he was going to yell so that we could go on vacation again, but when he actually had to put money in the jar as a consequence, he quickly understood that was not what he wanted to do. I’m happy to report that in the 5 weeks we’ve been back, it is working well. We’ve all had to put in a few dollars, but overall, the contention in our home has reduced considerably. We are indeed being blessed.

If yelling isn’t a problem in your home, then you don’t have to do this. Identify where you and your family have issues, and come up with a plan to change.

It is apparent from the scriptures that there are many attributes that we should be striving to develop, but we cannot forget our responsibility to rid our lives of undesirable attributes. It is no coincidence that after Christ visited the Nephites, one of their defining characteristics was that they did not have any contention. 4 Nephi has many references to this:

…there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another

…And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land;

…And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

…And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.[9]

I do not claim to be an expert in living in peace and harmony with everyone, but I’m trying. I know although it may be hard, treating everyone with love and respect is the only way to live. As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, we need:

…supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks… that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.[10]

This is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

——
[1] Copyright © 2001 by Janice Kapp Perry. All rights reserved.
[2] Mosiah 18: 21
[3] 3 Nephi 11:29
[4] Galatians 5: 22
[5] Helaman 5:51
[6] 2 Nephi 26:32-33
[7] 1 Nephi 10: 21
[8] “At Purdue, Compliments Are Complimentary” from All Things Considered, March 20, 2009, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102128212 accessed 20090321
[9] 4 Nephi 1: 2, 13, 15, 18
[10] 1 Timothy 2: 1-2

Bearing testimony

I really like this Blog Segullah posting where someone is talking about bearing testimony. They comment on how our testimonies should be short and focus on a few main points of the gospel (Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Book of Mormon is true, President Monson is a prophet, etc) and says, “I’m not sure who would want to hear me go up to the pulpit and recite a list of five sentences?”

Good point. I’ll leave it up to you to visit that site and leave your comments there. However, I will say that at one point, because of the suggestion of a member of our Stake Presidency, we were including “tips” in the program on how to bear your testimony. It is hardly ever put in any more. I don’t think we have a big problem. Most people are only up for a few minutes, and do a fine job at bearing their testimony. Our biggest problem is probably that it is always the same people. Perhaps some of those not bearing their testimony have similar feelings to this person.

Attending Church away from “home”

I haven’t posted for a week and a half. My family went on a vacation down to Orlando. My in-laws rented a house there for a month, and we visited for 8 days. It was great. The weather was gorgeous (blue sky and 27°C/80°F every day).

We were there for one Sunday, and went to Sacrament Meeting at the Kissimmee Ward. The first thing that caught our attention was that it was our building. By that, I mean that the building was obviously built around the same time in the 50s and is the same basic building plan. I’m sure back when it was built the meetinghouse was in the middle of nowhere. Now it sits in the middle of a plaza parking lot along a major roadway.

It happened to be their ward conference that week. There were loads of people there and 8 YM (we only use 5 in our ward) passed the sacrament (I don’t know if this is normal, or if they had more because of ward conference). There were 2 speakers; a counselor in the stake presidency and the stake president. The counselor spoke about the importance of families. The stake president spoke about Proposition 8 (briefly), families, and then concluded his talk with a side note about how if you have a temple recommend and you don’t pay your tithing, you won’t have a temple recommend any more (perhaps there is a problem in Kissimmee, I don’t know).

On the one hand, attending Church in a different ward, was almost like attending Church back home (especially when the building looked the same). The hymns are the same, the way the prayers are offered are the same, etc. On the other hand, it still didn’t feel like home. The members were welcoming, but I missed my friends, associates, and others I serve with back in my home ward. There’s no place like home!

2009 “State of the Ward” address

Since I’ve been bishop, it has been tradition (as I’m sure it is in many wards) that I speak on the first Sunday (other than Fast Sunday), and talk about how the previous year was and what we need to work on for the coming year. I did that on Sunday. For those who are interested, here is my talk:


As is usually the case, I’m here at the beginning of the year to talk about our progress and where we are headed. First, let me remind you of why I do this each year. Last year I told you about my fancy pedometer. It keeps track of steps, calories burned, distance walked, and more. The pedometer itself stores the data for over a month. I can also connect it to my computer and save the data forever. I’m sort of obsessed with it. As long as I have something with pockets, I’m carrying it. If I forget it on a given day, I’m disappointed, almost devastated. Just yesterday as I was walking into work I reached down and patted my pocket to feel for it and it wasn’t there. My heart skipped a beat but then realized it was indeed there, but my pocket hand gotten twisted out of position.

You may wonder if my obsession has paid off. In 2008 I took over 3.7 million steps. This averages to over 10,000 steps a day. The software also tells me that I walked about 3,000 km. How do I feel? Well, I feel pretty good, both physically and mentally. Physically, I’m keeping active and enjoying the benefits of that. Mentally, I feel good that I set a goal and kept it. The pedometer has helped me measure my progress. If during the day I see that I might fall short, I can decide what action to take in order to get to where I want to be.

Wouldn’t it be great to have some sort of device like that, that would tell us where we’re at spiritually? I guess the closest thing we have is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately, there is no electronic read out or data storage. It is only by staying diligent and feeling the promptings of the Spirit that we can know how things are going. Today, I guess I will be the pedometer of the ward. I’ll tell you how far we’ve gone and then we’ll know what we have left to do.

In 2008, we had 2 main goals. The first was to have 18 member referrals for the missionaries. When we share the gospel, we do it so others can share in the joy of having the truth in their lives. Our joy comes from the fellowship with the saints, not in reaching an arbitrary number. As we “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places”[1], we become more like the Saviour, and get a glimpse of His joy.

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me![2]

We had a goal of 18 member referrals and we ended up with 13. I’m sure there are dozens; probably hundreds more people who are more familiar with and friendly towards the Church because of your example. These 13 people, however, are special. Because of a members love, they met with the missionaries and were taught something. All 3 of our convert baptisms last year were because of members sharing the gospel. Kristen knew the Elliott’s. Sally knew Marlene. Janelle knew Alex. I’m sure the joy that those members have from bringing a friend into the Church is great. I would like to feel that, and I’m sure you do, too. Even though we didn’t reach our goal of 18 last year, as a Ward Council we feel that the ward could and should do better. We have set a goal to have 20 member referrals in 2009. I’d ask that you pray about this individually and as a family. Pray to know what you can do. Pray for the courage to speak about the Church. Look for opportunities. A couple of months ago Lisa spoke with a neighbour about babysitting the kids while we went to the temple. All Lisa told the person was that we had to go to Brampton for something. I reminded her that we need to just share what we are doing. We have nothing to hide. Lisa is certainly not the only one who has done this. I’m not saying to do anything terribly different, other than to just be yourself. The apostle Paul said it well:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth[3]

Our second goal was to have regular sacrament meeting attendance of 150. This is an easier goal to work on because we have so many chances. In 2007, we had an average attendance of 131. As we improved, the last 4 months of that year we averaged 143. In 2008, we increased our attendance by 10. We averaged 141 people. Again, as we improved through the year, the last 4 months we averaged 150. No matter how you look at it, we have more people coming out. Every quarter was higher. There were 42 weeks where we could compare attendance year over year, and 32 of them were higher. For the entire year, we had 400 more people who attended a sacrament meeting. Let me just remind you of what that all means. This means that there are more people being strengthened. There are more people partaking of the sacrament and renewing their covenant to follow the Saviour. As members are strengthened, more people are available for callings. Members are more likely to go to the temple. They are more likely to do their home and visiting teaching. We truly are being edified together. Doesn’t it just feel better when there are more people here?! Our worshiping feels more complete. We feel more like we are part of something important. It just feels good! In a revelation given to Joseph Smith, it is explained what is happening here:

Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.[4]

We may have much work to do before we reach that perfect day, but as we make progress, we can see and feel that light getting brighter.

With all that being said, our goal for 2009 is to have 155 people regularly attending sacrament meeting. There are basically two things you can do to help us reach this goal. The first is to get here yourself. Be here early. Come in to the chapel and quietly prepare for the sacrament. The other thing you can do is to be a caring member. Look around you and determine who is missing. Are the people you home or visit teach here? Are the people that you serve in your calling here? If not, reach out to them. Let them know that we love them and miss them.

You know, I worry that you will get sick of me giving this same sort of message over and over. You might tune me out. I’m sorry, but I can’t stop. This is what I feel in my heart we need to do. The struggles of life can be eased as we forget ourselves and serve others. As I said a couple of weeks ago, Christ lived so that we may live. We, too, should then live so that others can live. People need us, and we need to be there for them.

In addition to our 2 main goals, we also have a few areas of focus this year. The first is reverence. Kelly Rigby gave a great talk recently about reverence. When we speak of reverence, the obvious part of that is the volume level here in the chapel. We need to be quiet so we can hear and feel the promptings of the Spirit. If we are rushing in at 9:29, it will be hard to be settled and ready for the meeting. But reverence is about more than just volume level and promptness. It is about respect; respect for the Lord, respect for the building, respect for those around us, and respect for those who are speaking.

We’ve talked as a Ward Council about how we can improve this respect or reverence. This is difficult as it needs to come from inside each of us. We can’t force anything on people, but we have a few ideas to try to help.

  • We recognize that as leaders, we need to set an example. The bishopric will try to be in their seats early. The quorum and auxiliary leaders will try to do the same.
  • We are going to try to have a few more activities. That way members have more opportunities to socialize, which can help alleviate the rush before meetings.
  • We want all of us to understand what it means to worship. This will be taught, learned, and emphasized in talks, lessons, and other ways.
  • Be prepared when you come to Church. Tanya just spoke about this. If you are a teacher, have your lesson prepared ahead of time. If you attend a class, do the class reading during the week. Have things ready for your children, so they can be settled.
  • Lastly, try not to be distracted by things around us. At the last General Conference, Elder Oaks reminded us that:

“Sacrament meeting is not a time for reading books or magazines… it is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting persons at other locations. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a sacred covenant that we will always remember the Savior. How sad to see persons obviously violating that covenant in the very meeting where they are making it.”[5]

As we all work together, we can improve the reverence of, in and for our meetings. This is turn will allow the Spirit to be here in greater abundance.

Another area that we want to emphasize is temple attendance. Caroline Bonfield has just spoken on this. Shortly after Howard W. Hunter became President of the Church, he invited us all to “establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership.” He then counseled us as follows:

Truly, the Lord desires that His people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.[6]

It the temple is supposed to be a symbol of our membership, what does our temple attendance say about us. Going to the temple is a very personal experience. Only you know how you feel about the temple and when you should go. However, I will say this: almost all of us should go more than we currently do. From the time that Lisa and I got married, we have tried to go to the temple monthly, but in almost 12 years of marriage, we’ve haven’t been able to do this. Unfortunately, there are always reasons not to go. Hopefully the reasons to go are stronger.

I recently read a description of a person’s recent trip to the temple.

I went to the temple Wednesday. Oh boy did I need it. I sat in the temple after the session and cried…

Why? I have no idea.

Was it because I had lost my recommend and hadn’t been in a couple of months?… Too much chaos? Not hydrated enough? Who knows.

All I know is this. I entered a temple at a slight run. I walked out of the temple hesitatingly, once again surprised at the calm and quiet inside my head. I walked out not remembering the exact words the Spirit used to answer my tears, but remembering the feeling that came with them.

And when the words to describe how I was feeling were so clear in the temple, and so murky once I left, I knew I needed to go back. And soon.[7]

I like the way that was phrased. I can’t always describe how I feel when I’m at the temple, but I certainly have experienced that “calm and quiet inside my head”. I look forward to each trip. Eustace and Patricia Saul were recently assigned to help coordinate the Ward Temple Night. They have been calling around inviting people to attend. In December, we had our largest turnout for a non-youth trip in years. We live quite close to a temple. President Hunter mentioned that proximity is an issue for some people, but it shouldn’t be for us. Enjoy the temple. Attend the temple and receive the blessings that come from the service that is done there.

The third and last area we want to focus on is Family Home Evening. Jeff Bonfield recently spoke about this and Mike discussed it in a combined lesson. The world is getting more and more hectic, and in many ways, more and more evil. People are working long hours, sometimes at multiple jobs. Families are split many ways in trying to meet the demands of jobs, school, sports, and other activities. At the same time, the Adversary is making great progress in weakening society’s values. Now, more than ever, parents need to gather their children around them and teach them, protect them, and love them. Having weekly Family Home Evening is not easy. Just as there are obstacles to temple attendance, there are often obstacles to Family Home Evening. Don’t let those jobs, sports, or other activities get in the way. If this week you just can’t get everyone together, don’t cancel it. Have Family Home Evening with as many as you can. It’s worth it. One of the highlights of my week is at the very beginning of our Family Home Evening. If Andrew or Matthew is conducting, they usually start off by saying, “Welcome to Family Home Evening”. Lisa and I usually respond with, “Thank you. It’s nice to be here.” (I don’t remember when or why this started, but we do this almost every time). For whatever reason, when we say that, their eyes will light up and they smile from ear to ear. I think at that moment they feel like they are a part of our family, and an important part at that!

Whether you have a family of your own, or you meet together with friends, hold Family Home Evening. Sometimes there are struggles with knowing what to do or teach. We are planning an activity that will demonstrate the sorts of things that can be done, and will allow us to share ideas. I’m sure it will benefit us all.

Those are the goals and areas of focus that we have for 2009:

  • The members will have 20 people ready for the missionaries to teach
  • Our Ward Sacrament Meeting attendance will regularly be 155 or greater
  • We will focus on reverence, temple attendance, and Family Home Evening.

I assure you that a great amount of time and prayer have gone into these. I feel comfortable that this is the Lord’s will for our ward at this time. I hope that you will support me in working towards this.

Lastly, I wanted to share with you the theme of the stake this year. You will recall that last year President Homer wanted to focus on the change of heart as taught by Alma[8]. This year, President Homer would like to focus on the words of Alma as his follows were with him in the waters of Mormon:

And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.[9]

What a beautiful phrase “hearts knit together in unity and love”. As a result of our common faith, our lives are indeed woven together. What happens to one of us, does affect all of us, whether great or small. The question is, do the threads that bind us exist because of the contention between us, or because of the love between us? I don’t think I’m being naïve when I say that we do not have a contention problem. Generally, we are at peace with one another. However, living without contention is different than living in unity. We can always be more unified.

It always amazes me the love and praise that the members have for whomever is the President of the Church. He is, for all intents and purposes, a stranger to us. But through the Spirit, and from following his counsel, we very quickly know that he is the man who the Lord has chosen to lead the Church. Likewise, the support for a stake president and bishop are often very strong. Unfortunately, the further “down the line” (so to speak) we go, the support wavers. In considering the things I’ve discussed today, I invite you to more fully sustain the leaders of the ward. I testify to you that the bishopric felt the confirming power of the Spirit in calling these men and women. Fulfill the home and visiting teaching assignments they give you. Help in other ways. Speak well of them. Build them up and you’ll be amazed at the good they can do. Pray for them, just as you pray for the prophet, a stake president, or a bishop. As we support one another, we will be stitched tighter together. We will trust each other more. We will respond faster to the needs of one another. We will be happier.

I thank you all for the support that you give to me. It truly is an honour to serve you. I pray that the Lord will strengthen me so that I can continue to serve you as long as He sees fit. I know that this Church is true. I know that Christ lives and leads this Church. That is why we do what we do. I know that as we work together to grow the ward[10], our own lives will be improved; our own families will be strengthened, and our lives will indeed get brighter as we head towards that perfect day. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Mosiah 18:9

[2] D&C 18:10, 15-16

[3] Rom. 1: 16

[4] D&C 50:22-23

[5] Dallin H. Oaks, “Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 17-20

[6] Howard W. Hunter, “The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 2

[7] http://segullah.org/small-epiphanies/dirt/ – accessed 20090110 11:39 am

[8] Alma 5

[9] Mosiah 18:21

[10] Gordon B. Hinckley “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 106